4. Communities And Collective Endeavour
The four Calls to Action in this chapter focus on giving more power to people and communities, empowering frontline teams, and building new ways of working, based on what has worked well during the pandemic and developing new arrangements for local governance. Changes needed are not all about funding: they are about leadership, culture, values, a commitment to place-based working, and an enduring commitment to change.
What Do We Know?
The need to do more to share power is one of the central messages in our report and, as we heard from our engagement activity, many communities recognise that they have the skills and ability to do more for themselves and want to build on the positives of the pandemic response:
- "I noticed a lot of people changed their attitude towards helping others in the community. People came together to help other people, the virus made people work more together and look after each other."
- "Communities now recognise that we have a wide range of skill sets and can do things for ourselves." - Community Listening Events
- The Deep Dive with Older People unanimously agreed that they had seen a definite intergenerational approach to community engagement and hoped that this practice could be maintained moving forward, as it gave the participants hope.
Our Call for Ideas asked both for power to be shared more equally and for the most marginalised voices to be more clearly heard. This was seen as vital to understand what change was needed and to realise the huge potential in what communities have to offer.
We heard very clearly that 'experts by experience' within communities should be more involved in decisions that affect them. For example, the 'Addressing Low Income' circle held a deliberative workshop with unpaid carers, who felt very strongly that it was wrong that the board for the Review of Adult Social Care did not have an unpaid carer on it. They argued that carers need to be involved in shaping the policies that affected their lives, otherwise their needs cannot be properly addressed. In the workshop with Radiant and Brighter, the group of Black and minority ethnic women felt that there was nothing in the Scottish Government's Programme for Government for them and that many of the actions described would not help them or meet their needs. They also felt that Black and minority ethnic women were not well represented in decision-making. There was also a view that caring roles and stereotypes often excluded women from community decision-making, which is intensified for Black and minority ethnic women and disabled women.
Genuinely good engagement often delivers real results, as we heard from Interfaith Scotland. Engagement between faith communities and policy-makers helped them step up to offer support in a multitude of ways such as preparing and delivering food to large numbers of people; continuing to operate food banks for those experiencing food insecurity; keeping connected with older and at risk communities through phone calls and via email; and supporting the mental health of a vast number of individuals:
"Faith Communities have been grateful for the increased engagement with the Scottish Government over the pandemic. This has allowed for collaboration on safely using places of worship to give practical and spiritual support to thousands of individuals and communities during the crisis."
- Interfaith Scotland
Our Deep Dive with Disabled People argued that more participation by excluded groups is part of what is needed to improve how the Public Sector Equality Duty and particularly Equality Impact Assessments are used. They also pointed to the need to build policy-makers' equality competence and develop a more robust approach to meeting the duty to implement change:
- "Disabled people's expertise is vital to ensuring policies and decisions don't leave us behind and exacerbate our inequality."- Deep Dive with Disabled People
We also heard that more direct help – and resource - is needed to make sure that lesser-heard voices are able to participate in full from the outset.
- Throughout our Covid-19 engagement, disabled people have emphasised that participation and having their voices heard are vital to driving forwards all the other progress we need to see." - Deep Dive with Disabled People
- "Often input isn't received from certain communities, so assumptions are made on their needs. Young people wanted to stress the importance in listening to their input… ensuring that it can benefit everyone." - Deep Dive with Young People
Sharing power with communities, and actively supporting them to engage, is one way to make progress here. For example, our Call for Ideas heard that moving a greater proportion of Local Government budgets to 'participatory budgeting' approaches – where local communities get to decide how funding should be spent through facilitated discussion - should be speeded up and participation for all made easier. A related issue is how we can make community ownership - buying land, buildings or other assets and then running them for the benefit of the community – easier for everyone so we get positive and sustainable outcomes and better places to live and work.
Community wealth building (CWB) is an example of a people-centred approach to local economic development that is now being rolled out across Scotland. CWB has a practical local focus, as well as being a cross-Scotland means to deliver a wellbeing economy. CWB purposefully redirects wealth back to communities by encouraging more democratic and inclusive forms of economic ownership of land and economic activity more generally. 'Anchor institutions', such as universities, local authorities or health boards have key roles here, as they are significant economic agents who employ people, procure and commission goods and services, own significant amounts of land and property and can have significant financial resources. The aim is to harness this, alongside business and social anchors, to help ensure that the opportunities, employment and wealth generated by all this activity stays within communities.
Meaningful involvement of communities is already working well in some places and some policy areas. Other examples include the Experience Panels that have shaped the design and delivery of Scottish social security, the Poverty Truth Commissions that have linked to a small number of councils to influence local decision-making, and participatory budgeting approaches that give local people a say on how a small amount of public money is spent. We need to build on the impact this involvement is having in a step change for how decisions are taken. We also need to increase capacity of policy-makers, planners, and those designing services so that they can more effectively increase participation of those with lived experience in policy making, service design and funding decisions.
That's why Call To Action 16 calls for a further shift in the balance of power, enabling individuals and communities to have more control over shaping local and national policy, more help to realise the greatest benefit from local assets, and more say in taking funding and grant-making decisions – all in a way that maximises place-based approaches and advances equality.
This Call to Action also focuses on how we can make the most of the volunteers who have played a central role in the Covid-19 response. A recent study suggests that over the course of the pandemic, 74% of people in Scotland have either informally or formally supported fellow citizens through volunteering and additional research suggests that volunteering rates are likely to increase by 10%. This again brings to the fore the importance of place and community - people tended to do their volunteering at a local or even hyper-local level, because it's right in front of them and really means something:
- "The increase in volunteering has been significant. I really hope it continues after this is over." – Community Listening Event
- "I've seen much more volunteers in my community and I think it's great. We came together like we never have before. We couldn't rely on anyone but ourselves. We helped with food support, prescription pickups, supply parcels, dog walks, phone calls to people we knew who were isolating."
- "[Volunteering] gave [the participants] a sense of purpose and helped combat loneliness and isolation by way of regular social interaction." – Deep Dive with Older People
But at the same time, we heard that volunteering needed to be made easier and that barriers were still making things difficult:
- "The young people felt that everyone should have access to volunteering, and opportunities that support their needs and goals, including those who have never previously participated or expressed an interest in doing so." – Deep Dive with Young People
- "Stop punishing and restricting volunteers – if you volunteer full time that's just as good as working full time." – Poverty Truth Commission Engagement
Another lesson from the Covid-19 response has been that the way in which help and support is provided makes a big difference to relationships and to outcomes. Frontline teams who have more flexibility and freedom to prevent or solve problems can quickly build trust in communities and deliver impressive results. These teams are often best placed to help individuals, families and communities. Before the pandemic, good practice examples were already known about. For example, to prevent homelessness, frontline workers were given autonomy to spend small amounts of money to sort individual problems people had on the street, whether that was paying for things like transportation or bills. This had a positive effect on people at risk of homelessness and rough sleeping. Through the pandemic, we have seen how teams were able to support families who were already experiencing challenging circumstances before Covid-19.
Equally, approaches that empowered individuals, families and communities in receipt of services were crucial. Services should be designed around individuals and their needs, taking account of their hopes and dreams and the strengths and assets they bring. We need to move from a situation where people simply have to accept the services on offer to one where services are tailored to their individual needs.
So in Call To Action 17, we are calling on the public sector and other partners to take action to empower teams so they can act quickly and flexibly to solve problems that individuals and families cannot sort out by themselves. Individuals and families in receipt of services must also have more say - they should be able to enjoy genuinely coherent and joined up support in a place that they can easily access, not a multitude of different, poorly connected services in multiple places. This means more ability to choose and shape packages of support for themselves. All this will need a genuine shift within the public sector towards values-based and place-based approaches, with more and better opportunities for the third sector to work in partnership, add value and act as a vital bridge between statutory services and families.
Finally, we are calling for systems change at organisational level and recognise that in the main this will affect Local Government and other parts of the public sector working locally.
Partnership working has been accelerated during the pandemic. The third sector, communities, Local Government and the Scottish Government worked together at pace to deliver immediate solutions to problems like emergency food, avoiding homelessness, reducing social isolation and loneliness, and helping tenants avoid evictions. Flexible, fast funding – where it was available – helped make this happen. It was also important that reporting requirements were either kept to a minimum or were actually useful.
- "There was partnership working between professionals and services – at national and local levels; and at strategic and operational levels – to find practical, responsive and creative solutions that meet the needs of the children, young people and families they work with and support." – CELCIS
- "Local funding was made easy to access and quickly provided with limited conditions attached. This helped enormously."
- "One of the best points was the quick access to funding money. Three grants were awarded in the first few weeks enabling the Group to take action quickly and efficiently." - Community Listening Events
The third sector played a vital role in the success of the Covid-19 response. However, at the same time, the sector was badly hit by the restrictions placed on income-generation during lockdown in particular. Insecure and/or short-term funding, plus the need to change functions quickly, has meant some third sector organisations battling to survive at precisely the time when we need them the most.
- "Joined up working with third sector has been beneficial and I hope they are able to continue to do so after the pandemic is over." - Community Listening Events
Our Call for Ideas highlighted that government and partners should be actively supporting and enhancing the capabilities of the third sector across Scotland and focusing on long-term, sustainable funding. For example, on LGBTI issues, there was a call for collaborative working with the public and third sectors in order to meet the needs of LGBTI people in all Scottish communities; there was an ask for sustainable resourcing and additional funding for LGBTI programmes, and a move away from short-term project-based funding to enable services to expand beyond the central belt.
CALL TO ACTION 18 includes a shift towards long-term systems of risk and reward, and a secure and sustainable third sector. It also looks to make sure the changes across this section of the report are in place for the long-term. That means the public sector and other partners building on new ways of working, based on what worked well during the pandemic and developing new arrangements for local governance.
Communities are intrinsically linked to places. Places contribute to the wellbeing of people, planet and the economy and everyone has a role to play in making the place where they live successful. Places are the heart of the community, can provide shared and sustainable access to products and services, have an ability to focus sustainable and local economic and social activity and can deliver enhanced wellbeing through a sense of place, history, wellness and environmental positivity.
As an illustration, the Call for Ideas highlighted the need for safe places for LGBTI people to meet and socialise – and this is key. Without places that meet communities' needs, how can better programmes and better services be delivered?
A place-based approach is simply a more joined-up, participative way to deliver changes to services, land and buildings, and across sectors – all within a place. These approaches aim to bring about increased opportunities for people and communities to shape their own lives and better outcomes for everyone. As we finalise this report, we are all once again required by restrictions to stay local, shop local, and work at home where we can. The importance of good quality local facilities in good quality neighbourhoods has never been so clear. Place is where all the other Calls to Action come together on the ground and a strong focus on Place is required throughout to deliver. Call To Action 18, above, includes a focus on programmes to drive place-based working, while Call To Action 19 sets out place as an approach that ties together all the actions in this report.
Call To Action 16
Further shift the balance of power so individuals and communities have more control over decisions that affect their lives
Our Aspiration - Our communities have responded to the pandemic with courage, hard graft, kindness and togetherness and a renewed Scotland must build on this shared sense of purpose. We are therefore calling for a further shift in the balance of power, so that individuals and communities have more control over the decisions that affect their lives and the money spent locally, while at the same time taking action to advance equality and build sustainable places with strong community resources.
How Do We Get There?
1. The Scottish Government, Local Government and the wider public sector should make a commitment that experts by experience will always be involved in shaping and designing policies and programmes that affect them.
To do this, experts by experience will need to be actively supported. They must be:
- Engaged through wide reaching community development approaches.
- Empowered through meaningful participation, capacity building and co-production.
- Involved on boards and reviews (such as the Adult Social Care Review and the Social Renewal Advisory Board) which affect them.
- Given tailored and accessible support to work closely with policy officials and Ministers - this support must also be given to officials and politicians so that they better understand how to work more effectively with communities.
- Recognised as having valuable insight and compensated financially for the expertise they offer.
The expectation from now must always be that policies and programmes will embed lived experience in their conception, design and delivery. For example, one respondent to our Call for Ideas argued that the lived experience of children and families experiencing poverty should be at the heart of all our efforts to tackle child poverty. This is something that the Scottish Government should actively factor into its approach to the next four-year Tackling Child Po
How lived experience influences decision-making will be crucial. Decision-making processes must be designed so they enable a culture of engagement, activism, support and challenge to improve the quality of our actions. This should be married with practical inclusion methods, including: flexible times and places for consultation events; childcare support; accessibility of timings; venues support and different participation formats. We should also be mindful of who is and is not in the room to ensure equality is always being advanced.
The Poverty and Inequality Commission intends to trial a new approach to involving experts by experience in its work over the next year and the Scottish Government should commit to learning from this.
2. Participatory budgeting should be widened and deepened and more diverse voices should be supported to get involved in decisions about public money. Participatory budgeting (PB) brings real funding choices into the hands of local people and equality groups however, this needs to be deepened (a greater proportion of local budgets need to be determined based on PB) and widened (other parts of the public sector need to embrace PB). People should have a real say on the actual budgets of mainstream services and not marginal pockets of cash. This would begin to shift the current culture of engagement, which already asks a lot of organisations and communities sometimes with limited impact, towards meaningful, outcome-driven processes such as social procurement and community wealth building. These are the foundations upon which new local governance should be built.
Grant-giving also needs to involve experts by experience. We propose that the Third Sector Unit (TSU) should take a lead on this as a model within the Scottish Government and for the wider public sector. TSU should be tasked with embedding lived experience and more diverse voices in the development of its grant programmes and funding decisions and in so doing become more experienced in participatory grant-making. It should also lead a community of practice across government to build skills and confidence to achieve the normalisation of such approaches across core policy areas. This would improve the design of investment programmes and their ability to reach more diverse groups. To further increase funding transparency, all Scottish Government third sector funding across all directorates and local authorities should be published on the "360 giving platform" to make it easier to understand whether public money is addressing needs or not.
3. Volunteering should be made easier, for those who are in paid work and those who are not, and for carers and other people not in the formal labour market.
As a first step, the UK Government should change the rules on volunteering that seriously inhibit people's ability to participate actively in their local community. The Department of Work and Pensions should fundamentally reassess its approach to Work Capability Assessments. In the coming months, we know that unemployment will increase. There will be people in the benefits system who have not needed to draw on that kind of support before. It will be essential for the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, places and communities that opportunities to participate and to volunteer are made as easy and stress-free as possible. To encourage this to happen, the Scottish Government should step up its lobbying on this issue.
Secondly, employers across the public and private sectors should be encouraged to value, recognise and build on the benefits of volunteering, utilising the Social Good Connect model and offering volunteering leave as a basic offer to the Social Impact Pledge. Scottish Government, Local Government and many others in the public sector already offer their employees the opportunity to volunteer with paid days leave. This should form part of the new social contract on Fair Work, referenced within Call to Action 3. To give of our time and ourselves is one of the most rewarding things that we can do and the action proposed provides an opportunity to make a difference and to give something back to our communities.
Thirdly, equality and inclusion considerations need to be taken more seriously and the Volunteer Delivery Plan offers an opportunity to address the gap for both disabled people and people from minority ethnic communities. We need to understand that those barriers that get in the way of people's ability to volunteer are the same as those that get in the way of people's ability to participate in wider decision-making. We must place greater value, financially and as a society, on the community work women do, including empowering women to transfer these skills into other areas of life such as employment and education.
Finally, resources are needed so that opportunities for volunteering are better supported, accessed, and utilised. The skills, kindness and commitment of formal and informal volunteers can be harnessed to improve people's experience and wellbeing through volunteering, as well as the wellbeing of people receiving support from volunteers, now and into the future through investment in succession planning and organisational sustainability. This builds upon the calls for sustainable funding for the third sector in the next section, but also reflects the importance of local and national infrastructure and expertise to support community participation and volunteering. Third Sector Interfaces, along with other local authority and voluntary sector provision for community capacity building and learning, have a key role in helping communities to thrive. At the national level, third sector infrastructure bodies funded by the Scottish Government – Volunteer Scotland and SCVO – have a vital role in coordinating support and research regarding participation, as well as providing an important representative voice at the strategic level. They must be supported.
Read more about these proposals in the Communities and Volunteering policy circle report here.
4. The Scottish Government, with local authorities and other public bodies, should make Community Asset Transfer and Ownership easier. Community Asset Transfers have been successful in Scotland, and in some areas a large number of asset transfers have been achieved. However, communities still need more support to make the most of that success for the long-term benefit of local people. We have set out here six steps that would help.
i. A mix of revenue and capital funding should be made available to help communities prepare for the purchase of land, buildings and other assets and then to actually buy them. Funding should also be available post-acquisition - this is often essential to make assets fit for purpose and financially sustainable. The key aim is that any community-owned asset becomes locally self-sustaining, benefiting local people via co-working, community functions, local and circular economy, and growing local skills. None of this is easy but the goal often seems to be to buy the asset and then there is a real struggle to get it to work as the capacity is not there at the outset to drive it forward.
ii. The appeals/review process should apply from the submission of the Asset Transfer Request. Currently, appeals are only possible once a decision is made or if the public authority fails to meet the timescale for validating applications. That means that communities cannot appeal where a public authority considers an application not to be competent.
iii. Community Right to Buy (CRtB) legislation should be amended to make it easier for urban communities to buy land and other assets. When the legislation was expanded in 2016 to include urban communities, principles that were developed for a rural environment were not changed. This means it is often unworkable for communities in densely populated areas to use the legislation to buy land or buildings.
iv. The use of the electoral roll in CRtB should be reviewed. This can effectively disenfranchise significant numbers of people, including refugees and other residents who, for various reasons, are not on the electoral roll within their community. Alternative options should be explored that would provide a more inclusive approach, particularly in disadvantaged communities.
v. Changes made to CRtB criteria in 2016 increased the mandatory response from residents to 75% from 50% - this should be reversed. This can be a real issue for groups that seek support from local people, part-time residents and regular holidaymakers.
vi. he provisions to meet the crofting CRtB eligibility requirements should be aligned to CRtB provisions.
Call To Action 17
Improve service delivery and design by empowering frontline teams and the people and communities they serve
Our Aspiration - Another lesson from the collective response to Covid-19 has been that teams who have more flexibility and freedom to prevent or solve problems can quickly build trust in communities and deliver impressive results. These frontline teams are often best placed to help individuals, families and communities. So we are calling on the public sector and other partners to empower teams - to do the right thing, take decisions and act quickly and flexibly to help solve problems. We also want to give more choice to the people and communities in receipt of services. This means a change in culture, embedding agile and streamlined ways of working; it means a significant commitment from organisations to values-based leadership – a wholesale change programme - that creates space and gives permission for people to do more within their own roles across organisations, taking more ownership of how they deliver.
How Do We Get There?
1. Commit to values-based leadership as a wholesale change programme. Leadership and workforce cultures across the public and third sectors are key to enabling the change needed. Values-based leadership – across all levels of an organisation – can help empower staff to do the right thing, to take positive risks and to implement relational approaches.
Embedding values-based leadership in all organisations that work to support individuals, families and communities would allow the system to move the focus away from process and metrics to using the impact on service users as a measure of success. Embedding this approach at all levels – from senior management teams to individual practitioners – would ensure a close line of sight to the overall strategic direction and ensure that frontline staff are empowered to put this into practice. Equally, this level of engagement and empowerment makes certain that the strategic direction remains current and relevant.
Many organisations are already doing this. There are a number of existing values-based leadership programmes, and excellent examples of organisations who have committed, along with their partners, to wholesale change programmes. We should look to draw on these examples to ensure values are placed at the heart of all services, both in the public and third sectors.
2. We need collectively to transfer power to the people we have a duty to support, and to frontline staff that work most closely with them, regardless of sector. There are thousands of skilled and passionate people working across our public and third sectors, striving every day to make this country a better place for all of us. We saw from the response to the pandemic that frontline workers/teams can, when given the freedom and permission to innovate, quickly solve problems for individuals and families, and from there build trust and positive relationships.
Frontline staff need to be empowered to use their professional judgement, optimise compassionate and values-based approaches and make the most of calculated opportunities when they arise. Values-based leadership will enable this transfer of power across the system to both frontline staff and the families they support.
3. Individuals and families must have opportunities to influence how services help them meet their needs and build on their capabilities. The 'Cross-Cutting Delivery Circle' report for the Board focuses on the Social Innovation Partnership (SIP), a funding partnership between the Scottish Government and the Hunter Foundation.
The SIP 'community-around-the-child' model, which is place-based, aims to build an active community partnership alongside existing parent council models and similar bodies. When schools draw on the assets from within their communities to deliver deep support to children and their wider families, all involved can flourish. This model involves local people and local organisations, including the private sector, to offer a range of support suited to the whole family. The model of support is 365, seven-days-a-week, delivered using community assets, recognising that families don't stop having support needs at the end of the day.
The SIP's specific proposals explore how we can begin to transfer power to families and frontline staff and switch to relational/values-based approaches. It provides improved space for the third sector to work in partnership, add value and act as a vital bridge between statutory services and families where required. The approach represents a continuum of support for individuals and families and a means by which we can change power dynamics and give more agency to families and individuals. Taken as a whole, and embedded within a community, this approach and others like it aim to bring about real and deep change in public service delivery and culture so that public services (including those delivered by the third sector) in turn become enablers for real change for families and communities.
There is already evidence of community partnership approaches where this joining up of assets is having a significant impact on young people and their families. They are being offered mentoring programmes, strength-based learning, coaching and employability support, family support and flexible childcare as part of a package of support. Each community-around-the-child school would develop differently in line with the needs and aspirations of their families and the assets they are able to draw on from within the community.
The SIP model of 'community-around-the-child', with personalised budgeting, is shortly to be taken up by one local authority.
You can read more about these proposals in the 'Cross-Cutting Delivery Circle' report here.
Call To Action 18
Build on new ways of working, based on what has worked well during the pandemic, and develop new arrangements for local governance
Our Aspiration - To build on these new approaches at an organisational and governmental scale, we are calling on the public sector and other partners to build on new ways of working, based on what has worked well and what we have learned during the pandemic and to develop new arrangements for local governance, with the communities they serve. This will help make sure these changes are in place for the long-term. Actions here include a shift towards long-term systems of risk and reward to bring about a secure and sustainable third sector. We say more about the need to enhance the current model of how people are governed locally and for greater collaboration, including on the key issues of public health and health inequalities. Making sure that place-based approaches include every community, clearly focusing on tackling structural inequalities and taking specific equalities approaches will also be key.
How Do We Get There?
1. The Scottish Government and wider public sector should make a significant budgetary shift towards prevention and equality. Prevention has been a goal since Christie but it will not happen unless and until there is a significant budgetary shift towards prevention. A radical, transformational approach to prevention would represent a different economic model – that is what is needed to make the fiscal shift happen. Similarly, equality has been part of the Scottish Government's budget process since the mid-2000s but advancing equality is still not driving decision-making; a more participative and equality-competent budget setting process is needed and moving from annual budgeting will be key to this. The next Scottish Government should launch a formal review into how it can ensure that prevention and equality-budgeting models are at the heart of future Budgets, as a model for the wider public sector.
2. Local authorities should explore and embrace participative and empowering models, sharing responsibility and ownership with local communities. Across Scotland, local government has given effect to its community leadership role by working together with communities and bringing together partners, revisiting values, culture and behaviours and trusting their citizens, building new relationships built around respect and collaboration. They are taking an assets-based approach to services in a place, with communities being empowered to take over and manage facilities themselves, promoting self-reliance and independence. It has moved to providing services in local groups where people know and trust each other, rather than focusing on expensive and less effective public services.
We must see more of this kind of approach here in Scotland if we are to shift the balance of power in favour of the citizen. The time has come to develop new ways of working that challenge our understanding of the relationship between communities and public authorities and which acknowledge and address issues of power and inequality. Partnerships and collaborations must be based on responding to what matters to people, communities and places, building on strengths and assets.
3. Public sector and third sector partners should commit to long-term systems of risk and reward which focus on long-term outcomes to achieve shared goals, with the aim of delivering a secure and sustainable future for the third sector.
The current focus on managing short-term risk and process within statutory, commissioned and grant-funded services needs to be rebalanced toward achieving longer-term goals of better lives for people and a step change in outcomes across the whole system. Some of this arises from funders/commissioners focusing on tangible outputs (rather than outcomes) that can be easily monitored rather than looking for long-term outcomes for people and communities, which are always hard to evidence in short contract timeframes. Long-term systems of risk and reward are essential to sustaining third sector organisations with an emphasis on improving outcomes for those people for whom these services and initiatives exist in the first place.
Single-year funding has been part of the Scottish funding context for several years now and should become, for the most part, a thing of the past. Multi-year funding commitments will help to deliver a secure and sustainable future for public services and the third sector, supporting charities to demonstrate their ability to add long-term value to address shared challenges in communities. This would provide stable third sector capacity to innovate, involve people who should benefit from public investment and collaborate freely, recognising the unique value of the third sector in being close to the communities facing those challenges. This would be of particular benefit to groups facing the greatest inequalities by creating the stable capacity to build skills in the workforce to achieve good quality co-production. It would reduce the uncertainty and fragility that undermines the confidence of third sector organisations and distracts them from focusing on their purpose. Levels of need and impact would continue to be assessed and the focus of funding would be on longer-term impact and prevention.
We welcome work by Audit Scotland, working with partners, to reflect on the impact of Covid-19 on community empowerment. The Scottish Government and the third sector should co-produce with Audit Scotland, COSLA and SOLACE best practice guidance that builds upon Audit Scotland's 2019 Principles for Community Empowerment and updated National Standards for Community Engagement during and after the pandemic. This should focus on developing outcomes that are long-term, shared and with the involvement of the communities that are the intended beneficiaries. This should use the experience of Covid-19 to demonstrate the ability of the third sector to impact positively on community outcomes and to work in partnership with local authorities.
Read more about these proposals in the Third Sector policy circle here.
4. Scotland's share of the Dormant Assets Fund should be used to invest in long-term support for disadvantaged communities.
The UK Government is currently considering how best to utilise dormant assets, building on earlier work with dormant bank accounts. It is not yet clear whether the UK Government will devolve Scotland's share or not. However, it is essential that these monies are devolved, as the dormant bank account money was. Building on the Carnegie Trust's model of the 'Enabling State', this money should be used to form a new fund, providing long-term investment directly into disadvantaged communities to support them to regenerate, flourish and become more empowered to find their own solutions.
To hold government to account on this and other support for these communities, a strategic forum on disadvantaged communities at national level would be helpful. One approach to this, in the next parliamentary term, would be the establishment of a Cross-Party Group – this should be set up as soon as possible to influence national direction from the start of the new parliamentary term.
5. Purposeful cross-sector engagement and exchange opportunities should become a normalised part of career development and induction. Developing collaborative approaches that focus on change will require a high degree of trust and strong relationships. The space and capacity for these will be crucial. We can learn much from the collaboration achieved during the crisis and maximise the learning through, for example, greater use of exchange schemes and cross-sector mentoring. Understanding each other's sectors, motivations and cultures means we can build relationships and move to collaborative working at greater pace and with greater chance of success. This approach could also be expanded to help with career progression for a diverse range of analysts and officials across sectors.
6. Local Governance. The ongoing Local Governance Review must lock-in and build-upon the best of the pandemic response. Community Listening Events have told us that people have valued new and better ways of working and they do not want this to stop. New decision-making arrangements for our towns, villages and neighbourhoods could drive a culture of participation if resourced to take action and set up to be truly community-led and focused across a range of public bodies, as well as local and national government.
This will require different models and structures in different places but with the same level of ambition. If you set out what has to happen in communities and what the expectations are, then what you see is not community empowerment, it is simply a response to those expectations. We must make sure that the conditions are right so that communities can design and own their response. We should not expect to see a one-size-fits-all approach across Scotland: arrangements will be different, but that diversity will be our strength and we should build on it.
The Review also creates the overdue opportunity to advance the principle of 'subsidiarity'– which seeks to have decision-making as close to communities as possible - across Scotland's public services. Social and economic renewal are interlinked and how we achieve both must involve building an informed consensus on what is best decided in different spheres of governance. Our communities – particularly those most socially and economically disadvantaged - must be at the heart of this reconfiguration of where control over decision-making and resources lies and we must redouble our efforts to ensure that our reach includes groups with protected characteristics and others who feel excluded. This will require specific equalities approaches and consideration of human rights.
7. The public sector must make a long-term commitment to embed place-based approaches at the heart of organisational thinking, advancing equality. Such approaches are increasingly becoming the focus of how we invest in regeneration and other local priorities across communities. To deliver real 'systems' change needs long-term commitment over at least the next 10 years, which means not just delivering long-term investment but also making sure the approach is at the heart of organisational thinking and practice. At the same time, we must ensure that place-based approaches in their design and delivery advance equality.
How the public sector fully embeds place-based approaches as a systems change should be a matter of urgent discussion and debate as we move into the next parliamentary term. In practical terms, more rapid implementation of key programmes on the ground would demonstrate commitment, as follows:
i. The Place-Based Investment Programme. The Scottish Government has committed £275 million for place-based and community-led regeneration over five years. This is a very welcome start, but more place-based investment is needed, and quickly, so that places across the country can genuinely thrive post-Covid.
ii. 20 Minute Neighbourhoods, a concept developed in cities like Melbourne, Portland and Paris, has the aim that people should be able to meet most of their essential needs within 20 minutes' walk, wheel or cycle from home. These principles apply not just in urban neighbourhoods, but in towns and in rural and island communities too. They should be able to benefit everyone, including older and disabled people. Being able to do our shopping, join in with leisure activities, take children to school, find local health services and ideally get to work, with greenspace on the doorstep, is a place where people want to live. A local environment that encourages active travel to promote health and wellbeing is also good for climate change. The Scottish Government has committed to do more on 20 Minute Neighbourhoods via the Programme for Government and this is welcome, but ambition here needs to be raised further. The experience of lockdown has shown us how all our lives can be improved with this type of thinking and even greater rewards are on offer if it also supports the changes needed to achieve net-zero carbon ambitions.
iii. Town Centre Action and Community-led Regeneration. Separate work is underway to review the current Town Centre Action Plan so the Board has not tried to duplicate that work with additional recommendations, except to recognise the damage done to the local economies of towns by Covid-19 and to stress the importance of towns to genuine social renewal and a place-based future. This too will need significant investment.
iv. Community Wealth Building (CWB) seeks to keep economic and social capital within a local area by ensuring that local people and local businesses benefit from local economic activity. For example, local procurement can increase the amount of local businesses successfully securing public sector tenders. CWB is now integral to many of Scotland's Growth Deals and there is potential for the approach to be adopted at pace across Scotland. There is real opportunity here to keep resources in local areas to benefit local people and places. It is welcome that the Scottish Government is investing here but again, we want to move quickly to build this into practice and culture across the public sector.
Place-based models in themselves do not necessarily benefit everyone without hard work to ensure all voices from the communities are embedded and included. As with other parts of service delivery, equality competence and the automatic inclusion of these voices - including minority ethnic communities, disabled people, women and younger and older groups in leadership and decision-making - has not always occurred. Place-based approaches, as with all other aspects of renewal in this report need to take better account of these issues, embedding equalities competence. This can be achieved through increasing understanding of equality and rights, offering training, support and capacity building to local communities and partners with a common definition of place and better use of appropriate and local evidence. Engagement with organisations representing disabled people, minority ethnic, LGBTI and other equality-led groups from the very start would also help, reflecting the needs of those at highest risk of poverty.
More on these programmes and next steps can be found in the Community-Led and Place-Based Renewal Circle report, available here.
Call To Action 19
Focus everyone and all activities on building more resilient, fairer, healthier and stronger communities and places
The final Call to Action in this section focuses on the importance of Place as an issue across all the recommendations set out in this report.
We must look to "ground" the benefits of the Calls to Action in this report into building stronger, more resilient, fairer and healthier communities, which meet social, climate and economic equity requirements. This means that all of us must consider how we can collaborate and focus our activities to improve opportunities and advance equality at the local level. This is as true for our island communities as it is for places in the urban central belt, whether at the village, town or city neighbourhood level, or as it is for remote and rural locations.
The pandemic has demonstrated the vital importance of community, neighbourhood and local places. There has been a tremendous effort to look after people in places and to focus efforts rapidly to help those in need. For some, the pandemic has produced new opportunities and partnerships; for others it has exacerbated existing or generated new inequalities and many have been hard hit as a result. The practical outcomes of the approaches we have set out in this report will, if implemented in full, transform the lives of these communities. But people and places are unique and lives are lived in different ways with different requirements and responsibilities. These individual circumstances are helped or hindered by how we organise society and, crucially, who is involved in this organising. Communities, neighbourhoods, districts, villages and towns are all distinct places which can deliver collaborative and collective social and economic benefit. The exact shape of this depends on the requirements of the community and the legacy on which to build. People identify with place and community; we can restore the purpose of, and pride in, this local provision.
To do this, in addition to the Calls for Action outlined in this report, there is a need for all of us to put collaboration at the local level at the forefront of our thinking. We need to use our new-found localness and the sense of coming together, that has been such a focus of the response to the pandemic, to enhance, build and redevelop our communities' and places' resilience. This requires new ways of organising, new methods of doing things, but also new ways of behaving. To build truly local resilient places, the voices of those in the community need to be heard from the outset. They need to be built in. Our default has to be inclusive and local. We need to stop supporting activities that damage communities and places and focus on working together to enhance shared places and facilities where all are welcome and included.
Whether it is changing our approaches to money, work, rights, housing, food, amongst a range of activities, all can have a positive impact in building better stronger, healthier and fairer communities and places, if we focus on outcomes. We've heard very clearly that people want to see the positive changes seen during the pandemic embedded for the long-term. We now need to make sure that the changes we demand post-pandemic make the most of the local opportunities we are creating. This is not a role for government alone, but is incumbent on all of us to alter our behaviours to make communities and places work for everyone.
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