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February 27, 2008

Communities Scotland consultation on community empowerment

The Communities Scotland consultation on community empowerment was active right up to the New Year break – some of us participated. They have now produced 150 bullet points of ‘what was said’ – but more shape can be detected in this extract of the key questions asked



We suggested that the Scottish Government, Local Authorities and Community Planning, and Community Anchor Organisations each have a key role in enabling communities to become empowered.

Role of Scottish Government

Our proposal is that the key role for Scottish Government is to provide leadership at National level to encourage and promote community empowerment. This is in line with the Government’s determination to avoid duplication at local level and to take a strategic approach to supporting change in communities. This role could involve leading discussions with other key sectors, for example Local Authorities and other public bodies, to ensure there is explicit, strategic level buy in to community empowerment.

Role of Local Authorities and Community Planning

Communities can’t be empowered by someone else. Communities must empower themselves. However they will often need help and support to achieve their goals. In each of our proposed models we see Local Authorities as having a key role to play to create the conditions where communities can empower themselves. This will be true of both elected members and officials.

We want to encourage Local Authorities to make firm commitments or pledges about what they will do to help local communities empower themselves. In doing this we would expect Authorities to think very carefully about the complexities involved and how empowering communities fits with their overarching strategies on community engagement and service planning and delivery. In particular we would see Local Authorities having a key role in co-ordinating the Community Capacity Building that underpins empowerment and in identifying resources which could be devolved to local community led groups.

However, Local Authorities should not be seen amongst the public sector as responsible for community empowerment As we said earlier this should be an agenda shared across the public sector. Local Authorities in turn need the support and commitment of the wider public and voluntary sectors. We believe that the key mechanism for co-ordinating public sector support for community empowerment should be Community Planning.

Role of Community Anchor Organisations

One key element which could make a lasting, long term difference to community empowerment, is the role played by locally based, community led organisations. These strong community led groups are sometimes referred to as Community Anchor Organisations (CAOs). The attached draft definition is being adopted by the Local People Leading campaign and is based on an existing definition produced in England.
Community Anchor Organisations could play a number of key roles on a day to day basis in community empowerment. They could ensure that local people have a say in identifying the priorities for change in their neighbourhoods; they may deliver services directly themselves; and they might influence the public sector on behalf of local people.

In particular, in the first of our proposed models they would be the bodies who control devolved resources.

Download full report here