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September 22, 2020

What have we learned

The past six months have been like no other and a plea from the archivists at Glasgow Caledonian University is that whatever your community has done in response to Covid, keep some record of it and share your story with them at some point down the line. #KeepItDon’tDeleteIt is the trending hashtag.  While the folk at SURF may not be qualified archivists, they know a fair bit about regeneration and have carried out a remarkable job of recording the activities of more than 150 communities during the pandemic. SURF’s analysis highlights 10 key learning points. 

To read full report – click here

Since lockdown began in March 2020, SURF has been engaging with communities and organisations across Scotland and the cross sector organisations which support them. It has provided a platform for them to tell their stories of challenges, responses and resilience. Reports of these practical efforts have been published weekly on the SURF website, and as e-bulletins to SURF’s 3000 strong network.

These frontline responses – more than 150 of them – represent a unique resource, providing inspiring examples of the ways in which communities and their partners have responded nimbly and effectively to immediate needs. In doing so, they have demonstrated the practical potential for a more collaborative approach to community wealth building, based on authentic local assets and aspirations.

This report identifies common themes and lessons learned from those activities.  This practice based learning from SURF’s active network, is intended to help Scottish Government, and other key regeneration partners, to connect with, learn from and sustain these frontline examples of cooperative resilient action in place based communities.

 Learning Points  

  1. Volunteers form the life-blood of almost all the practical activities
  2. Mutual support – there have been powerful outcomes from newly formed collaborative partnerships
  3. Relaxing the rules – funder flexibility and the repurposing and adapting of existing programmes to meet demand, has encouraged agency, autonomy and reciprocal trust
  4. Extraordinary efforts have been made to meet an ongoing and increasing demand for imaginative, nourishing and fast responses to food insecurity. Literally millions of meals have been distributed across Scotland.
  5. The smallest of actions – posting a letter, a weekly telephone call – have the potential to be life-changing
  6. Pre-existing community based, assets, services, networks and interconnectivity have been crucial in setting up signposting and advice hubs
  7. Successful agencies are listening to what communities are asking for and are adapting their processes and priorities quickly to meet the demand.
  8. Scotland is not online. The impact of the digital divide in intensifying isolation and blocking knowledge exchange has been heightened
  9. Creativity has flourished – not only in terms of the benefits of ‘artistic’ approaches but in the imaginative and innovative processes which have been developed to resolve problems
  10. Heightened awareness of the potential mental health and wellbeing pressures exacerbated by the lockdown, has informed intelligent pre-emptive mitigating action

There has been some other early COVID19 research work, the conclusions of which reflect SURF’s own.  The Scottish Community Alliance conducted interviews with eight community led organisations.  The Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) produced a short report  illustrating what their community groups were experiencing in terms of pressures and suggested solutions.     SURF’s work is based on an unusually large and diverse range of participants (152) representing a broad cross-section and including contributions from every local authority area in Scotland.

Organisations which are part of SURF’s network were invited to contribute a minimum of 350 words describing in their own words their responses to the COVID crisis.  Initially this was viewed as a way of celebrating and sharing the resilience of communities across Scotland. However, it quickly became apparent that these narratives from the frontline provided a potentially valuable resource towards better understanding community assets and needs.  The learning in this report is based on analysis of those contributions.  Because the narratives are self-reported, rather than survey responses or a box ticking exercise, it may be that some of the identified themes have been under-reported.

To read full report – click here