Getting There: Maddiston and Rumford Activity Report 2016-2017

This report outlines the work to date of the Getting There: Maddiston and Rumford project. The aim of this work was to explore with local people how they feel about the area they live in, and work with them to make some real positive changes. The report explores the main enquiry work that was done in the area that included:

  • Completion of a local enquiry that involved asking local residents about their experiences of living in Maddiston and Rumford.
  • A Community Feast event that brought together local people and organisations to celebrate, and share food and ideas around activities that would benefit the area.
  • Following a community vote at the Feast, five local projects were given small amounts of money to spend on activities that were deemed to have a real positive impact on local people.
  • An asset map has been collated and hosted by Maddiston Community Council that captures the range of the local community assets (resources, places, activities and businesses) in the area.

This report isn’t the end of the story. We now hope to harness the positive momentum of the work and engage other individuals and organisations to both promote and take action on the findings of the project, with some of this already underway. We also want to highlight the partnership approach taken and help people explore how this could be tried out in other areas.

Please access the full report here:

Getting There: Maddiston and Rumford Activity Report 2016-2017

Getting there: Maddiston and Rumford – Short survey report

At the Maddiston and Rumford FEAST event we launched the findings of a community survey that we conducted in the local area. Towards the end of 2016, Maddiston Community Council and Iriss, with a range of other partners* helped design and conduct a survey asking local residents about their experiences of living in Maddiston and Rumford. We were delighted that over 200 adults from the local area and 250 children from Maddiston Primary School participated by filling in a paper survey, submitting answers online and being filmed on video. The majority of respondents were positive about life in the area but they also shared some things about what they would like to see improved.

Please click on the link to see the final illustrated report – Getting there short survey report

Physical copies of this short report will be distributed to organisatons, businesses and individuals in the area. We are now in the process of writing up a full report that not only includes detailed findings from the survey, but also explores more around the work that has been going on in Maddiston and Rumford and some key messages on taking this type of engagement and these ideas forward. We hope to have this report written up and drafted in March and published in April 2017.

*Braes High School, CVS Falkirk, Dial-a-Journey, Falkirk Community Trust, Falkirk Council, First Group, Forth Valley College, Maddiston Community Centre, Maddiston Primary School, NHS Forth Valley, SEStran

The Maddiston and Rumford FEAST


Our work on The Big Idea this year culminated in a community feast event for Maddiston and Rumford.  A FEAST is a community celebration which showcases local projects and gives the community the opportunity to choose who gets funding (along with sharing food and making connections). Our FEAST event was inspired by the Detroit SOUP, a community crowdfunding event which has been replicated across communities globally.

This meant we didn’t just invite people along, we invite them to pitch ideas which they thought could improve their community. This event was the culmination of a year’s worth of community enquiry* which revealed four key categories for improvement within the community:

  • Children and young people
  • Community Spirit
  • Travel, transport and traffic
  • Local provision of services

*a full report based on this inquiry will be available in March 2017

Our hope that was although the available funding may not have been enough to move mountains, it would act as a catalyst for community action and sustainability.

We invited all members of the community to attend the event by letter. This was based on learning from past events from all partners. Luckily, we were able to use the posting facilities of the council, who are partners on the Getting There project. We also raised awareness for the event through the Maddiston Community Council’s Facebook page and website. We relied heavily on word of mouth, particularly when it came to recruiting groups who may not sign up online. We used Eventbrite to manage numbers, but did have groups arrive on the day without a ‘ticket’, but we had capacity and had planned for the eventuality!

On reflection, we realised that many invitations didn’t make it through doors in particular postcodes. This may seem like a small oversight, but one that may have made some members of the community feel excluded. We also learned a lot about the timing of these sorts of events. Our event was at the end of January, which was actually great as people were excited about an energising event after a month of the cold. However, it meant that we had an extremely tight turnaround on invite distribution in the new year.

On the day, we were pleased to welcome a cross-section of the community to the event, approximately 70 residents of Maddiston and Rumford. Surprisingly, a hand count revealed that only around 10-15% of the people in attendance on the day had been part of the initial community research. This suggests to us that the event may have had more reach than the survey (perhaps because of the mailout).

After we shared finding from the community inquiry, including a media presentations, we heard presentations from 8 great projects, which all proposed to improve one of our research themes, or more. These included:

  1. Nurture Project – Maddiston Primary School: Creating nurture spaces around the school to support and promote well being of pupils and families in the community.
  2. Achievement Project – Braes High School: Celebrating success of young people in the local community through posters and displays
  3. Youth Club Project – Maddiston Salvation Army: Help cover costs of setting up Youth Club for 1st to 3rd year pupils, including equipment and excursions
  4. Activity Centre Outing – Maddiston Friday Youth Club: Help with costs for an overnight outing to an activity centre to develop confidence, new skills and teamwork.
  5. Lunch Club: Help cover the costs of setting up a lunch club to provide healthy, low cost food and a place to socialise.
  6. Growing for All – Muiravonside Community Growing Area: Buying raised beds to make the growing area suitable for wheelchair users and people with mobility problems.
  7. Summer Fete – Maddiston PSA: Help with costs for running summer fete for the community
  8. Sports Equipment – Maddiston Minis: Improving kit and equipment for 3 youth football teams catering for 5-13 yr olds.

How did people vote for ideas?

We allocated a marble at the door to each paying adult, and once the community had heard from each project, they cast their vote independently. It is interesting to note that the votes were fairly evenly spread across the projects, indicating that most ideas appealed to the community in some way.  However, we were able to fund five projects from the day! (indicated in bold above)

What did folk think about the day?

Overall, the day was received positively. People learned a little about their community, made positive social connections, felt able to take part and were pleased to know “that things are already going on that are very encouraging”

In future, people expressed interest in a further event: “An event which encourages individuals to take part in positive improvements and leave feeling welcomed and united.”

We also had feedback from people who wanted to see a broader range of people from the community involved – including older people and young people who attended different schools than Maddiston Primary and Braes High.

In many ways, the event felt like a celebration not just of the work done by the Getting There Project and Maddiston Community Council, but the community itself. Performances from local schools and catering from local businesses added warmth and energy to the day.

What are the next steps?

Iriss will be allocating the funding to these community projects before March, and meeting with the Getting There group to discuss next steps. We will be checking in with projects who received funding on the day to document their learning and impact. Falkirk Council has also been awarded funding (£11,000) which they will distribute using a very similar event format based on learning from the day. We look forward to understanding how they adapt and embed this approach.

Wellness and Prevention: Learning from practice

By: Paul Harrison

We found ourselves getting excited about GP Mark Spencer, and his work to mobilise a community struggling to achieve wellness.

In this BBC News article, GP Mark Spencer discusses his innovative year-long project in Fleetwood which aims to use prevention and connection to improve the health of people in his town.

This project, like The Big Idea, is intended to address the connections between communities. What if tending to a community garden could promote exercise, reduce isolation and also help older people who can’t tend their garden anymore enjoy the flowers?

Healthier Fleetwood also focuses on an asset based approach to wellness which asks ‘what makes you well’ rather than focusing on illness. Similarly, we are trying to focus on building the connections that already exist in Maddiston and Rumford.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the outcomes achieved by this local GP and the Fleetwood community…

Quiet but busy

Although there haven’t been updates here for a while.. we’ve been working away!

We’ve been working within the Falkirk area alongside Maddiston Community Council, Falkirk Council, Falkirk CVS, Community Learning and Development, Falkirk Trust as well as a range of local partners. A project plan has been collaboratively created with our partners in Falkirk which has four phases:

  1. To facilitate evidence gathering and action to support local improvements

We’re supporting the group to undertake a range of activities to gather evidence on what is important to local people including conducting a survey, qualitative interviews, engaging with school children and using social media

  1. To generate learning on processes that foster greater collaboration

We’re continuing to document our learning on collaborative decision making and are beginning to gather evidence from local partners of their experiences of collaborating with each other

  1. To engage successfully with local people, encouraging inclusivity and enabling all voices to be heard

Our engagement activities (see point 1) as well as the broad representation from relevant agencies on our project group enables useful links with local people.

  1. To move towards action/ co-design of solutions using creative engagement methods

Plans are in place to use the Detroit Soup model locally. This is a crowd-funding initiative where local groups pitch for the money raised by the entry price (including soup) that night – the idea is to support community-based projects to become real.

Here are a few comments from our partners:

Over the past three months we’ve….

“put together a plan of action. In the last few months we have worked hard to promote the project in the local area both at a community level but also by looking to inform and bring in agencies that work in the area that could benefit from knowing more about the local community. We have successfully reached out to wide range of groups in the community from members of the old folks association to pupils from the local High School. I think we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the willingness of people to go on camera to tell us what they think.”

In the next three months we’re….

“looking forward to seeing the analysis of the survey data and seeing what it shows about our community, including putting the video interviews together. I’m also looking forward to the Soup event and hope it’s successful. It would be great if it starts to get people thinking about coming together to be more involved in the community.”

Reflecting on progress thus far… and deciding

On 21st June, we invited partners from both the Glasgow and Falkirk sites to meet us to celebrate our work together so far, but also to discuss the potential for collaboration in the future. In advance we asked each partner to provide some thoughts in writing. Here are some of the thoughts and reflections that were presented:

Reflecting on the role of Iriss:

As alluded to throughout this report, working with Iriss has been a rewarding and positive experience for everyone involved. From the initial development of the project ideas, to identification of methods and development of questions Iriss have proven to be professional, driven and experienced. They have enabled the progress of the project from day one, providing a strategic overview which has perfectly matched with the local knowledge and outlooks of the working group (Falkirk).

Without the input from IRISS the process will be much slower due to the historical divisions and problems encountered by this community. Independent facilitation will bring a neutral approach and encourage people to speak their views more comfortably. Our experience of working with IRISS has been very positive indeed. It has supported us: (1) By guiding discussions and giving us the space to talk openly and honestly (2) By supporting us to believe in our vision for the future of Milton (Glasgow).

Reflecting on changes in relationships with each other:

The working group has drawn together a wealth of specialist knowledge from the public, private, third sectors alongside people in the community, with the members and their key partners having experience in connecting and effecting transformational collaboration between people, organisations and systems….We would seek to combine their local knowledge with external knowledge of the systems that affect their areas, sharing the constraints, whether they are technical, financial or otherwise, that could affect the plans whilst working together to find the best solutions to the identified issues. By drawing together the working group, we feel we have already taken a big step towards achieving transformational change. Despite the issues that have emerged through different stages of the project to date, there has continued to be a commitment from those involved to work together and try and help Maddiston and Rumford. Through these connections, we feel transformational change is more than possible (Falkirk).

There is now a stronger connection between local residents and service providers in terms of better understanding local issues and concerns, and an increased opportunity to share ideas and opinions and discuss how problems might be addressed…. This process has changed the way that organisations respond to the needs and issues being faced by local residents. There is now perhaps an increased awareness and a greater level of trust established (Glasgow).

We had a great chat on the day and we were impressed by the strength of each partnership. It was a difficult decision to make, but we used the written submissions, the discussion on the day as well as our experience of partnership working thus far to come to an agreement about which area afforded the greatest potential for us to meet both local outcomes and our organisational outcomes together.

We’re delighted to say that we will be working with the Falkirk site until March 2017. We’ve also agreed to provide light touch support to the partnership in Glasgow.

More updates soon.

Connecting Milton… development day

On 25th May, over a day-long session, Iriss supported a group of people representing a broad range of organisations who support the people of Milton to come together, share the ambitions of their work and to identify opportunities for collaborative working. The aims were to:

  • feel better connected to one another
  • understand each others service aims and objectives
  • better understand the needs of people in Milton
  • explain how their organisations are responding to those needs, and will need to change to respond to those needs
  • are able to make connections with other services to meet the needs of the community

Over the course of the session, the group was encouraged to relate to each other as individuals (not roles or organisations), by completing and discussing little proformas. This exercise uncovered many hidden talents!

Roland Playle from the North Glasgow Community Food Initiative provided an engaging presentation highlighting the key findings from the Milton Talks survey. This generated a wealth of discussion and a whole wall of community identified ‘needs’:


Following this presentation,  plans were made in cross-organisational groups to respond to some of the key issues and the group were then asked to consider how to promote increased participation and community-led approaches in the next stages of collaborating together. The purpose of this was to devise collaborative plans for how they could responds to unmet needs or support other to meet needs that are not well resourced.

We also took some little video clips of people talking about their work, and their wishes for the people of Milton – coming soon!

The day was very positively evaluated. Here are some comments from the group:

What worked well?

  1. All of it
  2. Great ideas
  3. Community needs wall
  4. Variety of ideas and methods
  5. Good participation from all present
  6. It was very valuable to have a bit of time to listen, learn and share between groups
  7. Iriss facilitation (thank you!)
  8. Good to hear Milton Talks stuff and responses of people
  9. Making contact with local church
  10. Finding out the info from Milton Talks. Well done in all the hard work (door-door / Collate stats)
  11. Shared information and ideas

What could have worked better?

  1. Put deadlines to actions
  2. Pin people down to their actions
  3. More commitment from absent organisations
  4. Perhaps more focus on specific outcomes
  5. Me to have been here all day (action phase)
  6. Would have been really useful to have a vision and activities summary from each group

Practising Collaborative Leadership

Written by Nick Bland (Co-Director, What Works Scotland) and Cathy Sharp (Director, Research for Real), this report provides an overview of the collaborative approach taken to designing the Enabling Pioneer Programme. It uses a ‘learning history’ approach to document the experiences of those who’ve been involved in the development of the work.

Read the report here

Team reflections on collaboration and decision making

It’s near impossible to write a blog individually that sums up the feelings of those involved in a collaborative project. It would also take a dramatically long time to collaboratively write a blog that could even attempt to make sense between a range of different perspectives!

The policy context at the moment is sympathetic to collaborative approaches, which are heralded as one of the key solutions to the complex difficulties facing social services and the public sector. That said, it is difficult to evidence the impact of collaboration due to a number of factors including: how collaboration is conceptualised and difficulties of measurement, and of course the range of perspectives that have to be included (to name a few).

We know that on a good day, collaboration is supported by (adapted from Community Toolbox, 2015):

  • working together to develop a shared vision and mission that can reflect a range of outcomes at different levels
  • identifying specific actions that will be undertaken by each collaborator
  • collaborative leadership – encouraging people to have generative conversations and to look at issues holistically
  • employing or providing some resources to support a move towards action
  • routinely monitoring and documenting change
  • gaining external support e.g. facilitation

So, commonly held (and simplified) outcomes from collaboration include:

  • increased learning and knowledge sharing between diverse perspectives
  • reduced cost by avoiding duplication
  • releasing common resources
  • greater innovation as there opportunities to share and build on ideas are enabled

On a bad day, the practice of bringing together individuals from a range of diverse backgrounds together can be difficult. In this project we aimed to not only stimulate collaboration locally, but to collaborate internally too, to model the change we hoped to seek. At times, this felt even more difficult and it would be fair to say that the makings of this project have fallen into some of the same traps as other collaborative endeavors have.

Mulgan (2016) highlights that the common pitfalls of collaboration include:

  • inaction – circular conversations, difficulties in moving towards implementation
  • slower pace of change – taking time to surface and understand disparate views can reduce the speed of the work
  • consensus – a focus on consensus can reduce the likelihood of exploring underlying issues and as such they do not become resolved

In this project so far, did collaboration add more than it subtracts?

Here are some of the thoughts from the team:

On collaborating internally….

…For me, there was an identified tension between deliberation and action and a colleague suggested that perhaps we could have been doing with some tools/support to support us to say when we just need to ‘move on’ and when things need to be more fully discussed.  One thing is for sure, Iriss now has an increased understanding of its own experience of collaborative processes – so it may be easier for us to understand others’ ‘reactions’ and enable/develop mechanisms for others in similar processes going forward.

…My favourite thing about collaboration is when my starting position is changed and shifted by the conversation and contributions of others. But what I really struggled with internally was when this didn’t happen; when I still felt ‘right’, but my view wasn’t reflected in consensus decision making. I think in finding the middle ground, we may have all felt some level of dissatisfaction which can be really demotivating. At times, the process felt draining and time consuming, without much action being achieved. This was definitely a learning opportunity and I think in the future we would approach this process differently, as well as speak about collaboration with a lot more experience and honesty.

On collaborating to choose a partner….

…I felt really confident about sharing the decision making process with the group. However, I’m not entirely clear on how the criteria was used by each of the teams, nor how they answered the question of ‘which area provides the greatest opportunity for learning around collaboration’. As I was facilitating this part of the event, I also didn’t get to add my voice to any of the groups. So, to me, the decision wasn’t really shared. The idea was that the Iriss team would actively join in the discussions (rather than facilitating), but I’m not sure if this was enabled effectively. I think it would have been more fruitful if Iriss were also given a vote, as a team.

…Because Iriss was committing a potentially huge resource (of staff time) to this project, I felt that we were responsible for making the right choice of partner, but there wasn’t a mechanism for our choice to be expressed. I feel that we did our own experience as an organisation a disservice by not participating as a partner in decision making in the earlier stages of these events. We also limited our scope of partners to those who could attend these full day events rather than hosting open applications.

Collective decision making and voting

We didn’t set out to use specific voting methods to reach consensus but on reflection we broadly used the following models:

Internally –
Consensus decision-making
“Consensus requires that a majority approve a given course of action, but that the minority agree to go along with the course of action. In other words, if the minority opposes the course of action, consensus requires that the course of action should be modified, as far as possible, to remove objectionable features.”

…We tried to stick to these principles but, as some of the other reflections outline, there was only so much scope for a majority decision to be made and consensus/modifications taken into account from others. I think this process often left much of the Iriss team involved feeling not quite comfortable with the final decision – whether they had been on the side of the majority or minority!

…We spent a lot of time in internal meetings often culminating in some sort of voting: hands, dots etc. Often our opinions were distributed over a wide spectrum meaning that once a decision was made each of us would have to work with something that was a distance away from our own ideal outcome. Such is life. However, other consequences were that individual enthusiasm were often significantly affected by the process.

Voting-based method – Range voting
“This lets each member {groups in our case} score one or more of the available options. The option with the highest vote number is chosen as the winner. This method has experimentally been shown to produce the lowest Bayesian regret (wasted votes/unhappiness) among common voting methods, even when voters are strategic.”

…We asked each group to score the other presentations, then the top two scores were the ‘winners’. I think if it hadn’t been the confrontational nature of this being so open, and the winners revealed while the so-called ‘losers’ were in the room, we may have avoided some of the uneasiness that was felt.

…An element of the voting I found challenging was that on the day, groups were voting as a collective. But many of these groups had just met – and members represented radically different interests and voices. Would people have voted differently if given an individual vote? We were relying on consensus not just across a broader cohort but in individual groups – an experience we know isn’t easy! However, it was fascinating to understand my group’s own journey of voting and I think witnessing that decision making really opened my eyes to some of the priorities and values of the group which I would not have understood otherwise.