Report from ‘Powering up Communities’ 27 February 2016
Our Gathering is now an annual fixture in our event calendar. This year event focus was on Climate Change – what’s that got to do with us?, and what powers a new Community Empowerment Act can bring to enable a sense of ownership of local solutions and resources.
Greener Kirkcaldy update
Before introducing our key speakers Suzy Goodsir, Greener Kirkcaldy’s Development Manager gave participants an update on an eventful year and highlighted some future plans.
- Our energy advice service, known as ‘Cosy Kingdom, made home energy advice visits to over 600 households.
- Cosy Kingdom has also been working closely with the St Bryce Kirk community to save energy at home. The Kirk itself has also carried out a major eco-refurbishment – with new boilers, insulation, LED lighting and even solar panels on the church roof.
- At our community gardens, our volunteers have worked in all weathers, had great fun and made a real difference. At Dunnikier Park, we’re removing invasive rhododendrons and planting hundreds of native trees in their place, and we also planted 1000 snowdrops last year which are coming up beautifully. At Ravenscraig Walled Garden, some volunteers have been looking for work and we’re now offering accredited training to help with that – 4 of the team are nearing completion of their SVQ Level 2 in Horticulture.
- Our High Street Hub was recognised last year, when it won a Greener Together Award. These awards, run by the Scottish Government, celebrate projects which bring greener living to life in a creative and inspiring way.
- We launched the new Fife Food for Fife Folk ordering service for grocery boxes. This helps us to: get local food to people in Fife; support the local economy; and go greener together.We hold a monthly Fife Food event at the Hub, with free samples and recipes to share.
- Our new project – Too Good To Waste, encourages folk to reduce waste, reuse and repair more as it’s even greener to reduce and reuse. We held events, workshops and fix-it sessions like sewing classes, bicycle repairs and computer maintenance.
- Living Well on a Budget works with families on low incomes who want to learn skills to help make the most of their money. We’re working with Fife Community Food Project and Citizen’s Advice & Rights Fife on this.
Looking ahead, we’re developing our plans for a Community Food Hub for Kirkcaldy, which will be a place for people to come together to grow, cook, eat and learn, improving access to healthy, sustainable food and with lifelong learning and employability opportunities.
The Food Hub will bring together some of our current projects and more: offering courses, training, volunteer opportunities and work experience in growing and catering. It will be based at 2 sites: a horticultural training centre at Ravenscraig Walled Garden, and a town centre Hub where the majority of the project’s activities will be based. We’re currently looking for premises and funding to take forward the vision.
Here is a slideshow showcasing images from all our events and activities in 2015/16 Photo Slideshow for Gathering
The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015
Following Suzy, Geraldine O’Riordan, Senior Development worker with Greener Kirkcaldy gave an on overview of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 in the context of our event’s theme.
The Act is coming into effect this year in Scotland and aims to make it easier for communities to have their voices heard, to take ownership over local land and buildings, to shape local services and have more influence over the decisions that affect their area. Community empowerment is not just about managing or gaining control over local resources. There is something broader involved where people feel involved and connected in their community and, are able and keen to take responsibility for themselves, their families and the wider community in a way that benefits everyone.
It is hoped that the Act can strengthen those efforts legally. Some parts of the Act will come into force at different times. There are three main elements that communities should be aware of:
- The strengthening of community planning to give communities more of a say in how public services are planned and provided (and enabling communities to be in involved).
- New rights enabling communities to identify needs and issues and request actions to be taken on these.
- The extension of community right to buy or gain greater control of local assets (land and buildings).
Underpinning all of this is a focus on reducing inequality and disadvantage.
Many believe that the act will strengthen the role of local people and communities to take action on climate change especially with rights to buy, lease and manage assets. Legally communities should have a stronger voice on local decisions and a shared responsibility with agencies to ensure that powers are implemented in a way that benefits our local environment.
People feeling empowered will play a large role in effective decision making based on people’s lived experiences. There is no one size fits all solution. Different responses and actions are required for different groups. Hopefully the Act can facilitate an easier road to accessing resources and tackling climate change locally.
From a community development perspective there are two briefings that give broader outlines on the Act and its provisions from the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) and the Community Health Exchange (CHEX)
Our keynote speaker was Alastair McIntosh, writer, academic, campaigner and activist. Two of Alastair’s best known books are: Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power (2001) and Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition (2008). Alastair is also well known for his involvement in land reform through the Isle of Eigg Trust; as a founding Director of the Galgael Trust in Glasgow; and his work on climate change and community empowerment. You can watch a film of Alastair’s talk here.
We were also delighted to welcome Lynn Molleson, Director of Harlaw Hydro Ltd to our event too. On September 1 2015, Harlaw Hydro was officially opened. Harlaw Hydro is a community benefit society owned by its 250 community shareholders who together have invested £400K in green energy on the Waters of Leith at Balerno, near Edinburgh. It will also generate income for the benefit of the local community. You can watch a film of Lynn’s talk here.
Following both talks, our speakers Alastair and Lynn joined a panel with Suzy Goodsir to answer questions and discuss responses to what we had heard. You can watch a lively discussion panel session here.
Over the last year Greener Kirkcaldy has been working with eight community food volunteers who have been learning and developing food and cooking skills with the aim of improving their employability options. Three of our community food volunteers prepared and served lunch for the Gathering participants. Our food came from Pittormie Farm, Woodlea Stables and IIvan Wood and Sons. The majority of the food served was local to Fife. We also served Fairtrade refreshments sourced from our High Street Hub.
We’d like to thank: our speakers for supporting us; all our volunteers; our Board of Directors; and Greener Kirkcaldy staff members for all their hard work in making our event a great success. We would also like to thank St Bryce Kirk for the use of the Kirk Centre for our event. Finally we are grateful to everyone who attended with such great enthusiasm and interest in our event theme.