Gorbals Skills Exchange Project
The Initiative is a charity working for the regeneration of the Gorbals, Govanhill, Toryglen and East Pollokshields, by supporting employment and community activities.
What were they trying to achieve?
The aim was to investigate the potential for a community research facility and an information source for sharing local regeneration skills.
How did they go about it?
There were two main elements.
Local researcher training programme: five local researchers were recruited and followed a sex month training programme. This included training on research methods such as Focus Groups, Quality Circles and Questionnaires. The researchers then approached a number of local organisations, inviting them to propose pieces of research. The researchers carried out research for Gorbals Library and Real Learning Centre, Glasgow College of Nautical Studies, Greater Glasgow Health Board and The Initiative on how to improve particular services and/or make them more accessible. They received very positive feedback from partners on the research projects.
Skills Exchange: the aim was to carry out an audit of regeneration skills and to identify an appropriate means of skills exchange. A Community Seminar was held to gain local support, feed back results on community research and involve the local community in identifying the most suitable model for a Skills Exchange project. Information on skills was posted on a customised website community at - Can Do Exchange - set up by the Scarman Trust.
What did they learn?
- Researcher training needs to be of longer duration than the original 8 weeks proposed, to enable participants to build in confidence and experience.
- Organisations undertaking similar training should establish a committed group of community researchers in advance of the training, and ensure that they are fully eligible for the project. It would have been helpful to have allocated a budget for personal development for the community researchers, particularly given their issues with confidence. Research briefs should be agreed in advance of the researcher coming
- Community participants enjoyed the training and research itself, but required significant support in carrying it out. Confidence was very low at the outset of the training. By the end of the course, all participants were taking an active role in carrying out research, but wished to continue with further training and research as volunteers
- There is a market for community research, and a demand for community researchers. However, the work itself is sessional and people on benefits were unable to take up temporary work of this nature. Since work could not be guaranteed, it did not provide sufficient job security
- There is not an obvious career development path for community researchers. It would be helpful to offer volunteer placements within organisations carrying out community research
- The CanDoExchange is an excellent means of carrying out Skills Exchange. The categories of skills and resources worked well in the workshop, and will be tested again at a 'Skill Swap' event
- Groups would value and use the system more if they were charged a nominal fee as a contribution to the Skills Exchange website running costs
- The system would work more effectively over a wider geographical area (such as the South East Glasgow Community Planning Partnership area)
- To ensure that the benefits of the websites are publicised throughout the local community, the Initiative needs to form a support group of organisations and local people to champion the Skills Exchange
What difference did it make?
The Community Research trainers are strongly of the opinion that the course enabled local people to develop significantly in confidence, and that this had an impact on the employability of participants - particularly those who moved into jobs before completing the training programme.
The Initiative is now able to carry out basic community research projects, and has a clear plan on how to effectively implement a Skills Exchange framework.
The project responded to agencies looking for increased local consultation and involvement in services. The research itself promoted public involvement in evaluation of local services. For example, the Govanhill 'Active Futures' NHS Health Promotion research carried out in a neighbouring community, Govanhill, will benefit young people by developing a strategy for involvement in physical activity.
The ultimate goal of enabling local people to benefit financially by taking up regular employment as researchers was not achieved. This was due in part to the local researchers not feeling confident and experienced enough to apply for research posts. It is also due to the sporadic nature of this type of work.