Publication - Research and analysis

Regeneration Capital Grant Fund: evaluation

Published: 20 Dec 2019
Directorate:
Local Government and Communities Directorate
ISBN:
9781839604072

Evaluation which assessed whether and how the fund achieved its aims as well as considering community involvement, social outcomes and success factors.

Regeneration Capital Grant Fund: evaluation
Executive Summary

Executive Summary

About this report

The Scottish Government commissioned Research Scotland to conduct research as part of an evaluation of the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (RCGF). The RCGF is an annual £25 million fund, delivered in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). The fund supports locally developed regeneration projects to help build sustainable communities.

Since its launch in 2014/15, 138 projects in 29 local authority areas have been recommended for funding, with offers totalling over £138 million[1]. The fund is used to tackle inequalities and support inclusive growth in Scotland's most disadvantaged and fragile areas and remote communities. RCGF focuses on funding projects that:

  • focus on areas with high levels of deprivation and disadvantage
  • deliver large scale transformational change with strong regeneration outcomes
  • have the potential to lever additional private sector investment and address market failure
  • demonstrate clear community involvement

Projects must align with the Scottish Government's regeneration strategy[2] and local regeneration plans, contributing to the development of economically, socially and physically sustainable communities[3] (see Appendix 1).

The research aims were to:

  • assess whether and how RCGF has achieved its aims to date
  • assess community involvement
  • assess social outcomes
  • investigate factors affecting successful delivery of projects
  • investigate factors affecting effective monitoring and evaluation of projects
  • generate learning to help ensure future funding rounds deliver as much value as possible, achieve desired outcomes and avoid undesired outcomes

This executive summary presents the key findings by each of these aspects, followed by key learning points.

Social outcomes and community involvement were explored in the context of Scotland's National Performance Framework indicators – particularly perception of local area; influence over local decisions; social capital and places to interact[4]. The importance of place as being at the heart of realising the full potential of communities and addressing their needs is also emphasised by the Place Principle, adopted by the Scottish Government and COSLA in 2019.

Research method

The research focused on a sample of 14 focus projects, to allow in-depth exploration of social outcomes, success factors and lessons learned. Projects were selected from a short list agreed between Scottish Government and COSLA, with input from the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE). The projects were selected taking account of geography, award level, project stage, project focus and partners involved. Most of the projects had completed the RCGF funded element of their project, two were ongoing and one had been withdrawn.

Geography Award % Funded by RCGF
City 4 Up to £0.5m = 4 Up to 25% = 4
Large town 4 £0.5m to £1m = 5 26 to 50% = 6
Other town 3 £1m to £1.5m = 4 51 to 75% = 3
Rural 3 £1.5m to £2m = 1 76%+ = 1

The projects focused on types of facility and service, including community space, culture, business and enterprise, heritage, sports, office space, public and civic space, play, equality, tourism and commercial space.

The fieldwork involved interviews with 141 people, including individuals managing RCGF funding, individuals managing the project, partners involved in managing and delivering the project, members of the community who had been involved in the development of the project, and/ or service users following completion of the project.

The research provides an in-depth understanding of the experiences and outcomes of the 14 focus projects and allows valuable insights to be generated. However, it should not be assumed that the findings are generalisable to all RCGF projects. The research is entirely qualitative. Throughout the report, a simple broad scale is used to describe the rough proportion of participants giving a certain viewpoint:

  • all – everyone made this point
  • most/ a majority – more than half
  • some/ a minority – less than half but more than three
  • a few – just two or three participants
  • one/ an individual – just one person

Where bullets are used to summarise responses, points are listed in order of frequency mentioned.

Key findings

The Regeneration Capital Grant Fund has been generally successful in supporting locally developed regeneration projects to help build socially sustainable communities. The RCGF has supported and enabled locally developed regeneration projects, encouraged the involvement of local people and communities and helped build sustainable communities.

Most project leads from the sample highlighted that RCGF is a very useful grant, offering significant amounts of money to deliver large projects – which few other funds were able to do. Project leads and partners were pleased that RCGF could fund a significant proportion of the costs for a project, and felt it was often a lever to unlock money from other funders.

In most projects, partners felt that the project may not have happened without RCGF. Some felt that the project may have gone ahead without RCGF, but the project may have been smaller, taken longer, been done in more phases, or been lower quality.

Social outcomes

A key focus of this research was on whether the RCGF had achieved its aims in terms of the social outcomes it intended to bring about. The sections below summarise the main social outcomes achieved by the 14 focus projects, as reported by the research participants. These outcomes support socially sustainable communities[5].

When reading this section, it is important to remember that all RCGF projects are different. The RCGF aims to support a wide range of social outcomes, but it is not expected that each project contributes to each outcome. Few projects reported any undesired outcomes. Overall, the research found evidence that most projects were supporting and contributing towards most of their intended outcomes[6].

Community identity, networks and aspirations

Most of the focus projects had a significant impact on how communities felt about their area. The projects helped to build a positive identify, improve the perception communities had about their area and encourage visitors to the area. Research participants also enjoyed learning more about the history of their area, and investment in local facilities helped people feel valued and worthwhile.

In some projects, community organisations involved in or leading the project have become more sustainable – reporting increased service use, new opportunities to generate revenue, increases in community membership and success accessing further funding sources for future activity. In some projects, the new facilities had helped to develop and strengthen community networks.

Access to facilities and services

Most of the focus projects had provided local people with new or improved places to meet and connect, in some instances this was free of charge. This provided people with opportunities to socialise, develop skills, use services and reduce isolation. Facilities were largely perceived to be well used.

In some projects, facilities provided opportunities for public services to co-locate. Community members found this useful and for public sector organisations it helped build local connections and improve quality of services.

Safety

Overall, project leads, partners and communities felt that the projects helped to create safe spaces. Most facilities were described as relaxing, open and inclusive – welcoming a range of different people. Communities felt safe using new facilities – and enjoyed the better lighting, safe routes and outdoor space, and CCTV. In a few projects, facilities being well used and having better community connections helped people feel safer.

Health and wellbeing

Some projects supported people's mental health by giving people a place to go – to use services or volunteer. This provided some with an opportunity to be part of the community, reducing isolation and improving mental health. There was less evidence of impact on physical health, with the exception of one project which involved new sports facilities and helped improve physical activity levels.

Vibrant towns and high streets

Research participants from some projects indicated that the new facilities, programmes and services helped to develop vibrant, active towns. In some projects, participants indicated that the RCGF funding helped to improve the appearance of towns and high streets, provided a central focal point and encouraged visitors to the area.

In some cases, the investment was felt to have created a domino effect with more investment in other buildings, public realm and streetscaping works, and new services coming to the area. Some research participants reported greater use of local cafes, shops and public transport.

In a few projects where buildings were restored, the building has been nominated for or has received awards. These have helped to raise the profile of the projects and the local community.

Employment

Some projects helped deliver a range of employment and employability options for people in the community. These opportunities arose both through the construction of the new facility, and through service delivery – with local people involved in working in community cafes and bars, community gardens and servicing at events. Some community members have also had opportunities to develop their skills through focused employability support and wider activities to build skills for life, learning and work. The new facilities have also provided valuable volunteering opportunities. Some projects also reported supporting the local economy by providing business space and supporting tourism by encouraging visitors to the area.

Community involvement

The research also explored experiences of community involvement. Across the 14 focus projects, community involvement in assessing need for the projects was strong. In most projects, the community was a driving force in identifying need. In some projects ideas came from the community naturally, through local groups or elected members, while in others needs emerged as part of wider public sector led regeneration, town planning or masterplanning activity.

In almost all projects, communities had opportunities to get involved in planning or designing facilities through public meetings, surveys, drop-in events, design events and workshops. In a few projects, community groups were intensely involved as future service users, in influencing the design of the facility. Some partners indicated that community input brought about good ideas, sometimes around issues that the design team hadn't thought of.

In most projects, community involvement focused on people living in the local area. However, a few were led by communities of interest including local businesses, creative organisations or sports groups.

In most of the projects which had reached service delivery stage, the communities had been involved in influencing service provision in some way. In some projects, community organisations or social enterprises were managing the facility, while in others communities had responsibility for a proportion of revenue costs or led on participatory budgeting. However, there was limited involvement in influencing service delivery in two projects which were largely public sector driven.

Most community members had positive experiences of community involvement and felt listened to, respected and fully involved. In some projects, communities had influenced the final design, level of community use, pricing structure and/ or management arrangements. Some felt they had achieved personal outcomes such as building confidence, developing skills, making connections and feeling more empowered.

In some projects, some community members had mixed views on their experience of involvement. For example, some felt although they had enjoyed the process, their ideas were not taken into account. In a few projects, most of the community members involved in the research expressed strong concerns about their involvement, mainly that they felt they had not had an influence and were unhappy with the outcome.

Community members and partners recognised that community involvement was challenging. It required a lot of work, time and support and people often had different and competing views.

Key success factors for effective community involvement included:

  • partners proactively reaching out to communities
  • passionate activists and strong community organisations
  • time, resources and investing in capacity building
  • working in partnership
  • being flexible and learning from mistakes

Challenges to community involvement included:

  • getting and keeping people involved
  • managing expectations
  • tight timescales for engagement
  • level of responsibility placed on community organisations
  • sustainability of community organisations

Factors affecting project delivery

Project leads, partners and community members were asked about the success factors and challenges of delivering their RCGF project.

The main success factors (listed in order of frequency mentioned) were:

  • working in partnership – the most commonly identified success factor. This was felt to bring expertise, skills and access to further funding during the build phase, as well as opportunities to own, run and manage facilities in sustainable ways with a wide range of services and a wider group of potential service users.
  • a clear vision – shared among partners, and driven by a passionate organisation or individual.
  • clear decision making processes – with good planning, project management, governance and risk management.
  • RCGF funding – which provided large amounts of capital funding not available from many other funders, and helped to unlock access to other funds through reducing risk, validating the project and giving the project a higher profile.

Partners stressed that it was not always easy to work in partnership, but almost all felt that it was worth it as it helped to develop a high quality, sustainable facility.

The main challenges reported were:

  • the nature of the sites and buildings – with old buildings bringing risks and unknowns, and complex sites presenting issues around ownership, contamination and safety.
  • securing and managing funding – with challenges lining up different funders to required timelines and outcomes, and costs in most projects being higher than expected.
  • timescales – some felt that the timescales for spending RCGF were tight, and that more flexibility was needed – particularly to effectively engage communities, enable decisions to be made in partnership and fit with wider regeneration activity.
  • partner capacity in some projects, the responsibilities placed on different partners – including architects and community organisations – were a challenge, and a few projects also experienced issues with capacity of contractors.
  • financial sustainability – a few projects found it a little challenging to balance community use with business focused decision making.

RCGF processes

Most project leads felt RCGF processes were sensible, reasonable and proportionate. Most indicated that the two stage application process worked well, and that the application process was not overly burdensome. A few felt that it would be useful to have: shorter timescales for hearing the results of applications; more feedback on why applications are successful or unsuccessful; and better synchronisation between funders.

Some projects leads (and others responsible for monitoring and evaluation) felt that the monitoring arrangements were proportionate and easy to understand. Some project leads thought that the monitoring and completion forms were not focused enough on impact and outcomes and would welcome more clarity and focus on social outcomes. Few projects had systems and/or resources in place for measuring social outcomes and most found this challenging.

Learning points for future rounds

  • community involvement while community involvement in identifying need for RCGF projects was strong, the evaluation identified potential for more to be done to help some RCGF supported projects to be led or strongly driven by communities, beyond the stage of assessing need.
  • a logic model for the RCGF – there is scope to develop a logic model setting out a rationale and framework for the short, medium and long term anticipated outcomes of the RCGF, and how each project fits in to this. A draft logic model has been produced as part of this research (see Fig. 7.1).
  • funding decisions and processes – most involved in this evaluation were happy with RCGF processes and felt that RCGF was a very useful source of funding. However, as discussed above, there are some aspects that may benefit from further consideration and development.
  • monitoring and reporting – the monitoring system could be adapted to encourage project leads to focus on a small number of specific outcomes each project intends to achieve. This would need to be accompanied by guidance and re-designed monitoring forms.

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot