Scotland’s regeneration forum, Surf, has a membership network of around 250 organisations spread across Scotland. A substantial amount of its work is inevitably focused on Glasgow – a city which still struggles with a legacy of rapid de-industrialisation and which contains pockets of abject poverty.
Part of Surf’s connective work is in the form of its Alliance for Action – a collaborative, investment and shared learning programme. Surf coordinates the programme across three Scottish case study areas, including Govan, the former heart of shipbuilding on the river Clyde for more than 150 years.
The dual purpose of Surf’s ‘Alliance for Action’ programme is:
- to further strengthen resilience and practical outcomes in the programme’s case study communities;
- to enhance wider policy and resource considerations for supporting community regeneration in the continuing recessionary context.
The Alliance for Action was developed in the wake of Surf research commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) in 2011. Surf delivered a participative study on responses to recession-based policy decisions in two contrasting case study disadvantaged areas: Govan in Glasgow and the Gallatown in Kirkcaldy, Fife.
Surf’s collaborative investigation was additionally supported by the Scottish government which was interested in learning from the way in which communities in different contexts were coping with the similar challenges being thrown up by the recession. The research was presented as ‘Reality, Resources, Resilience’ – a report published by the JRF as a Surf-authored programme paper in January 2013.
The Alliance for Action model is a practical response to the research findings, which identified a need for a more coordinated approach towards connecting assets and investments across a wide range of local and national partners.
The operational Alliance model was built on the individuals, networks and connections which Surf had identified and fostered in the course of the initial study. It has recently expanded to include Rothesay on the Isle of Bute and a feasibility study on a further expansion to include the town of Dunoon is currently underway.
The three contrasting communities of place: the post-industrial Govan; small town Kirkcaldy; and the island community of Rothesay; share similar high levels of unemployment, poor physical health and wellbeing and historic concerns around issues of trust and capacity building.
Through its Alliance for Action work, Surf is working with relevant local and national partners to:
- Build local capacity, strengthen resilience, increase practical outcomes and improve the wellbeing of local residents;
- Link local knowledge, initiatives and assets with national networks, policies and resources in support of more coordinated and holistic local regeneration activity.
- Draw out transferrable learning towards more successful and sustainable policy and practice in community regeneration.
The Alliance is supported in evaluating and disseminating learning through a panel of regeneration experts – academics, policymakers and practitioners (the Surf APPP) – whose members convene regularly to review and help direct the programme and its learning outcomes.
A key element of the programme is to ensure that the learning is identified, recorded and analysed in ways which can then be presented through different audience-appropriate mediums.
For example, one way in which the Alliance pursues its transferrable learning aims is by facilitating and promoting opportunities for communities to learn from each other. Last year the Alliance hosted two shared learning sessions for cross-sector partners and people living and working in the case study areas. These were on the themes of Creative Community Participation and the Role of Food in the Community in connecting with local and national regeneration policy and practice. This year will see the Alliance hosting similar events around shared learning themes of Health and Heritage.
As well as formal written reports for Scottish Government and other resource and policy partners, the Alliance films annual interviews with a cross section of participants living and working in the case study areas. This is a way of recording change and providing the communities with an opportunity to express their views on those changes. The filmed records and reports can be accessed through the Surf website.
A recent short film on the issue of community engagement and empowerment can be viewed here.
Photo by Neillwphoto
Elaine Cooper is practice and learning coordinator at Surf – Scotland’s regeneration network