community

Island co-ops stay strong

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In this post digital age it’s difficult to lose any data thanks to the powerful algorithms that sit behind today’s search engines. But paper records are harder to track down and the history of social enterprise in Scotland becomes much more anecdotal the further back in time you travel. Some skilled work by the archivists at GCU is gradually piecing together the story of who did what, when, and where in order to lay the foundations for today’s social enterprises. Community cooperatives on Scotland’s islands were the early pioneers. In some ways, nothing much has changed.

Scotland’s islands have the highest proportion of co-operatives of any part of the UK thanks to a long tradition of self-reliance, a survey has found.

The study by Co-operatives UK, the sector’s development body, said its survey of co-ops by local authority area found the Western Isles and Orkney topped the table with 8.16 and 5.91 co-ops respectively per 10,000 people. Shetland came in third, with 5.63. Eden in Cumbria came in joint fourth, with 4.55, followed by nearby Allerdale with 3.6.

The Scottish sector’s businesses are generally small, often community shops which provide the only stores in scarcely populated island communities. There are also credit unions, community energy companies and fishing co-ops.

The findings have been published as part of Co-operatives UK’s annual economic survey. It put its total turnover UK-wide at £37.7bn for 2018-19, a little over 1% higher than last year’s figure of £37.6bn and 2.75% higher than the £36.3bn in 2016-17.

The study confirmed that the John Lewis Partnership, the employee-owned group which includes Waitrose food stores, was the UK’s largest co-op with a turnover of £10.3bn; the Co-op itself narrowly behind on £10.2bn. Arla, the Denmark-based diary co-op, came third with a turnover of £2.6bn.

Excluding turnover, the data shows a slight decline in the sector’s size overall. The UK had 7,215 co-ops employing more than 233,000 people in the last financial year, compared with 7,226 employing nearly 235,000 a year earlier.

The report highlighted the Papay Community Co-operative, which runs the only shop and hostel on Papa Westray. The Orkney island has a resident population of about 85 people but is popular with island-hoppers on holiday. The business is close to Papa Westray’s airport, famous as a departure point for the world’s shortest scheduled service, a two-minute, 1.7-mile (2.8km) flight to nearby Westray.

Tim Dodman, the co-op’s secretary, said the business had an annual turnover of about £250,000 and employed four people, with some part-time help during busy periods. It also runs the school bus and local tours.

It was founded in 1980 after the only shop closed and no one could be found to run a new one single-handed. “The co-op ethos is very important,” Dodman said. “This is a small island and pretty remote. It’s much better to work cooperatively than have one individual in control of a lifeline service.”

By Sev Carrell, The Guardian

 

Across the Grain Festival returns this October

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Across The Grain is running for the second time throughout October, with an exciting and eclectic mix of activities, performances and workshops for all ages.

Events will be taking place in communities right across Aberdeenshire with most free to attend. Look out for printed programmes which give details of all performances and events.

Copies are available at libraries, leisure centres and museums, and key entertainment venues across the area. You’ll be sure to find a copy in your local shop, cafe or garden centre. The digital copy can be found on the Live LIfe Aberdeenshire website.

Organised by Live Life Aberdeenshire, last year’s inaugural festival got off to a really strong start, highlighting the uniqueness of the north east and attracting locals and visitors alike to around 50 events.

The desire to celebrate collectively what Aberdeenshire has to offer culturally has led to this year’s programme increasing significantly, showcasing the best the region has to offer, with some performances created especially for the festival.

These include a partnership with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland which will see two leading dance experts hosting intergenerational workshops in the north, culminating in a celebratory performance to a live soundtrack mixing Scottish Trad with electronic music.

Other participatory events include creating a brand-new festival ‘sound picture’ using local words and phrases in Alford, led by renowned composer and sound artist Pete Stollery, and there is also a return of last year’s popular Doric Call My Bluff.

As well as numerous music and singing workshops, there are opportunities to hear authors and specialist speakers, and a range of fun challenges for all the family at Live Life Aberdeenshire museums and libraries. Read the rest of this entry »

The growth of the pop-up park

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A team of researchers in Australia are urging urban planners to embrace temporary green spaces

Had you been taking a stroll around downtown San Francisco in late September 2005 you might have noticed something unusual – an ordinary parking space turned into a tiny park featuring a tree, a patch of grass and a bench. This miniature patch of greenery was the brainchild of three urban designers and led to an unexpected global movement known as PARK(ing) Day. Held on the third Friday of September every year, PARK(ing) Day has seen thousands of otherwise grey spaces temporarily transformed, from a spot on London’s South Bank to a sidewalk in Alaska.

The PARK(ing) Day movement captured imaginations, but it’s not the only one of its kind. Pop-up parks (PUPs) are a growing phenomenon, one that a group of urban researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology is taking seriously. They argue that PUPs (which they define simply as ‘temporary green spaces’) have the capacity to benefit both biodiversity and the people who live in cities. The group cites several studies that have demonstrated the importance of nature for human wellbeing, including a paper in the Annual of Public Health which concluded that: ‘Taken together, the research reviewed does indicate that contact with nature can promote health. The evidence for some benefits, such as short-term restorative effects, is already quite strong.’

A’Beckett Urban Square PUP on the City Campus of RMIT University in Melbourne, AustraliaA’Beckett Urban Square PUP on the City Campus of RMIT University in Melbourne [Image: J Gollings]

‘There’s a lot of underutilised space in cities, and it’s going to be increasingly key to bring nature back into cities and have it close to offices,’ says Luis Mata, lead author of the study. ‘Some PUPs might only last for a couple of hours, whereas others last for years and may even become a path to something permanent. Depending on their deign and their spatial and temporal scales some will provide more benefits for people, some for biodiversity and some for both.’

The study points to a number of PUPs already in motion. In particular, San Francisco’s ‘Pavement to Parks’ program – an initiative that seeks to transform underutilised street spaces into public plazas known as ‘parklets’. It also refers to the UK’s Design Council and its ‘Knee High Design Challenge’ funding scheme which saw a PUP project trialled in Lambeth and Southwark. The transformed spaces were designed to encourage play and were filled with games for young children.

the “Grasslands” PUP at the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne“Grasslands” PUP at the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne [Image: M Stanton]

To address the lack of research into such spaces, the researchers want to see future sites become ‘socioecological laboratories’ in which urban planners conduct experiments to inform future design. Leading the way, Mata and his colleagues carried out their own analysis on a PUP in their home-town of Melbourne. They found that the six-week project called ‘Grasslands’, installed at the State Library of Victoria, saw insect pollinator abundance increase by around 160 per cent while the PUP was present.

The human impact of these spaces is harder to evaluate precisely. Nevertheless, the researchers contend that in dense urban environments with plenty of small, underutilised spaces, PUPs can help people spend time in nature, as well as foster community and in particular, creativity. ‘Creative thinking is sometimes lacking in academia,’ says Mata. ‘This new movement of people with artistic minds thinking of putting nature into cities is really excellent and is something that PUPs are uniquely placed to take advantage of.’

Read the rest of this entry »

Growing up in Scotland: life at age 12

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This report presents some initial findings about the lives of 12-year-old children living in Scotland. It uses data collected from Birth Cohort 1 (BC1) of the Growing Up in Scotland study (GUS). GUS is an important longitudinal research project aimed at tracking the lives of Scottish children from birth, through their childhood, into adolescence and beyond. The study is funded by the Scottish Government and carried out by ScotCen Social Research.

BC1 is comprised of a nationally representative sample of 5217 children living in Scotland when they were 10 months old and who were born between June 2004 and May 2005. This report draws on data collected from 3419 families in 2017/18 when the children were aged 12 and most were in the second term of their first year at secondary school. Both data from interviews with parents and children themselves is used.

The report covers, in brief, several varied aspects of children’s lives including:

  • Experience of school and educational aspirations
  • Relationships with parents and peers
  • Social media and use of the internet
  • Involvement in risky behaviour
  • Healthy weight and perceptions of body weight
  • Life satisfaction

For each of these areas, the experiences of boys and girls are compared. Some comparisons are also made between children living in the most and least deprived areas in Scotland and also between children whose parents have different educational qualifications. Relationships between some of the types of experiences themselves are also explored. Only differences which were statistically significant at the 95% level are commented on in the text.

More information about the study is available on the Growing up in Scotland website.

The importance of dignity

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Preserving dignity looks like it is being built into the design Scotland’s new social security system. It’s also the phrase that was at the heart of work undertaken by the Poverty Truth Commission and Nourish Scotland on the community provision of food.  Consideration of how something might impact on a person’s dignity, could really transform the way we think about the delivery of public services. Here’s a great example of a community project in Aberdeen which tackles food poverty but always with a keen eye on preserving the dignity of those they serve. 

A basket full of high-quality food for £2.50 may seem too good to be true – but that’s now the reality for shoppers at Scotland’s first food pantry.

The Woodside Pantry in Aberdeen provides people living in one of the city’s most disadvantaged areas a way to shop for a lot less.

It is an innovative, community-run project. The aim is to combat food poverty, and it has been hailed as a sustainable alternative to food bank use.

“I can get some really good healthy food at a very reasonable price”

For a small weekly charge, members get access to food donated by supermarkets and a local charity. Clare Whyte, one of the workers at the community centre where the pantry is based, told BBC Scotland’s The Nine: “Food banks are not a long-term solution. It’s an emergency food service, really.

“This could be a way to reduce food waste which is massive and a huge issue as we know and also tackle food poverty at the same time.

Food parcels from food banks are often only available to people who have been referred by frontline professionals like GPs or advice agencies. But membership of the Woodside Pantry was initially open to anyone living in the immediate area around the Fersands and Fountain Community Centre, where the project is based. It proved so popular that the catchment area has now been widened and the membership cap extended. Almost half of the people using the service receive benefits or Jobseeker’s Allowance. A quarter of the users are single parents. There are now 83 households with membership to the pantry, and more than 200 local residents – including children – are directly benefitting.

“I can get some very good, healthy food at a very reasonable price,” said Margaret Aisbitt, who was one of the first to sign up. Read the rest of this entry »

Local learning

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Good news for those communities with a hankering to visit another community where something of particular interest to them is happening, the Community Learning Exchange is once again open for business. These small awards that pay for travel and subsistence and a host fee, have proved very popular and effective – low on cost, high on impact. What is certainly true is that there is very little that is truly new under the sun and there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. There’s also much to be gained from learning from your peers.

By SCA

The Community Learning Exchange is a fantastic opportunity for communities to learn through the exchange of ideas and the sharing of common solutions.  When community groups make visits to other communities, the most valuable part is often meeting new people with similar interests and gaining new insights and perspectives on shared challenges.  Visiting groups come away armed with new ideas and approaches, and host organisations have the opportunity to explain their project to a new and interested audience, often seeing their own projects afresh through new eyes.

What will the exchange fund?

The Exchange will fund up to 100% of the costs of a visit by members of one community to another community project up to a limit of £750, including a host fee.  In exceptional circumstances (where travel distances are greater or certain aspects of the visit are particularly expensive) this limit can be increased.  Similarly, visits out with Scotland, but within the UK, will be considered where a similar project does not exist in Scotland.

The Exchange will also fund follow up support between organisations.  This might be as a result of a learning visit when it is recognised that more specific and on-going help, support, or advice is required. This can be through face-to-face meetings, by phone, e-mail, or skype. Funding for this kind of additional support will need to be negotiated separately.

How to apply

The Exchange operates primarily through the networks that comprise the Scottish Community Alliance.  The exception to this rule are Scotland’s community councils. Since the demise of the Association of Scottish Community Councils, there has been no umbrella body for community councils.

Applications to the Exchange are processed through one or other of the networks’ designated members of staff. The exception to this rule are community councils who should apply directly to the Exchange Coordinators.  Applications can be made at any time for visits throughout 2019 and up until March 2020. Funding is limited, and once it has been committed no further applications will be accepted.

For guidance about the Community Learning Exchange click here and an application form click here.

Please remember, applications must be endorsed by a network that is a member of SCA unless your organisation is a community council.

Community Heritage

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Twelve discussion days are being held around Scotland in 2019 for people who are involved with heritage in their communities in any way. You might be a volunteer, someone managing a heritage site, or perhaps running a business – or just interested and actively involved.

Scottish Community Alliance will be talking about a potential new national network for community heritage. How might it work, and how might it meet your needs and wants?

What you tell them will directly influence what happens in the future, so come and join in the conversation.

The workshops are free to attend, and there will be plenty of tea and biscuits – but please bring your own lunch! Not providing lunch has enabled SCA to reach more communities.

All events start at 10.30am and finish at 4pm *except for Leverburgh which is an hour later to fit ferry times.

The research workshop tour is organised by the University of St Andrews together with the National Library of Scotland and Ergadia Museums and Heritage, and working closing with the grass-roots led Scottish Community Heritage Alliance.

The project is funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Click here for tickets to all future events.

Strathpeffer Community Centre, Strathpeffer – 31st May

Timespan, Helmsdale – 4th June

Garioch Heritage Centre, inverurie – 7th June

Blairgowrie Town Hall, Blairgowrie – 8th June

Voe Hall, Shetland – 29th June

Kyle Village Hall, Kyle of Lochalsh – 18th September

Nevis Centre, Fort William – 19th September

Kilmartin Church, Kilmartin – 20th September

Eyemouth Hippodrome, Eyemouth – 11th October

Leverburgh Hall, Isle of Harris – 25th October * starts 11.30am, ends 5pm