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Communities and Wellbeing: Local Assets, Local Decisions and Community Resilience

What makes a community vibrant and resilient?
Tarland Community Garden, Aberdeenshire; Photo credit: Annie McKee
This research aims to develop methodologies which allow the Scottish Government, and wider stakeholders, to identify and capture ‘success’ in enhancing the resilience of rural communities.

Who has commissioned this research and what will it deliver?

This research is being funded through the Scottish Government Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Portfolio Strategic Research Programme exploring the theme of Food, Health and Wellbeing. It takes place from April 2016 to March 2021 and will provide outputs that are useful for policy-makers and practitioners in the public, private and third sectors, scientists, as well as those who live and work in rural communities.

What is the research about?

The aims of this research are to:

1) Assess how communities have been or can be empowered to generate local economic development, shape service provision, directly address poverty, or influence key land use decisions;

2) Understand how these processes can play a key (rural) development role in enhancing community resilience and wellbeing; and

3) Investigate the costs and benefits of a community-led approach to addressing systemic changes and maximising opportunities.

We will be focusing on:

- Developing methodologies to create better understanding of how policy outcomes can be captured.

- How community resilience can be enhanced in key economic sectors.

Why are we focusing on local decisions and community resilience?

There is an increasing drive, in policy and in practice, to support rural community capacity and empowerment in order to enable community involvement in planning for their future. However, there is little systematic understanding about what does work well at the local level and what does not, what makes some communities vibrant and resilient and others less so, and what are the long-term impacts of resilience initiatives. There is also little understanding of how to increase effective empowerment; both at community level and within the range of institutions that work with communities. This research will address issues of inequalities within rural communities, identifying the underlying reasons for different ‘empowerment outcomes’ between and within communities, given the Scottish Government’s overarching commitment to equality, inclusion and poverty reduction irrespective of geographical location.

A key driver of the research is to develop methodologies which allow the Scottish Government, and wider stakeholders, to identify and capture ‘success’ in enhancing the resilience of rural communities. This is important as rural communities sit within the wider context of public sector efficiency budgeting and service reform, both of which are likely to be making an impact for years to come.

How will the research be structured?

Year 1 of the research will generate a report of new learning that (i) identifies success in rural community resilience; (ii) how success is achieved, and (iii) how it is assessed. Year 2 will develop and trial the first version of methodologies with case studies to assess what success looks like and capture outcomes. Year 3 will test the robustness of the above methodologies and co-produce next steps with stakeholders. Year 4 will involve a trial of a Community Resilience Assessment Tool (CRAT) in new case studies. In Year 5 we will ‘up-scale’ the CRAT to identify how, where and by whom it can be used to assess interventions which are addressing systemic challenges in rural areas.

Who is carrying out the research?

Dr Mags Currie, from the James Hutton Institute, will be coordinating the project. The staff come from two research groups:

- The Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Group at the James Hutton Institute (JHI): Dr Mags Currie, Dr Annie McKee and Dr Annabel Pinker.

- The Rural Policy Centre at SRUC: Dr Elliot Meador, Dr Marianna Markantoni and Dr Rob Mc Morran.

We will also be linking up with other researchers who are examining different aspects of resilient rural communities within the wider Programme focusing on: (i) the link between economic performance and social outcomes; and (ii) the linkages and interdependencies between urban and rural areas.

How will you make sure the research is useful?

We intend to make a useful impact in three ways. Firstly, throughout the 5 years of the research programme, there will be Knowledge Exchange events which will allow us to share our research findings and create the opportunity for you to give feedback and comments. Secondly, an advisory group will be convened to help us to remain mindful of ‘real-world’ challenges and opportunities in rural Scotland. Thirdly, we will have a series of web pages with our contact details and the research updates so you can be kept informed of what is happening and be able to leave your comments along the way.

All these approaches will help us to keep the research relevant to those who live and work in rural communities, as well as for policy-makers, practitioners and scientists, throughout the process.

Research updates

The first Knowledge Exchange event was held at the Birnam Arts and Conference Centre on Monday 28th November, 2016. A wide stakeholder network was invited to share experiences of community resilience, and to help to ground the definitions used in the research project. A report of this workshop is available here, and the discussion is summarised in a blog post published on the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences group blog.

Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project

Research

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.