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Development Trusts Scotland: ‘It’s all about the people’.

This week the Development Trust Association Scotland held its annual conference, bringing together community activists to share innovation, success and experience. Catherine Dougan reports

‘It’s all about the people’ may have seemed an obvious title for a conference celebrating community-led regeneration, but as the members of Development Trust Association Scotland (DTAS) go about their day-to day business – bringing assets into community ownership, becoming more and more enterprising and running services and businesses – it is important to remember that the reason they do this work is ‘people’.

Bringing together development trusts, community bodies and, experts from within the community sector, the DTAS conference was once again a sell-out, with over 220 delegates from city, town, rural and island locations the length and breadth of Scotland relishing the opportunity to come together to network and learn from their counterparts.

‘People make things happen, not systems, processes or policies.’

The above quote came from the opening plenary speech, given by Martin Cawley, director for Scotland at the Big Lottery Fund, and this sentiment was echoed throughout the two day event, emphasised through awe-inspiring visits to South west arts & media project Glasgow (Swamp)  (pictured above) and Reconnect Glasgow, and motivating member stories from the likes of Cassiltoun Trust and West Harris Trust, through to our afternoon ‘masterclasses’ on funding and developing an entrepreneurial mindset.

Everybody wants to fund the Stormtrooper playing the drums, nobody wants to fund the gas bill.’

Senior development manager at Beith Trust, Jane Lamont – quoted above – highlighted the complexities of funding red tape that community-led organisations have to go through to deliver capital projects, using their recently acquired Geisland Campus as an example.

However what stood out here was the message that development trusts can have instrumentally positive impacts with limited resources and spend, highlighted beautifully through the ‘Sunshine on Beith’ event which featured a straw bale lined pop-up swimming pool!

This year’s programme also featured a number of firsts for DTAS: Not only did we celebrate the milestone of reaching 250 members, we held our first debate, proposing the motion that ‘transferring powers from local councils to communities will lead to better, more vibrant local democracy.’ With some thought-provoking and emotive discussion from the floor, the result was a vote in favour of the motion, all-be-it a narrow one, with the discussion continuing through dinner and into the small hours!

‘Hello from Hawaii

In a break from tradition, we held just the one plenary session in the morning, and, in another DTAS first, broadcast this live on our Twitter feed which led to the DTAS17 hashtag trending in the UK! We had avid viewers as far away as Hawaii with one even noting their appreciation of the Scottish accent.

For can-do approach, uplifting enthusiasm & success reversing depopulation & dereliction u cannae beat Development Trusts. Gr8 day #DTAS17Lesley Riddoch

People are very much at the heart of what development trusts do – who they benefit, how they operate – and as the speakers discussed, are hugely important within communities, within our economy and within wider society. Community-led regeneration is absolutely ‘All About People’ and DTAS17 absolutely recognised and celebrated this.

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