As part of the Future-Ready Society Conference series supported by Tote Board, the Institute of Policy Studies had organized an overseas study trip to Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland from 24 to 28 July 2023.
Scotland implemented the Community Empowerment Act in 2015 to allow local communities to propose policy or programmes changes.
Under the new statutory requirements, the local government work with citizens to co-create solutions and transfer publicly owned assets to community ownership and self-management.
During visits to local community organisations and research centres in Scotland, participants studied how these partnerships and place-based approaches are developed and implemented to empower communities and deepen meaningful citizen engagement.
Participants visited the Development Trust Association Scotland (DTAS), which is an independent charitable incorporated organisation comprising over 350 community-owned and led organisations. Participants have had the opportunity to visit DTAS member organisations to learn about their work, including the Granton Community Gardeners, Heart of Newhaven, Action Porty, Lanark Community Development Trust, Cranhill Development Trust, and SWAMP. These organisations have experience in participatory budgeting and/or community asset ownership. Participants learnt from their creative approaches to community-led development , as well as how DTAS provides support and facilitation for community-led problem solving and decision-making.
Participants also visited the Scottish Community Development Council (SCDC), the lead body for community development in Scotland that works with local community partners, practitioners and policymakers. They are a charity that provides research, training, and consultancy services on various issues such as participatory budgeting, local democracy, community health and climate sustainability. They also raise awareness and help to develop one key aspect of the Community Empowerment Act 2015 – Participation Requests, which allows communities to ask to work with public bodies to make services better.
As part of the itinerary, participants visited the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change at the University of Glasgow. The Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change work on Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland, a project which comprises both research and practical implementation of measures to address child poverty. They also run the Network for Social and Educational Equity which uses research evidence and collaboration to improve classroom practices, build leadership capacity among teachers and students, and support organisational development.