This seminar shared our learnings about community anchors and their role in public service reform. It offered space for dialogue, discussion and deliberation on community anchors, the community sector and their relationship to public service reform.

The event was a Learning Day and Shared Inquiry into the roles of community anchor organisations in relation to public service reform and the Christie Commission’s agenda of partnership, participation, prevention and performance. Attendees and What Works Scotland worked together to explore their potential given the opportunities emerging through the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, the Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014, and now the Scottish Government’s Local Governance Review.

Community anchors are:

  • community-led/-controlled organisations committed for the long-term to their community
  • multi-purpose/holistic providing a range of options for action – local economic development, service provision, community-building, leadership and advocacy
  • responsive, and develop in ways relevant to their local context.

Community anchors have been recognised in Scottish policymaking over the last decade – the Community Empowerment Action Plan 2009 and the Regeneration Policy 2011. Key community sector bodies have advocated for and lead the development of this model in actual practice (see the Advisory Group members below).

The thinking on community anchors has been developed through the Scottish Community Alliance over the last decade and they are recognised in Scottish policymaking – the Community Empowerment Action Plan 2009 and the Regeneration Policy 2011. Community development trusts and community-controlled housing associations are most likely best placed to pursue this approach but other local community organisations can draw and build from it too.

This Learning Day built from a new What Works Scotland report researched by James Henderson (What Works Scotland) and Philip Revell, (Sustaining Dunbar Community Development Trust),  and Oliver Escobar (What Works Scotland) who facilitated the day.

 The report illustrates six community anchor exemplars from across Scotland (urban, rural, remote) and the complexity of the work they undertake which will be a starting point for our discussions on the Day. Some of the community anchor exemplars and some of the Advisory Group members (Development Trust Association, Glasgow & West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations, Scottish Community Alliance and Scottish Government Regeneration Team) will act as resources for our discussions too.

The ‘experience in the room’ shaped the dialogue and deliberation. We are seeking diverse participants from across sectors to support rich discussions and raise the key issues and challenges – in particular, for partnership working between the community sector and public services.

The key questions for consideration included:

  • What do we mean by a community anchor and what do they look like in practice?
  • In what ways can community anchors actively engage and make a difference to the Christie Commission’s agenda?
  • How can public services, the state and policymakers actively support the development of local community anchor organisations?
  • What more are we learning through our discussions about local democracy, community resilience, and the prevention of inequalities?

Our discussions on the day will be written up as a short event report and shared with the Scottish Government’s Local Governance Review.

Held on 15 May 2018 at the Grassmarket Community Project, Edinburgh