As a part of GSA’s first major project Peer-​to-​Peer Community Engagement, Leapfrog organised a scoping session in September with our Highlands and Islands Enterprise partners namely Community Assets, Community Broadband Scotland and Community growth scheme. The main focus of the day was to understand our partners’ key issues during community engagement, what should be our focus in the project and what we hope to learn from this process. The communities that our partners work with are geographically and it takes considerably more initiative, imagination and effort to enage effectively and inclusively with certain sections of the community. During the community enagegement it should be ensured that the events are inclusive but respect the culture and sensibilities of the communities whose views are being sought. Through the scoping session we mapped out the communities with our partners who could be our potential communities within the Highlands and Islands. This gave us a realistic idea of planning our major project within the next 8 months.

Some of the key issues faced in these “Hard to Reach” communities are listed below:

  • Effective engagement within the community, including women and young people
  • Achieving right balance between transparency and anonymity in community engagement, thus creating a safe environment for discussion and debate.
  • Inspiring and supporting more people to be more than just engaged, and for people to be active and to take ownership of projects
  • It’s a challenge for the Community Trusts to keep people enthused and engaged in driving projects forwards long term so that they are sustainable once funded
  • Managing expectations in communities as to how much time projects take to develop and for social impact to be felt.
  • Travel between islands is a barrier for effective communication, which means that communities revert to phone or skype. Technology can help and hinder communication, for example many people use Facebook for local news

Reflecting on the scoping session we have identified two communities within the Highlands and Islands suitable to work as a part of the major project, namely Kyles of Bute and Isle of Mull. One of main challenges within these islands is to aggregate smaller communities to work together from different islands. Within these communities it has be recognised that there are lots of new engagement projects up and coming and they will set as a good example for other communities within the Highlands and Islands. Our next scoping session will be held during the month of October with the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDS), so watch this space for further updates.