If old habits die hard, how long do new ones stick around for? In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, social researchers recorded a marked spike amongst Americans of all ages in their strength of attachment to their communities. Trust in government also soared. For older people, it seems that these shifts in attitude were relatively short lived. But apparently not so for everyone. For many young people the 9/11 attack was a seminal moment, shaping their outlook on life in ways that can still be evidenced today. While this pandemic represents a very different sort of experience for young people, its impact is unlikely to be any less profound. And aside from the most immediate, constraining effects on their lives, this crisis has laid bare for them many of the myths that shrouded their pre-Covid lives – such as the idea that there’s really nothing to be done about homelessness or hunger, or that our care homes (and other vital public services) should be run by profit-making companies. How our children and young people make sense of this crisis will shape much of what happens further down the line. We should listen carefully to what they have to say.
In the most recent briefing…
There is a depressing irony about times like this that the arts and cultural sector must be all too familiar with. When the economy is strong, the arts are courted as an integral part of how any decent society should function. Not a ‘nice to have’ cultural trinket but a prerequisite of a properly balanced wider economy. But when the storms come, our cultural assets are often the first to be blown away. Good to see that those culture cultivators at The Stove Network in Dumfries are putting the arts front and centre of the recovery.
Despite the long queues outside every supermarket (or perhaps because of them) corner shops and independent grocers are reporting a 63% boost in trade since lockdown began. And that trend might just be the catalyst for a more fundamental shift in the retail food sector as these small businesses prove they are nimble enough to adapt to new market conditions by connecting local suppliers with a whole new customer base. As Lesley Riddoch shines a light on her local corner shop’s particularly entrepreneurial response to the Covid crisis, surely this could be happening right across the country.
When Eleanor Roosevelt, Chair of the United Nations Drafting Committee for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 was trying to explain the essence of what human rights are about she intoned, “Where after all, do human rights begin? In the small places, close to home…” All very well to say but how does one convert the knowledge that one has a human right into something that actually changes one’s life for the better. Not always easy but as a group of tenants in Leith will testify, it can be done.
Sometimes when a community group launches a bid to become a substantial community landowner, there is a complex business plan that sits behind the bid with proposals for housing, other community facilities and perhaps a wind farm or a hydro scheme to ensure a long term sustainable stream of income. But at the heart of a bid by the Langholm Initiative to purchase 25,000 acres of wild moorland from Buccleuch Estates is the desire to preserve and protect a unique landscape for future generations. With a price tag of £6m they’ve set themselves a huge challenge.
Recently, this briefing highlighted a somewhat depressing predictability in the make-up of the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Economic Recovery. Nonetheless, when the Group put out a call for views, SCA was determined to submit a response in the hope of shifting the focus of the discussions towards a more community-focused recovery. No doubt every Tom, Dick and Harry from across the political spectrum will argue their own particular corner, but we’re hoping that our proposal for a £200m New Deal for Communities will attract some serious debate.
Imagine you have responsibility for rebuilding a local economy on the scale of an average local authority. Imagine then, that as you surveyed all the economic wastelands created by the Covid lockdown, Amazon came knocking at your door and offered to base one of their mega-distribution centres right slap bang in the middle of your region. If your instinct would be to grab hold of Mr Bezos and not let go until all the contracts and leases are signed, then the following article may not be for you. But for a fundamentally more resilient future, read on.
At a certain point, a few weeks into lockdown, the First Minister began to take a distinctly different approach in her daily briefings from those that were coming out of Westminster. It was characterised in some quarters as her treating the public like grown-ups. Elsewhere it’s increasingly recognised as part of a long overdue shift in the way Governments should be delivering policy – away from the old school ‘decide, announce and defend’ approach and more towards ’engage, deliberate, decide’. Former MSP Peter Peacock, who knows a thing or two about delivering policy, suggests the latter is the way to go.
In the past few months, very significant funds have been made available to communities to support a wide range of emergency responses to the Covid crisis – much of this has been committed to ensure vulnerable households have sufficient food and help with energy costs and connectivity issues. As this work turns towards the next phase of meeting the longer term challenges related to recovery, it was thought we should learn some lessons from this initial phase in order to prepare for what’s to come. Foundation Scotland, one of the early funders, commissioned SCDC to unpick some of the early experiences.
The Stove Network brings together people who believe in the value of arts and culture and want to be involved in or support making creativity part of the place they live. Its membership consists of a diverse group of artists and other active citizens, including café-owners, wild food chefs, video artists, DJs, local businesses and retirees. The Stove has run a number of very successful projects with high levels of community engagement. It’s the only artist-led Community Development Trust in the UK and in 2016, was awarded the Scottish Regeneration Award for Creativity in Regeneration. One of the Stove’s most…Find out more