WHY COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT IS IMPORTANT
DELIVERING ON OUR SHARED OUTCOMES
Scotland's communities are a rich source of talent and creative potential and the process of community empowerment helps to unlock that potential. It stimulates and harnesses the energy of local people to come up with creative and successful solutions to local challenges. Community empowerment is a key element in helping to achieve a more successful Scotland and in delivering our shared outcomes.
The Scottish Government has a clear purpose to create a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth, and it is determined to work in partnership across Scottish society to deliver on that purpose.
The purpose is underpinned by five strategic objectives and the new National Performance framework, which sets out a set of agreed outcomes in a range of areas that will be critical to making Scotland more successful. This new approach to delivering change plays out at Local Authority level through the new Single Outcome Agreements, which are a product of the new, mature and trusting relationship between central and local Government. From 2009/10, Single Outcome Agreements will be developed by Community Planning Partnerships in recognition of the fact that all of Scottish society, the public and third sectors and communities themselves, have a role to play in delivering the purpose.
We want more communities across the country to have more opportunities to play their part in helping to deliver the outcomes that matter to Scotland. This is about all of us recognising that communities doing things for themselves can sometimes be the best way of delivering change. This will require mature dialogue between the public sector and community groups, underpinned by trust and respect. Community Planning Partnerships should each think very carefully about the role that communities themselves can play in delivering Single Outcome Agreements. The Scottish Government is clear that we have some way to go before we realise the full potential that communities have to help deliver economic growth that benefits everyone in Scotland, wherever they live, and in a way that leaves a legacy for future generations.
We want more communities across the country to have more opportunities to play their part in helping to deliver the outcomes that matter to Scotland.
Community Empowerment also plays a vital role in the democratic life of Scotland. Elected representatives at all levels of Government in Scotland have a key role to play in providing leadership and promoting the active involvement of the Scottish people in the democratic life of the country. They are responsible for key decisions on delivering services and deploying significant resources across the country in a way that is accountable to the Scottish people. The concordat between the Scottish Government and local Government cements the importance and legitimacy of the role of elected representatives in delivering a better Scotland and explicitly commits Government in Scotland to work together in a mature and trusting way.
However, elected representatives on their own cannot deliver the vibrant democracy in our communities that we need in the 21st century in Scotland. Government at national and local level sees the process of community empowerment as a key way of complementing representative democracy.
When local people are actively engaged in tackling issues within their community, and in helping to realise the community's potential, those people are likely to have an increased interest in and engagement with the affairs of local government and indeed Government across the board.
This active involvement is most often driven by the community groups who exist in our neighbourhoods, towns and villages, whether they be community councils, registered tenant organisations, community based housing associations, or one of the many other models that communities choose for themselves. Often, different community groups working together can be a powerful way of stimulating community action and helping people to engage with the public sector.
In particular, the leadership role of local elected members, who are closest to our communities, plays a vital part in promoting and supporting the work of these community based groups as part of our everyday democratic lives. The key to a vibrant democracy is that all the players with an interest work together in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect - even where there may be disagreements - with a focus on the needs and aspirations of the wider community.
IMPROVING QUALITY OF LIFE
From existing evidence, we'd expect to see a number of positive changes when a community becomes more empowered. Increased confidence and skills amongst local people; higher numbers of people volunteering in their communities; higher levels of satisfaction with quality of life in a local neighbourhood. All of these benefits flow from people feeling more in control of their lives.
Community empowerment can also have a less tangible, but nevertheless very powerful outcome. It can give people a long term stake in the future of their communities, and can confirm and strengthen community pride; bringing people together from right across communities, from a variety of backgrounds to work for a better future.
Each of these are important reasons in their own right for supporting community empowerment. Taken together, they provide a compelling case for all of us to strive to help more communities become more empowered.