Location: Argyll and Bute
CARES funding: £14,850 enablement grant
Community action plan published: May 2021
Glenorchy and Innishail is a community council area in Argyll and Bute. The area includes Bridge of Orchy in the northeast, Glen Orchy, Dalmally, Lochawe village, and the south side of Loch Awe as far south as Eredine. It is a beautiful area to live, work and visit, but it is also relatively remote for a mainland community.
The community council had wanted to develop a community action plan for some time. The local community’s response to the pandemic in 2020 – setting up a hardship fund and organising shopping services for community members, for example – started local conversations about local issues and what could be done to address them. A spokesperson for the community council said that “it seemed to make sense to dust down ideas of a community action plan and finally try to make it happen.”
The community council submitted a funding application to the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES), prepared with support from Dalmally Community Company and South Loch-Aweside Community Company. Both community companies receive community benefit funding from local windfarm developments and were keen to explore how to use these funds more strategically.
Project aims and objectives
The project’s objective was to produce a community action plan which would:
- summarise community views about Glenorchy and Innishail now
- set out a clear vision for the future of the area
- detail issues that matter most to the community
- set out priorities for projects and an action plan for implementing them.
The preparation of the plan was organised by the Community Action Plan Steering Group, bringing together representatives from Glenorchy and Innishail Community Council, Dalmally Community Company, and South Loch Awe-side Community Company.
The steering group was assisted by the STAR Development Group and two community coordinators who provided crucial local support.
Outcomes and achievements
The action plan was informed by extensive community engagement carried out over a five-month period from November 2020 to March 2021.
The process involved:
- stakeholder interviews and meetings with community organisations, service providers, local businesses and public agencies
- the development of a dedicated website and Facebook group
- a community views survey
- a feedback week with members of the community voting on key priorities
- compiling a community profile with facts and figures about the area.
Working under COVID-19 restrictions meant that all stakeholder conversations and focus group work was carried out either by phone or via Zoom, the online meeting platform.
A spokesperson for the community council said: “The challenge of community engagement in a community such as ours is substantial in normal times, and we weren’t even sure about how much people could relate to an idea of Glenorchy and Innishail. We set out on the process in the midst of Covid restrictions but [had felt] confident they would not last beyond the autumn. Little did we know that we would still be operating under restrictions when we produced our final document.”
The community engagement process presented challenges, “but we all learned along the way” the spokesperson said, and “with a very resourceful and positive steering group driving the process, we had an excellent response to our survey with 169 responses from 366 households.” A total of 30 stakeholder discussions were also held, involving more than 80 local people.
The real challenge, however, “came with the Community Futures Event. In ‘non-Covid’ times, a Community Futures Event would usually be an all-singing, all-dancing celebration in the community, with refreshments, entertainment, and local groups”. The events are designed to feedback information from the community consultation process and offer an opportunity to gather community views on priorities for action.
Holding such an event wasn’t possible because of COVID-19 restrictions, and the spokesperson says that deciding to hold the event as an online process required a lot of thought and problem-solving.
Instead, the event was held online and staged as a week-long opportunity to view the results of the community consultation and consider the main themes and actions, and people were able to give their feedback on what they thought were the priorities. People could also say if they would be interested in joining a group to take forward particular themes or projects. More than 130 people participated, with more than 40 people saying they wanted to stay involved.
The community council spokesperson identified other key outcomes.
- The community council, alongside Dalmally Community Company and South Loch-Aweside Community Company, have established an ongoing partnership and are now progressing the search for development funding, as well as coordinating the work of several sub-groups that were established to address different key themes within the community action plan.
- New volunteers from the community have put themselves forward to work on different themes and priorities.
- Community members have developed an appreciation of the scale of the geography they look to cover, as well as a sense of a larger community that incorporates different geographical areas and other interests across its population.
- A clear agenda and high aspirations for the future have been identified, and which the community will now seek both financial and human resources to address.
The Community Action Plan was published in May 2021.
The plan sets out its vision for the community and identifies key priorities around:
- access to services and housing
- local economy and tourism
- environment and heritage
- community, facilities, organisations, activities and events
- roads, traffic, paths, pavements and parking.
The project’s next phase is to set out how the community’s priorities will be implemented. Five groups have been set up to look at each of the five themes in detail and information on progress is posted on the 7 Questions website.
A spokesperson for Glenorchy and Innishail Community Council said: “Developing a community action plan in the midst of a pandemic was challenging, and at each stage we had to think creatively and look at how we could best carry out our initial plans when almost everything had to be done via social media or online.
“Two early decisions that proved absolutely crucial were:
- To agree with our consultants to use some of their funds to employ a couple of local people as community coordinators – one with the remit to engage young people. They were key to engaging a wide range of people across the community.
- To call on the talents of a local graphic designer who developed a website, Facebook group, all of our posters, our survey form, and the final Community Action Plan document, all on a voluntary basis. We did make a small contribution towards the costs of the final design and a donation to a local organisation in recognition of the work on the posters. We think that the quality of material produced had a major bearing on the level of response that we were able to achieve, and we could not have afforded the real costs involved in this.”
For more information about Glenorchy and Innishail’s community action plan, visit 7questions.co.uk