Places that are ours: Communities thrive when they come together

Alison typing on her laptop in front of a group of people laughing

During our conversations with people in the Our Place areas, it became evident that often people feel alone or misunderstood on a journey that seems unique to their own experience. However, people across all communities shared very similar experiences to each other and so it felt appropriate to bring the various Our Place stakeholders in the same room to share their stories, learning and to make connections.

The invite was extended to some other organisations which share a place-based ethos: Corra Foundation, SURF, Inspiring Scotland, Creative Scotland, and Scottish Community Development Centre.

Approximately 50 people joined us at our Glasgow offices for a full-day event, ranging from community members to local authority representatives. The Knowledge and Learning Team fed back some of the findings of the review and then we hosted a panel discussion with representatives from the aforementioned organisations. The remainder of the day was spent on six thematic learning exchange sessions. These were:

  • Parks and Greenspace
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Heritage
  • Youth Work
  • Community Centres and Facilities
  • Creative Arts 
Someone standing talking to the room

During the sessions, we heard from people and grantholders in local communities about their experience of Our Place and some of the highlights of their thematic work. Then, people discussed their own experiences and highlights at their table.

Our team recorded highlight notes from the table conversations. Here are some of the things that came up:

  • Social isolation and loneliness are prevalent in most communities and it can be tricky to get people out their homes. Sometimes, you should think outside the box and come up with “hooks” that will entice your audiences (e.g. a knitting group). Other times, you need to reach folk in their homes to make them aware of what’s on and to persuade them to come out. Finally, wellbeing activities don’t need to be branded as such to be successful.
  • Reaching out to local businesses can save a lot of money and provide resources. Many are willing to donate items or money to a local cause they are passionate about. The most difficult step is overcoming the fear of asking. 
  • Youth work is facing significant cuts in investment which can make it a difficult field. Young people are interested in engaging but if the resources aren’t there, the activities are not as fun which can cut numbers down. We are also missing out on training the next generation of youth workers since community classes are not as common anymore.
  • Engaging with young people as equals is very important to ensuring their buy-in. Young people want to feel heard and that their opinion actually matters.
  • Local social enterprises face issues with sustainability if left without funding. Since many are working with people with limited financial resources, it can be very difficult to generate income high enough to sustain their businesses. It can also feel strange to charge customers when they are local groups or organisations because of personal relationships. This seems to be the case irrespectively of their thematic area.
  • Local heritage can help stimulate local enterprising ideas. For example, in Langholm, local history has helped inform creative start-ups which use traditional skills and industries with modern technologies. People buy into that because it’s their local heritage.
  • Mixed models of asset transfer are important as they allow the community to have greater control over their local community assets and the activities that run from it but allows the local authority to remain involved and assist with building capacity and sharing skills.
  • Even though parks may not seem as important assets to many people, they are actually a place of escape for many. They are a free to use community asset which can act as connectors of various neighbourhoods and areas. A guest noted that “swing parks are more than swing parks for a lot of children – they are important life spaces to develop social skills, take risks, socialise, and spend time away from home and school”.

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