inclusion

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

 

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 »

Period Poverty

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Legislation has been officially lodged at the Scottish Parliament to ensure free access to sanitary products for all women. Labour MSP Monica Lennon said her member’s bill aimed to make Scotland a “world leader” in tackling period poverty. It would make it a statutory requirement for schools, colleges and universities to provide such items. The Scottish government has pledged £4m to boost provision in public buildings.

Here in K & M, we were fortunate to have Christine McLean along to a Welfare & Wellbeing Network meeting from CFine to discuss her work on period poverty. In a nutshell, ‘Period poverty’ refers to having a lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints. Something that many of us are lucky enough to probably take for granted.

The Scottish Government asked CFINE to operate and coordinate a pilot scheme for six months in 2017-18 through which sanitary products were made available free to all those on low incomes who need them, including any gender categories in need.

Access to Sanitary Products pilot operated in Aberdeen’s regeneration areas through partner organisations.  A wide range of community and voluntary organisations supported the pilot, along with the local authority and educational institutions including; schools, colleges and universities.

Access to Sanitary products cfine

It has ended in a huge success with over 1,000 people signing up to receive sanitary products.  As a result of the success, The Scottish Government has allocated funding to roll-out the distribution of free sanitary products to those in need widely across Scotland, including Aberdeen via the FareShare network.

So, how does this impact in K & M?
What Christine hopes to do is to extend this service into Aberdeenshire. To enable this to happen, a hub for delivery of bulk pallets of the sanitary products needs to be identified which could serve a wider area. For example, in K & M there would be one main hub which would then distribute more widely over the area. Further distribution could be by groups picking up products for a specific settlement and then delivering to all outlets, or encouraging others to collect them. A record is kept of numbers of products distributed to provide tangible evidence of the need for this service and service continuance.

Think you can help out? Get in touch and we will pass on your ideas.

Bettridge Survey

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As most of you will know, the Bettridge Centre is an important local community-owned and managed facility which offers a wide selection of activities for the whole ​community and for visitors.   Some public consultation has already taken place and the centre has commissioned Community Enterprise to build on that positive momentum with more detailed local research.  The core aim is to find out what is needed in the community and use that to set out a plan to upgrade the building to meet the needs of Newtonhill and the surrounding area.

Want to make your voice heard, take part in the survey, link below;

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Bettridge

Peterhead Decides

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Peterhead is asking the question of its communities, do you have an idea that would help improve the local environment in Peterhead?

If the answer is yes, then Peterhead Decides Community Choices is an opportunity to
make the idea happen. £20,000 is available to allow residents to decide what landscape or road
maintenance improvements they would like to see in the Peterhead area.

Community Choices is about local people coming together to decide how public money
should be spent in their communities, but basically it looks like this:
1. Ideas are generated about how money should be spent
2. Local people decide on their priorities
3. The ideas with the most support are implemented

 

Any local community, voluntary, or non–profit organisation, even informal groups or any local resident
who has an idea and is interested in improving the local environment in Peterhead can submit an idea. Projects will then  be assessed for feasibility and cost and then the local community will be asked to decide which projects they think will make the biggest improvements and should be implemented in 2019.

So what makes for a good idea?
Ideas can be large or small, whether you want to improve the physical appearance to promote a positive image of the town through increasing the amount of summer bedding plants distributed for planting, improve local paths to make the area more accessible or improve the landscape to help cleanliness.
However, ideas for projects must improve the physical environment of Peterhead, cost under £20,000,
benefit as many people as possible and be delivered by the end of 2019.

Projects like Peterhead Decides are a great opportunity for communities to become involved in their local democracy, and influence decisions that matter to them.

Participative Democracy in Practise

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Democracy is always in the making: a never-ending project that requires constant rethinking and development.

Reclaiming and recasting politics and democracy is a core challenge for participatory democrats. The key argument is that citizen participation can reinvigorate democratic life by infusing diversity, experience and knowledge into official decision making. The question is what kind of participation?

In representative democracy, citizens are usually given a thin role in public life, and participation often means casting a ballot every few years, and being occasionally invited to consultations. It seems unsurprising that most citizens don’t grab such opportunities with both hands. Lack of public interest can then be used as an excuse for not supporting citizens to become more involved in governing themselves.
But there are alternative understandings of democracy where participation means direct influence for citizens on the decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods. Why citizen participation? Because our current political systems too often struggle to cope with the pressing issues of our time. We need more problem-solving capacity, better policy and decision making, and new ways of governing. In other words, representative democracy needs a substantial upgrade.
Although there seems to be broad support for democratic principles amongst citizens, there can be mistrust in how current institutions work. Representative democracy can suffer from low turnouts, political disaffection, public cynicism and loss of legitimacy. The answer to the problems of democracy must surely be more democracy, a more meaningful and engaged kind – a participatory democracy, perhaps.
Well-known forms of participation, including volunteering, voting, organising, campaigning and so on, coexist now alongside those that eschew traditional models of organisational affiliation. For instance, many engage passionately on single issues that matter to them, others are political in how they spend their money and time, yet others work to develop new forms of economic life through cooperatives or social enterprises. All forms of participation can contribute to develop a vibrant democracy.

One form of participation being used in Aberdeenshire is participatory budgeting(PB). Following on from PB exercises throughout Aberdeenshire in 2017 and 2018, Peterhead Decides is currently asking the people of Peterhead if they have an idea that would help improve the local environment in Peterhead?

Join us at K and M Communities next week to read more about what Peterhead have been up to!

 

A Modern Day History Lesson?

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The word ‘idiot’ derives from the ancient Greek for a private citizen who professes no interest in being involved in politics. In the birthplace of democracy, it was simply an article of faith that every citizen would become actively engaged in the political decisions of their towns, cities and nation state. Democracy, as the ancient Greeks conceived it, was a civic duty and any citizen could be called upon to serve.  No hustings, no elections, and no political parties. Just the random selection of individual citizens who would willingly step forward when their names were drawn by lot.  Known as sortition, this form of democracy would be anathema to our modern-day career politicians.  Yet it is a particular form of sortition – the citizens’ assembly – to which many countries around the world are now turning to help resolve some of their most intractable problems. And as we settle down to watch the next instalment of modern-day British democracy of Brexit, many now argue that a randomly selected assembly of citizens, expertly guided and supported, might just offer a sensible way forward. We’d surely be idiots not to try.

Look back next week, to find out a bit more about the participative democracy happening in Aberdeenshire now.