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24th August

The term community empowerment has become so ubiquitous that no one really bothers to question its meaning any more. It’s about local people, in their communities, being empowered, to do stuff.  And on the back of that searing analysis, we invest serious money, time and expectation that great things will follow. How community empowerment actually comes about and what it looks like when it does, has long ceased to be a topic for serious investigation, notwithstanding some notable exceptions from academia.  But here's the problem.  Community empowerment sits in highly contested space and we know that many still view it as a disruptive force. No one seriously disputes that.  And so if we equivocate around its meaning, we risk losing hard won territory to the naysayers and sceptics. That’s why, as a contribution to this debate, we have actively promoted the idea of community anchor organisations, arguing that their presence is a crucial prerequisite for genuine community empowerment to occur. But for as long as there are people who choose to conflate community empowerment with community engagement or who think communities can be empowered by anything other than the efforts of local people, we can never assume the argument is won.

In the most recent briefing…

On the ground

  • Sustainable future in sight

    We may look back on this era of transition towards a low carbon future and wonder whether we should have done more to democratise our energy system and transform the way energy is owned and distributed. For almost a decade Community Energy Scotland has championed this ideal, supporting community scale development and advocating a new model of local energy economies. In order to do this work they’ve needed to generate sustainable income for themselves. It’s been a long hard struggle but they’ve finally cracked it.

  • Learn from each other

    Everyone learns differently and the science of learning suggests that there are up to seven different learning styles – each using a different part of the brain – and that we may use different styles of learning at different times for different reasons. The Community Learning Exchange doesn’t claim to be an expert on any of that but what it does is to offer your local group the chance to visit another community that’s doing something that interests you. You never know, you may even learn something. 

  • Dare To Dream

    Every community has a story to tell about itself. Some are told and retold countless times and come to define how a place is known. Other stories are never told and lurk, hidden away in the community’s collective subconscious. How we imagine our community plays an important part in shaping the places they become in the future. And that’s why the #DareToDream project which runs over the next couple of months is so important. Make sure you take the opportunity to tell your story or begin to imagine a better future for your community.

  • Spell casting

    There was a time when if you wanted to become a community worker, you could head off to college, get a diploma and apply to a local authority CLD team where there were jobs aplenty. But that pathway belongs to a different era and today it has all but disappeared.  Many would argue that community work shouldn’t have been a local authority function in the first place but the demise of CLD begs the question – where do aspiring community workers and leaders go to learn their craft. TEDx perhaps? Alex Walker, longstanding DTAS supporter, offers some tips on casting spells.



Policy talk

  • Same old conclusions

    A somewhat depressing piece of research just published by Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Depressing on two counts. Firstly because it highlights that so little progress has been made despite all the regeneration and anti-poverty investment in terms of improving the lives of those living in the most disadvantaged communities. And secondly because it still seems to be worth pointing out that the benefits of economic success from the wider regions never (repeat never) trickle down to the poorest areas. When will we learn?

  • Subversion of democracy

    In the midst of the MP’s expenses scandal, David Cameron made a comment to the effect that any sense of outrage we felt about expenses would pale into insignificance alongside the scandal-still-to-emerge about lobbying and how influence was being bought and sold. But since then we’ve heard virtually nothing - other than the tawdry spectacle of a couple of MPs being caught on camera selling access to power. George Monbiot lifts the lid on some of the tactics that powerful vested interests are now employing to get their way.

  • Singing from the same hymn sheet

    The top job in the civil service must offer up certain insights into the workings of government that are denied to the rest of us. We now have two former Permanent Secretaries -Sir John Elvidge and Sir Peter Housden – independently coming to the same conclusion and publishing their thoughts on how far the State has to shift if public services are ever going to be fit for purpose. Both reports are worth a read but it makes you wonder why they didn’t push for these changes when they could.  

  • Could this have been avoided?

    Work continues throughout the summer to draft guidance and regulations so that communities can begin to take advantage of different parts of the Community Empowerment Act . The section that deals with the transfer of public assets will inevitably be contentious. The Act has been predicated on the assumption that public bodies will respond favourably to requests but even if they don’t, the community can still appeal to Ministers. One wonders whether the Act might have avoided this long running Council vs community stramash in deepest Perthshire?



About Scottish Community Alliance

Scotland's leading community sector networks have joined together as the Scottish Community Alliance in order to campaign for a strong and independent community sector in Scotland.

The Alliance has two main functions - to promote the work of local people in their communities and to influence national policy development. We email regular briefings to our supporters on both these themes. More about us here...