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Community Archives - Inspiring Scotland


Marking 16 days of activism

Today marks the beginning of  16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.  16 days is an annual international campaign which starts on the 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day.

Inspiring Scotland are Programme manager of Delivering Equally Safe, the Scottish Government’s funding programme which supports third sector organisations and public bodies contribute to the objectives, priorities and outcomes of the Equally Safe Strategy. We recognise the importance of local and community led support when it comes to tackling this issue, with 16 days of activism providing a key opportunity for communities to come together and raise awareness in whatever way they can.

It has been agreed that the 2021 theme for the National VAW Network and partners will be ‘Light Up’. The theme of ‘light up’ aims to place a spotlight on the issue of Violence Against Women and Girls(VAWG) whilst encouraging people to get involved using awareness raising and community-led activities. So today we are highlighting some of the many events happening across Scotland over the next 16 days for anyone who wishes to support, raise awareness of or simply educate themselves more on the issue of gender based violence.

  • Perth and Kinross Violence Against Women Partnership shared the 2021 programme of events to mark #16days across Perth and Kinross. Everything from films, discussions and the showing of ‘Consent’ to students at Perth College feature in the event programme.
  • Glasgow Women’s Aid launch their campaign today in which 16 organisations across Glasgow have signed up to host their QR code posters – once scanned they lead to animations challenging misconceptions surrounding domestic abuse.
  • Scottish Borders Rape Crisis Centre is hosting : Reclaim The Night – Candlelight Vigil – Thursday 25th November -6pm – Hawick.

  • The candlelight vigil is being held to remember the women who have lost their lives to Gender Based Violence and honour all the women who have survived.
  • Every year, the Dundee Violence Against Women Partnership (DVAWP) works closely together to deliver a number of awareness raising events as part of this campaign. All of the events are open to all members of the public and communities within Dundee – no one is excluded – this is everyone’s issue!
  • Young Women Rise is a young women’s advisory leading on partnership work between Scottish Women’s Aid and YWCA Scotland – The Young Women’s Movement. They are hosting an event on young women, healthy relationships and domestic abuse. 
  • There will be a debate in Scottish Parliament happening on the 25th November on Violence Against Women and Girls, to coincide with the start of 16 Days of Action (running between 14.55 and 17.00) Watch it live. 

The above is simply a snapshot of the many events happening across Scotland, you can view a more in depth calendar of events from The Improvement Service.

The slogan #WhatWillYouDo for #16Days is a call to action for people to get involved and commit to action, whether this be people individually or collectively by leadership and from “civic Scotland”.

So with that in mind what can you do?


Creating resilient and sustainable islands

People living in Scotland’s island-based communities will benefit from new funding for projects designed to support employment, community resilience and health and wellbeing.

Through the £2 million Island Communities Fund, 29 successful community groups and businesses across 23 islands have been awarded grants of up to £150,000 each. Projects focus on developing sustainable economic activities on islands with the majority of projects having a net zero theme, while also supporting the delivery of the Scottish Government’s National Islands Plan (2019).

Projects include the installation of a range of spinning mills to allow full processing of fleece into yarn on Foula, which will use electricity from Foula’s off grid renewable network, as well as a project to expand a community garden on Lewis to improve mental health opportunities and reduce social isolation.

Islands Secretary Mairi Gougeon said:

“With just a few weeks until the eyes of the world are on Scotland for COP26, it’s great to see more projects designed to address the growing climate crisis. There is so much potential across our islands and we received many innovative and creative applications. It’s clear to me that our island communities are going to play an important role in helping us meet our ambitious climate change targets and I am excited about that.

“The projects that have been awarded funding will contribute to our ambition to make Scotland greener and fairer. They will help us achieve a just transition to net zero and climate resilient living on our islands. I’m looking forward to seeing work get underway to help people, businesses and communities on our islands thrive.”

Inspiring Scotland CEO Celia Tennant said:

“Inspiring Scotland is delighted to be the delivery partner for the Scottish Government’s Island Communities Fund which supports the aims and outcomes of the National Islands Plan. The successful funded organisations will make a vital contribution to the economic, environmental and social wellbeing of our island communities and we are looking forward to working alongside them to deliver their projects.”


The Fund is managed by Inspiring Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government. It is backed by £2 million of Scottish Government funding, which comes from the £9.5 million committed to the Islands Programme for 2021/22.

Projects should be completed by 31 March 2022.

Find out more on the successful projects: Island Communities Fund

Read: The National Plan for Scotland’s Islands

The world needs people who think differently

In our latest blog, Autism Performance Advisor Allison Crawford writes about the development of the Different Minds. One Scotland campaign and the collaborative process which helped bring the campaign into fruition.  


Playing outside helps children to have a stake in their communities

By Jill Fraser, Community Play Performance Advisor

Community is an old and deeply human idea. It is about sharing; people sharing experiences, sharing places and sharing hopes. We gain a sense of community early in our lives. For children, playing is intrinsically linked to a burgeoning sense of belonging to a bigger group of people and a place. Through play, children share experiences and emotions and build a community with friends. They explore the spaces in which they play and understand how to share them.

When children play and share joy in their physical neighbourhood spaces, they get their first experience of community in the wider sense too. Playing outdoors in a shared community space, whether a small patch of grass, a street, or a play park, allows children to connect with their local areas. It’s also a chance to interact with a broader group of people than in school or at home, meaning opportunities for intergenerational activity and enhancing community cohesion.

Children develop a sense of place and feeling of belonging, ownership and inclusion with the place they are growing up. Because local kids are out playing and having fun in their local spaces and can be seen doing so, the wider community benefits from a positive sense of itself as a safe and happy place. Playing outside really is that powerful a tool.

But too many children in Scotland lack the chance to play regularly outside in their communities and opportunities are reduced further for children in deprived areas.

Our Play Rangers model of community play is designed to change that. Play Rangers are professional playworkers who run open access play sessions within a community using open spaces in neighbourhoods close to where children live. They encourage children to attend the free sessions and support parents and carers who may not be able to take their children out or are not comfortable with their children playing out.

It also combats antisocial behaviour, helps build relationships within neighbourhoods and improves children’s self-esteem, social skills and health. It helps bring about lasting improvements to the quality of children’s play, the use of local open spaces and the way communities come together.

We need communities to come together in this way. Children’s play spaces should be an important part of community life as children who play are healthier and more resilient than those who don’t. We need to work together to make spaces safe and accessible for children’s play, to make sure they’re well cared for and free from litter, vandalism, dog mess, crime and antisocial behaviour.

Through our work with the charities who lead Play Rangers activity, we have seen these improvements in action. As children become more visible in their communities and residents become aware that local spaces are used by children for playing, these spaces tend to become better looked after with less dog fouling or antisocial behaviour.

Being increasingly visible also helps children feel more a part of their community. By supporting and empowering children to reclaim their streets and outdoor spaces, their voices become heard and they feel listened to and valued. And including them in decision making helps break down generational barriers and give them a feeling of control over changes and a greater sense of ownership of their place. Some children who attend Play Rangers sessions now undertake ‘poo patrols’ to highlight areas of dog mess and educate residents about dog fouling.

Giving children a voice and an increased feeling of control over their local area helps them to feel more involved in their community and provides a sense of identity and shared purpose. It is this sense of identity and shared purpose that will enable us to build stronger, more engaged communities for the future.

Find out more about Play Rangers

Wounds of recession still deepest for the poor

Hard times tend to hit the most in need the hardest, writes our Deputy Chief Executive Helen Chambers.

To say these are uncertain times could be considered a significant understatement, but no-one would argue it is one of the few statements which can be currently made with any semblance of confidence. Unfortunately, another such statement is that those in our society most in need – those in poverty and isolation, the disabled, the elderly and the marginalised – are the ones who are likely to be hit the hardest by uncertainty.

Nearly a decade on from the global financial crash, the wounds of recession are still deepest for those at the edges of society. Data released by The Trussell Trust in April this year showed food bank use in the UK has risen every year since 2008, and reached an all-time high in 2015-16, to give just one stark example.

Which is why now, in these testing times, it’s so critical that we don’t lose focus of the vulnerable and disadvantaged in society, but rather redouble our efforts to support them. Providing that support cannot, however, be left to one sector of society. There are fantastic charities and organisations across Scotland which work tirelessly to transform the lives of those they support, but to ensure they continue to have the maximum impact possible needs commitment from across society; from individuals to business to government.

In recent years, donations to charities from the public in Scotland have remained steady but growth has slipped below the rate of inflation, while public sector cuts have led to a drop in funding from national and local government across the third sector. At the same time, charities are having to spend more to maintain and increase their day-to-day services and cannot afford to plan for the future and ensure their own sustainability.

With financial, and fiscal, instability on the horizon again, and huge question marks over how and if funding contributions received from the European Union will be replaced, it is critical that steps are taken to ensure Scotland’s charities can not only continue to function and protect our most disadvantaged, but also develop themselves to better help those who need their services in the future. To take these steps will require secure funding and generous, long-term philanthropy from across society, but also the expertise and experience to manage that funding effectively.

At Inspiring Scotland turmoil is something we have seen before and is part of the reason we were founded. We opened our doors in 2008 at the beginning of the recession which followed the global financial crash and have since been working with some of Scotland’s leading charities.

We understand that by supporting these organisations to think strategically, be resourceful and become leaders in their field, they can withstand uncertainty and identify opportunities whilst still focusing on improving the lives of the most disadvantaged in our communities. We’ve helped organisations grow and develop through steady funding, but we’ve also helped them raise more funding and work smarter and more effectively to maximise social impact. We’ve brought together expertise from voluntary organisations and the public and private sectors and helped to drive a shift in thinking and working practices.

We’ve been able to do this thanks to backing from philanthropists, businesses, charitable trusts and foundations, and Scottish Government who understand the need to come together to maximise the impact of any available resources.

In the light of recent events, that need is greater now than ever before; we all have a responsibility to protect and support the most vulnerable in society but also a responsibility to ensure our support has the greatest possible impact by developing an effective and sustainable third sector.

How things will continue to change on the political stage, we cannot know; what is clear is that Scotland’s voluntary sector needs to be in the strongest position possible to tackle social issues which may become tougher. More than ever before all sectors need to pull together to protect those most vulnerable in society.

At Inspiring Scotland, we commit to using all of our experience, abilities and resources to ensure that our charities can and will continue to focus on those they serve, and to working tirelessly to advancing a stronger, more effective and more compassionate third sector.

What makes a Link Up worker effective?

Tackling societies biggest issues depends on very special types of people on the frontline.

At Link Up we have been analysing what the critical factors are that make our workers most effective in connecting the communities in which they work.  Since 2012 Inspiring Scotland’s Link Up Programme has been leading efforts in actively tackling inequality and improving the lives of people in nine of the most vulnerable communities in Scotland.

Link Up starts from the premise that the ingredients for lasting change already lie in our communities in the shape of the passion, strengths, skills, knowledge and interests of local people.

Our Link Up workers work with local people to harness these gifts to establish activities such as gardening or cooking, or arts and crafts. Really anything that members of the community want to be involved with.

Possil Map Close Up 2

Having been so successful at achieving the above to date, we wanted to understand how to continue to recruit effectively in the future. So, we commissioned Quine Time to help us understand what these factors are.

The basis of their study was to take an approach developed by psychologist Robert Biswas-Diener to provide a holistic picture of each individual by exploring six areas of positive human functioning; well-being, values, personality, capacities (including accessible support), situational and future orientation.

The conclusions are threefold:

Alignment with personal purpose, goals and values

Several elements appear to be core to Link Up workers:

  1. A concern for the welfare and interests of others over self.
  2. Non-acceptance of the status-quo combined with a readiness for change.
  3. To be instrumental in exploring and creating a better future that endures.

A high degree of self-awareness and sense of what is important in life

This self-awareness manifests itself in the worker’s ability to draw on the lessons they have gained from personal life choices, using this to inform their choices in the present – both personal and work-related. This knowledge helps them to be more effective in their Link Up role; however, it also gives them a strong sense of what is important in life. The following appear to be critical in this respect:

  • Supportive and rewarding personal relationships.
  • Growth and development of self and others.
  • Freedom to think, explore and operate independently.

The Quine Time study also highlighted that a worker’s self-awareness extends to their understanding of what it takes for them to be effective in their role with the majority of Link Up workers rating the following ‘resources’ as being the most relevant:

  • Energy & passion;
  • Social skills; and
  • Self-discipline.

The ‘right’ personality

A Link Up worker’s characteristic pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviours are integral to how they react and interact with others. In this sense, there are two dimensions that are core to the majority of workers:

• ‘Agreeableness’ – they are considerate and value getting along with other people; seeking to build trusting, co-operative and appreciative relationships and an environment that fosters this.

• ‘Low neuroticism’ – they are calm, confident and emotionally stable, not easily stressed. Additionally, they proactively seek to reduce tension for themselves and others.

Again the above traits and strengths intuitively make sense in the context of the role of a Link Up worker. It is notable however, that they are underwritten by a positive perspective on what the future holds and how that future might be achieved:

•  Being naturally inquisitive, seeking information in new and existing situations.

 Viewing challenging situations as an opportunity to grow and learn.

•  A self-belief that goals will be achieved whatever the barriers.

So, what happens next?

In addition to achieving an improved understanding of what makes a Link Up worker effective, the findings from the study and our own experience have important implications for the Link Up programme, other organisations facilitating similar work and commissioners of such work.

  • Strengthened recruitment procedures
  • Enhanced support for Link Up workers
  • Importance of connecting with other like-workers

Ultimately, our main conclusion is that Scotland’s most vulnerable communities need more workers of these qualities. After three and half years of operation, the learning from Link Up (including three independent evaluations) has led us to conclude that loneliness, low self-esteem and a lack of confidence are fundamental barriers to individual change. When these factors are prevalent across a significant proportion of a community’s population, that community’s ability to organise itself to look out for each other and to effect larger scale change for itself, and with others, is inhibited. This is more than conjecture as our evidence supports this view, but if we are correct, it has important implications for community empowerment and critically, how Scotland becomes a ‘fairer’ nation.

Further reading:

What Makes a Link Up Worker Effective – full paper

Link Up Worker’s Personal Resources and Assets – independent evaluation

Loneliness doesn’t have to be for life

Our Deputy Chief Executive, Helen Chambers, writes about how Inspiring Scotland’s Link Up fund is tackling loneliness through transforming communities from within.

At a time when the damaging effects of loneliness are being equated to the effects of smoking, the need to transform our communities is more critical than ever. Combatting community breakdown and isolation from within is key so that communities can begin to support each other. For the past four years we at Inspiring Scotland have been developing and measuring the impact of Link Up, a community asset initiative, which is beginning to have an effect in some of Scotland’s most vulnerable communities.

Meet Doug. He is in his late 70s, suffers from diabetes and needs to have regular insulin injections. He is also hard of hearing and needs a walking stick. A well-known character in his area of Dundee, he was very active in his community when he was younger and was a Boys Brigade Captain. His wife died nine years ago and he has lived on his own since.

One day he was contacted by his local Link Up worker. Her role is to use the seemingly simple steps of working with what’s good in a community and using social activities (eg gardening, cooking, arts, crafts, sport, music) to build relationships between local people. Following a conversation with Doug, she was able to introduce him to the local weekly Lunch Club, a cinema club every fortnight, and the new social and camera clubs.

Because of his numerous health issues, the volunteers at those clubs began to look out for him. When they saw that he was struggling with the soup bowls at Lunch Club, they bought him his own bowl with a handle on it, to make it easier for him to use. Other times volunteers would phone his house to check he was ok if he didn’t turn up for something – like when he forgot to put his clock forward. That initial conversation with the worker became a whole social and support network for Doug and his new friends.

Link Up works with nine of the most vulnerable communities in Scotland with local workers being hosted by charities operating in that area. Their work always starts by asking “what’s good in this community?” ie local people’s passions and talents.

Whereas in the past “interventions” in the community have seen people as problems that need to be solved or fixed, Link Up’s approach simply values people as they are, and helps them to see the huge potential of who they can be. The Link Up worker’s ability to nurture individuals, identify sometimes long-forgotten skills is key to helping people re-engage with their local community.

Link Up also helped Kenny, from the South Side of Glasgow, out of isolation. Kenny was chair of the local tenants’ association in the 90s, when it went into decline. As a result, he began to feel less and less a part of his community and when his partner left him, the feeling of isolation really set in. Someone suggested to the Link Up worker that they contact him and he was invited to attend a camera club and things began to turn around for Kenny.

“I’ve always taken photos my whole life but being part of the group has really sparked my enthusiasm for it again. It’s really good bouncing ideas off people. With the photography group we make decisions together and being that way with each other has helped us get closer. I’ve met new friends who have similar interests. The groups not closed like other groups can be. You always feel welcome. It’s company. “

Marco Biagi, the Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister earlier this month commented that there was a “strong moral case” for tackling the issue of loneliness but warned there could be “no quick fixes”. Now in its fourth year, Link Up is looking to expand throughout Scotland.

Driven by Inspiring Scotland and with the backing of the Scottish Government and private trusts, both the charities that host Link Up and their workers are offered specialist support to achieve their goal in genuine community development, And it’s working. By September 2015, over 12,000 individuals had participated in local activities with almost 800 of them volunteering in some capacity. In one area where Link Up operate, there was a 40 per cent reduction in recorded crime and 66 per cent reduction in anti-social behaviour calls over three years.