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What do local communities know and understand that policy makers don’t

This Policy Forum was dedicated to the question what local communities may know which policy makers, i.e. those sitting at the levers of power, do not know or understand – but should know and would like to know.

Below is a list of discussion points raised at the Policy Forum.

  • Third space: might this compete with existing/statutory services?
  • Not necessarily either/or. Third space provides social space and advice to access other services. But this is hard to measure.
  • Social enterprise: risk of being absorbed into the system? Coopted?
  • To what extent has the role of the State changed? And in what ways?
  • Middle/intermediary organisations: how does this fit with community empowerment? Can they help local organisations move onto next stage?
  • Funders obsession with sustainability, impact, outcomes. This is unhelpful for small local groups. Provides barriers and sector as a whole is complicit in reinforcing these barriers. Some organisations language is problematic.
  • How do you fit into outcomes and impact providing someone in distress with a cup of tea?
  • Numeric funding can direct you into short term provision and downstream interventions. Outcomes problematic here. And many funders simply look at outputs in any case.
  • ‘Prevention’ helpful but hard to take forward.
  • ‘Innovation’…?
  • Need to think about the problem and then put in the capacity/specific expertise rather than upskill everyone in everything.
  • Role of middlemen…challenging conversation.
  • How specific are these challenges to Scotland or not?
  • What is ‘community’?
  • Need to think about the people that are interested in counting numbers and then link them with local groups who are not. Connecting local groups with experts. Connecting communities of place with communities of interest.
  • Risk that we think taking on business methodologies and approaches is the right thing to do. We are in the business of trying to put ourself out of business rather than grow.
  • More community control of funds – participatory budgeting.
  • If transferring resources to communities perhaps be careful what you wish for. Unanticipated consequences.
  • Need to be careful about imagining we have a rational policy making process where we explain a problem and a solution. This doesn’t necessarily change things.
  • Civil servants ‘keeping the curtains closed’.
  • Think about stories rather than statistics. (Although hidden traps here too).
  • Partnerships with communities, academics and others helpful.
  • What policy makers don’t know and how you influence them to address their knowledge deficits and their own role in the world
  • Outcomes and grant-givers – how do you translate the OBVIOUS BENEFITS into the language of outcomes and the policy mumbo-jumbo
  • The danger that stats conceal more than they disclose and how we connect policy makes to lived experience in order better to understand the problems and the solutions.
  • The role of the power that is less-accountable or unaccountable in the policy making and implementation process.
  • Understanding the dynamics and characteristics of the different strata of the policy making and implementation process.