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
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 »
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.
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.
Please remember, applications must be endorsed by a network that is a member of SCA unless your organisation is a community council.
People volunteer for all manner of reasons and roughly half of the population do so at some point in their lives. While that might seem like a lot of people, equally it means there’s a lot of people choosing not to participate. Dig a little deeper into the numbers and it becomes apparent that around a fifth of those who volunteer do two thirds of all the volunteering work. Dig some more and you hit the problem of an aging population with its potential impact on volunteer numbers going forward.
On a local level, Stonehaven Learning partnership is hosting a volunteer event on 6th June. See picture for more details.
Volunteering in Scotland is already making a crucial contribution to building social capital, fostering trust, binding people together and making our communities better places to live and to work.
Action to increase volunteering participation for all and to address inequalities is vital to continue to expand opportunities for more people to volunteer and participate in society. Although an estimated 51% of the adult population in Scotland has volunteered at some point in their lives, 49% have not. An increase in volunteering will also make a considerable contribution towards our individual, community and national economic and social well-being, particularly in the face of demographic and societal change.
The annual value of volunteering in Scotland is estimated to be £2.26 billion.4 Volunteering is clearly of great social and economic importance to the people and communities of Scotland. Within these communities, there are often those who are more likely, or more able, to volunteer than others. Volunteers in Scotland are more likely to be:
- self-employed/part-time employed or in education
- from higher socio-economic and income groups
- from rural areas
- from less deprived areas
- healthy and non-disabled
Scores of volunteers have signed up to help ensure Aberdeenshire’s roads and pavements are safe as the wintry weather continues.
The authority is regularly criticised during spells of severe weather for failing to clear side roads and paths.
However priority is given to maintain main roads and resources are stretched to grit and clear every single area.
In an effort to ease frustration and deal with the problem, Aberdeenshire Council launched a snow warden scheme which gives communities access to a range of resources from grit spreaders to full protective equipment.
As of this month, there are now 27 groups operating in the region, which amounts to 72 volunteers.
But the authority has issued a fresh appeal for more wardens, with the scheme running until April.
Applications are taken throughout the year for the initiative.
Last year, the region endured one of the worst winters in recent memory, with the council forced to go £2million over budget to treat the roads and pavements.
Roads bosses came under fire after towns and villages were left impassable after the traditional surface treatment was left redundant by thawing conditions, rainfall and freezing temperatures overnight.
This year the authority has already used about 23,300 tonnes of salt to treat surfaces since October, with a further 15,000 tonnes in stock and more than 7,000 expected to be delivered this month.
The council has also been trialling a new app which shows people where gritters are in real time and what routes have been dealt with.
The programme is currently only available on phones and tablets as My Aberdeenshire, but is likely to be made available on their website in the future.
There are 32 “primary routes” with 100 council drivers covering these, there have also been 120 farmers and 32 plough contractors on the roads to clear the snow in recent weeks.
For more information on the snow warden scheme visit www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk
By Press and Journal
In the Autumn of 2014, two San Francisco therapists shared a vision: to help heal that which divides us through the fine art of skilled listening. They gathered 26 of their colleagues, practiced listening skills and came up with a curriculum and model for listening on the sidewalks together.
On May 7th 2015, for 2 hours in 12 locations throughout San Francisco, listeners set up chairs and signs, offering to listen to any passer-by who wanted to be seen and heard. The result was amazing. And soon after a group from Los Angeles asked if they could reproduce it. There was never an intention for this thing to grow. Every person met at Sidewalk Talk is just like you, someone who believes that human connection is the way to create healthy humans, healthy politics, and a healthy world.
Today Sidewalk Talk has 1700 volunteers world-wide. They have groups in 40 cities around the globe. They have grown but remain grassroots by design. The focus is creating an active, engaged community of volunteers who commit to a regular listening practice and who connect with each other, not just the people they listen to.
Is this a way to gather not only people’s thoughts and opinions, but also raise the important of what the man on the “sidewalk” has to say? Would this work in our communities? Worth a thought!
Spare Chair Sunday first launched in 2015 as a partnership between national charity Contact the Elderly and Bisto. Expanding on the charity’s model of free monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people aged over 75 who live alone, Spare Chair Sunday encouraged people to offer a ‘spare chair’ at their Sunday lunch tables to a Contact the Elderly older guest and their volunteer driver, to share a delicious warm lunch all together. The response to the award-winning campaign was amazing, with over 1,600 Spare Chair Sunday volunteers hosting Sunday lunches or becoming regular tea party volunteers in their local community.
Any host homes or venues must have a downstairs toilet and be easily accessible (generally we say no more than three steps where possible).
Any car used must be fully insured and drivers must hold a full driving licence, as well as supplying two references and completing a DBS check. This is for the safety and security of guests and host.
Interested? Click on http://www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk/volunteer to apply to become a volunteer. Applications are dealt with as soon as possible, but please do be patient, all necessary checks must be made. In some cases, there will not be anyone near enough to you, groups may already have as many volunteers as they require, or there may not be a group in your area. It may be the case that your application may enable work to be launched in the area for the first time, enabling more older people to benefit!