Building community, building place

Posted: 15 February 2021, in News

Building places and communities that work for ordinary people has never been more important.

We’ve all seen how our communities have come together to support people over the past year. In the midst of lockdowns many of us now have more knowledge about the way our communities work. We know how public spaces like parks are essential, how our home-office affects our mental health and how buying from local businesses is vital for our economy. 

In government policy we’re seeing an emphasis on place-making too. In Scotland’s Programme for Government there are commitments to community empowerment to “tackle the inequalities of land ownership and the ‘democratic decision deficit’ that afflicts so many of our communities who are often excluded from participation in local decision making about their places.” 

Initiatives like Community Wealth Building also have increased support, with a people-centred approach to economic development. Further conversations around 20 minute neighbourhoods, high street renewal, Scotland Loves Local and the Buy Social Scotland campaign for social enterprises all add to the discussion.

It’s this sense of place-making that needs to drive an inclusive recovery, both social and economic, including how green places must be front and centre. 

Most recently Uist, Lewis and Govan were recognised in the new Social Enterprise Places Scotland scheme. Scotland has long had a strong reputation for social enterprise and Uist and Lewis were singled out for recognition, with Govan as a ‘one to watch’ community.

It’s about recognising local areas where social enterprise activity is thriving, from neighbourhoods, to villages, towns and islands and in both urban and rural places – those areas that have committed to developing and investing in their community. 

The programme aims to promote, raise awareness, and build markets for social enterprises. We’re keen to encourage applications and add more areas to the Social Enterprise Places map. 

The past year has clearly been a big challenge for everyone, including local small businesses and social enterprises. But at the same time community groups, charities and social enterprises have led from the front to deliver vital services.

The approach they have taken to deliver food to those most in need, organise online activities for young people, support outreach work to those with disabilities and much more, has been impressive. The question now is how do we harness this energy and new ways of working in order to ‘build back better’.

It’s obvious that resilient approaches are now needed in how we work, in how we deliver goods and services and how we boost local economies. Government, local authorities and businesses should learn from the work of social enterprises, so together we can drive change for the common good.

Duncan Thorp, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Social Enterprise Scotland