Community owned projects around Scotland present Owning Our Future at Parliamentary Reception

At a Parliamentary Reception last night, presentations from 5 community owned projects across Scotland – all members of Community Land Scotland, were viewed as part of the Owning Our Future project.

Owning Our Future report

The event was hosted by MSP Jenny Minto and as well as the communities themselves, also heard from Tom Arthur, Minister for Community Wealth, Planning and Local Government on the importance of communities owning their own assets in building resilience and community wealth. The projects are in Mull, Coigach, Glasgow, Peebles and North Lanarkshire. The Owning Our Future project was funded by the UK National Lottery Communities Fund and was one of only four projects to be funded in Scotland.

The purpose of the project was to find out how to help communities imagine a better future after the Covid 19 pandemic and it drew on the democratic buy in that comes with community ownership. Artists were placed in each of five organisations to help them work with their communities to imagine a different future. Several of the projects had a focus on what young people wanted the future look like post Covid. All of the communities produced a creative work that set out their vision for the future. Communities in Peebles, Coigach and Viewpark North Lanarkshire produced maps of the future. South West Mull and Iona Development created a series of podcasts and Kinning Park in Glasgow created a mural about community ownership.

“What we aimed to do with this project was to try and understand why it was communities were able to respond so quickly when the pandemic hit; to see what changes this made within those communities and how people wanted that to continue. This evidence was used to help them imagine a post COVID world with all of the information and ideas and suggestions then pulled together to tell policymakers and politicians what they thought needed to change.  Everyone wanted to use the lessons learned to help them respond even quicker and better if another crisis should happen” says Ailsa Raeburn, Chair of Community Land Scotland.

MSP Jenni Minto said: “It is a pleasure to host this Community Land Scotland reception in our Scottish Parliament tonight. Communities the length and breadth of Scotland responded amazingly during the pandemic. CLS’s project Owning Our Future has been an in-depth look using different creative techniques at why the community ownership model was so important in how communities responded during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they will build forward better.

From Kinning Park Complex to SWM&ID in my own constituency, community organisations have shared their learning and experiences from the last two years. The pandemic has shown us the strength and resilience that exists within our communities and I hope this report will provide us with a road map to allow us to grow community empowerment giving people a greater say in how we build forward better.”

Key themes were found to be common in all the 5 projects – the power of community owned projects to respond fast, nimbly and decisively to local needs – food and medicine distribution and mental health issues were challenges faced by all as were loss of income to others. Community landowners were able to use their own resources, including income they generated themselves from their own land and buildings, their brilliant staff and volunteers and build on the deep connections with the community to respond quickly. The power of democracy and local control was key– many of those interviewed voiced the need for more community owned projects, particularly green space.  And inclusion – many of the community owned projects worked with  groups they had not previously reached or interacted with who came forwards during the pandemic and connected.

Community Wealth Minister Tom Arthur said:“I congratulate these projects on the important work they are doing to help communities recover from the pandemic and build a more sustainable local economy.  “Community Land Scotland’s Owning Our Future project demonstrates what well-resourced and capable community landowning organisations can do in response to serious challenges.”

“Community ownership can generate revenue that helps communities deliver their own services and infrastructure while promoting greater self-confidence and resilience.”

The communities involved are:

Peebles Community Trust which owns and operates the School Brae Hub in the town centre and Eshiels Community Woodland worked closely with young people and created a future map of Peebles under the guidance of creative facilitator Jess Parker. They were asked what their vision was for the future of Peebles.  The motto of Peebles Community Trust is to ‘help the community help the community”. The Trust acted as a conduit for funding, supported groups to support their volunteers and took a lead on communicating with the community.

Coigach Community Trust around Ullapool in the western Highlands also created an enormous map the size of the village hall floor curated by Susan Christie. The community owned project owns a 500 kW wind turbine which generates not just power but also revenue for the area  (projecting profits of £4.4million over the next 20 years).  They were able to use income from their wind turbine to provide hardship grants during Covid to help those suffering loss of income to survive. The playful and visually appealing nature of the work attracted people in to see, and large-scale was important – the map was designed to be accurate and to scale.  A sense of curiosity was generated by the painting which helped to hook people.  Objects – animals, cars, trucks, wind turbine – were all added to expand the sense of Coigach’s narrative and to accurately reflect the community’s many facets. The process was designed to be flexible – the map can be taken to other locations and laid outside. The material has many potential uses and ideas from participants and partners were flying about this over the course of the weekend. Development of the map was well documented on film and in photos – different parts of the process were captured and shared.

South West Mull and Iona development (SWMID) which owns the 789ha Tiroran Community Forest, Bendoran boatyard and the Aird Fada seaweed business , created some dynamic podcasts interviewing  community members about their experiences during Covid, and what they wanted for their futures.  During the first lockdown SWMID set up a volunteer run service to call vulnerable and isolating community members regularly. The service used a traffic light system (red, amber, green) depending on the level of support provided.  In South West Mull and Iona the focus was on providing a permanent audio record of people’s experiences of living though successive lockdowns and what they would like to see change in their community as it emerged from the pandemic, all captured in a series of five podcasts.

Viewpark Conservation Group in Lanarkshire commissioned 2 artists to produce a map of the future and an animation.  They had just received a Scottish Land Fund grant which enabled their community purchase of the 175 acres of land which was the former Douglas Support Estate to preserve it for use by the local community. Their aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of local people and develop its value as a local educational and recreational resource in community ownership.  In Viewpark people were asked about the land, how it was used during the pandemic and what they wanted from it; all of which informed a short film that was produced to accompany the main project outputs of a map and signage.

Kinning Park Complex, a community owned building in an ethnically diverse area of the south side of Glasgow is developing the building as a multi-use community space providing a wide range of activities to bring people together, reduce social isolation and create a real sense of community. Halls, kitchen, office space and studios are used by local dance and sports groups, artists musicians and community projects. They also asked local people what they wanted for their post Covid future. During the pandemic, they set up an Acts of Organised Kindness project which recruited 100 volunteers, provided 500kg of meals every week, provided a dog walking service, helped people in their gardens and provided online classes to keep people connected.  They were a lifeline service for those in need. They produced a giant graphic about community ownership which will be placed on their building, which is about to open after a major refurbishment.

A new report, by Dr Calum Macleod, Policy Director at Community Land Scotland was presented at the Parliamentary event “Owning our Future – Community led recovery and renewal after COVID 19”.

ENDS

This information from Carol Anderson The Business tel 07836 546256  email carola@thebusinesspr.co.uk