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April 20, 2011

Can council community workers survive?

In recent years, local authority community workers (aka Community Learning Development) have seen a steady decline in their numbers and only a small fraction of these (7%) are involved in community capacity building. In the current financial climate, it will be difficult to argue that this already marginalised service should be protected especially at a time when alternative models are starting to emerge. However, a recent survey of the service suggests there may be life in it ye

Extract from : A snapshot of community capacity building in Scotland
Full report here

About this report
This report contains the results of a survey on community capacity building undertaken by the Communities Team at Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) in December 2010 and January 2011.
The purpose of the survey was to gather up to date information on activity taking place under the banner of community capacity building, and get feedback on current issues from the CLD field. The survey findings will be used by the Communities Team to help shape policy implementation and support practice.


• The responses received indicate a strong and growing demand for community capacity building support. Responses also demonstrate the range and breadth of community capacity building activity being carried across the country. This is further emphasised by the number and range of national and local outcomes that this activity is seen to contribute to.

• That said there are clearly great challenges for respondents to meet the demand for community capacity building work in the current context of reducing public spending. Lack of resources to support community capacity building, or a reduction in resources as a result of current pressures on budgets, were the most frequently reported issues.

• There was a great deal in common in what respondents described as community capacity building but there were also some differences. Some providers do not use the term community capacity building to describe what they do. There were mixed views about whether attempts to further clarify the terminology used to describe this work would help or hinder work with communities. There is already national guidance on community capacity building2 so the focus at a national level should perhaps be on evidencing community capacity building outcomes and clearly articulating the key tasks involved in effective community capacity building.

• Responses show that community capacity building activity is making significant contributions to a broad range of both national and local outcomes, including those relating to health and well-being, economic development, addressing inequalities, and involving communities in the planning and delivery of public services. This emphasises the need for national policy and practice development to recognise, draw on and support the contribution that community capacity building makes to achieving wider policy outcomes.

• Given the option of describing other community activities under the headings of ‘community engagement’ or ‘other community activity (eg community development)’ respondents gave many examples of work that can contribute significantly to building stronger communities. There is a need for a broad, shared understanding of the contributions that different community activities make to building community capacity, the range of different pathways that people take into community involvement and the connections needed between different types of support for communities.

• There is a key role for Learning and Teaching Scotland, in partnership with other national support organisations, to support community capacity building activity in Scotland. Respondents highlighted support for professional development, sharing of practice, funding, networking support and providing resources as the top five priorities. Additional comments also identified national leadership as an issue. There is follow-up work to be done, both with those who responded to the survey and with those who did not, to identify the details of what kind of CPD or resources, for example, people would welcome.

• Responses came mostly from local authority CLD services, 3rd sector interface organisations and national bodies. There are a range of other current or potential contributors such as local voluntary and community organisations, social housing providers, health boards, and regeneration bodies. The development of effective support for community capacity building needs to involve them.