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Empowering Scotland’s communities through Link Up - Inspiring Scotland

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The latest articles and ideas from Inspiring Scotland and our partners.

07.10.2021

Empowering Scotland’s communities through Link Up

To mark this year’s Challenge Poverty Week, Inspiring Scotland is reflecting on nearly ten years of running Link Up, a programme that has enabled grassroots change at the heart of some of Scotland’s most challenged communities.

Too many people are locked in the grip of poverty. We know that one in five working age adults and one in four children in Scotland are living in poverty. Of these children, more than half live in a household where someone is in employment. Evidence shows that children who grow up poor are more likely to be poor as adults, creating an intergenerational cycle of poverty that can be incredibly difficult to break free from. Despite efforts to eradicate poverty in Scotland, this cycle is likely to continue until we, as a society, invest in the interlinking factors that prevent people from thriving.

Link Up believes that the ingredients for lasting change lie in our communities, in the passions, strengths, skills, knowledge and interests of local people. When people are connected and energised, radical change can and does happen.

Embedded in the community, Link Up workers collaborate with local people, identifying activities that inspire community members. These activities offer more opportunities; opportunities for people to forge new social connections and build relationships which in turn create positive, caring environments. Within these environments, individuals can grow the confidence and skills needed to drive positive change for themselves, their families and communities.

Since 2012, Link Up has worked with over 27,000 people facing the harshest realities of poverty and disadvantage across Scotland and helping us develop a strong understanding of how to really drive community-led, positive change, once the foundations for human development – self-esteem, confidence and positive relationships – are in place.

Everyone can contribute

We take a whole community approach, working with everyone and anyone, irrespective of age, background, or other factors. A community’s diversity is one of its strengths. We don’t see people as problems to be fixed or victims to be saved. Instead, we seek to uncover people’s strengths, interests and dreams, and then harness their positive contribution. This in itself is incredibly powerful. By emphasising people’s potential, not their problems, we boost their sense of self and self-esteem from the outset.

They / we / I can!

Everyone has something valuable to give. Whatever that may be, and however long it takes to (re)discover it, we enable individuals to rekindle that sense of possibility within them, encouraging them to pursue whatever it is they wish to contribute, and supporting them to take forward their aspirations – individually and collectively. By believing in people and bringing them together to take forward positive collective action, communities are strengthened, and individuals are given the tools they need to feel proud of themselves and their achievements.

Strength in numbers

Humans are social beings, and loneliness and isolation are major barriers that can prevent people living full, enjoyable lives. When people are brought together with no externally driven agenda other than sharing their skills and interests and having fun together, great things happen. Support networks grow organically and individuals feel they can move forward and spread their wings. By nurturing these relationships and supporting groups to achieve their vision, we begin to see feedback loops, which developing a sense of trust, belonging and shared purpose that helps positive community relationships flourish.

Changemakers

We mentioned the “foundations for human development” before, and it may seem that focusing on self-esteem, confidence, and relationships is too simple an approach when addressing an issue as complex and multi-faceted as poverty. However, if these foundations are well built, with a deliberate focus and skilled workers who are well supported and empowered, they can have a profound impact, helping people turn their lives around. People no longer feel like the passive recipients of external help; instead, they become active agents in their own lives and changemakers within their communities.

If we continue to view people purely as service users, where external parties decide on the solutions, then people will continue to live their lives trapped in the cycle of poverty. If instead, we can shift our perspective and allow people to be seen, heard and valued for their whole selves, and support them to take positive steps forward, we can take steps towards combatting the effects of poverty in Scottish society.

Find out more about Link Up.

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