2.1 Rocket Science was commissioned to:
- Assess and provide evidence on rural communities' level of awareness of the Rural Direct service, including the searchable map-based database
- Assess the quality and added value of the service received by communities who have used the Rural Direct service
- Assess the value to rural communities of the Rural Direct database
- Map out existing funded advice available to rural communities, including through LEADER Local Action Groups (LAGS), Fishery Local Action Groups (FLAGS), Third Sector Interfaces and organisations such as the Development Trusts Association, the new SRDP Advisory Service and Scottish Rural Network
- Assess to what degree these and any additional identified initiatives/organisations/services provide advice that meet communities' needs for accessing funding
- Identify any important gaps in provision
- Identify options with advantages and disadvantages for how advice and help for rural communities looking to access funding can be delivered from 2015 onwards.
2.2 In carrying out this brief we have:
- Identified the expressed needs of rural communities around advice and support to access funding
- Explored the current provision of free advice and support available to rural community groups to help them access funding and identified the extent to which these meet the expressed needs of rural communities
- Explored the particular role that "Rural Direct" - a national service locally delivered by SCVO and funded by Scottish Government - has played, and how effective the service has been in helping rural communities gain access to funding
- Identified the options for how advice and help for rural communities looking to access funding can best be delivered and making recommendations about the strongest options.
2.3 We consulted widely with community groups across Scotland about what they need in terms of funding advice and support. We used an online survey (n = 193) and telephone/in-person consultation with community group representatives (n = 24), participants at a workshop at the Scottish Rural Parliament, and one-to-one interviews, both over the telephone and in person at relevant events. Online surveys were principally disseminated by:
- SCVO to Rural Direct's database of community groups (1621 email addresses)
- Notifications in the National Rural Network newsletter
- Emails from LEADER co-ordinators to community groups.
Awareness of the survey was also raised by publicising the survey at events (for example, distributing business cards at the Scottish Rural Parliament) and by further mail-outs from advice providers that we consulted (e.g. Development Trust Association Scotland and Community Woodlands Association).
2.4 We consulted widely with advice providers across Scotland (n=120) about what they are able to provide in terms of free funding advice and support, using an online survey and one-to-one interviews (both over the telephone and in person) at relevant events. The results were tested at two final workshops with advice providers (n=22) to sense-check the findings and jointly develop conclusions from the research. These events were extremely useful as a means of reflecting on the results of the research, and throughout this report we present these reflections to help the reader better understand the findings.
2.5 As well as questions within this consultation specifically about Rural Direct, we undertook desk research of documentation about Rural Direct's services and a discussion with a member of staff at SCVO to gain a better understanding of the services offered, what the strengths have been and any particular challenges faced.
2.6 Using this research we have drawn conclusions about the gaps between community needs and available provision, and made specific recommendations for the Scottish Government in terms of improving the support and advice available to help rural community groups access funding for local projects.
Email: Liz Hawkins
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