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Strong communities key to success

22nd June 2012

A new project in Badenoch and Strathspey, designed to help communities realise their full potential is being launched in Boat of Garten this weekend (Saturday 23 June). ‘Strengthening Communities’ aims – through learning, networking and training – to help communities develop sustainable businesses and new income streams for themselves.

Funding for ‘Strengthening Communities’ comes from the European Social Fund, the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), The Highland Council and the Robertson Trust. It is a partnership project supported by the Badenoch and Strathspey Community Planning Partnership (B&SCPP) and managed by Voluntary Action in Badenoch and Strathspey (VABS).

Project manager Karen Derrick explained: “We know that in austere times collaboration is the most effective way to make use of the limited resources that we have so the first aim of ‘Strengthening Communities’ is to bring together the communities of Badenoch and Strathspey and identify the common challenges and set up networks specific to some of those challenges. The hope is that by working in partnership communities can come up with some robust solutions, with support from key agencies.

“The second element is all about training. Every community has a band of willing volunteers who give their time generously but we can make these volunteers even more effective if we can offer them a comprehensive training programme in areas such as financial management, business planning, project management and so on. In time, we hope community groups will gain in confidence and consider becoming employers themselves and generate local jobs or manage large sums of funding.”

CNPA Convener Duncan Bryden said: “The Park Authority is delighted to be supporting ‘Strengthening Communities’. This project leads on naturally from all the work that has been done throughout the Park on community action planning and specifically in the west of the Park with ‘Our Community… A Way Forward’. Strong communities are crucial to the National Park – they want to look after their environment, they support local businesses and community groups – and by their very nature, they want to get involved in the Park so it’s our job to support them.”

Cllr Jaci Douglas, a member of The Highland Council and the CNPA board added: “This Saturday’s event is an excellent opportunity for people to come along and hear more about this new project which builds on the past work with the ‘Our Community… A Way Forward’. We have such vibrant and enthusiastic communities here in Badenoch and Strathspey but the hard working volunteers on the ground need as much help and support as they can get if we are to ensure these communities, and volunteer numbers, thrive and are sustained into the future. If anyone cannot attend on Saturday, there will be ample opportunity to get involved soon and I look forward to working with people to help improve and enhance our beautiful area.”

This weekend marks the first official event for ‘Strengthening Communities’ with community representatives from across Badenoch and Strathspey coming together to discuss and plan for some of the challenges they face such as rising fuel costs, maintaining thriving high streets, dealing with community buildings, supporting local businesses, affordable housing, transport and renewable, as well as helping young local people into work and volunteering opportunities.

The key note speaker on Saturday morning is Dr Geoff Fagan from CADISPA (Conservation and Development in Sparsely Populated Areas). He said: “A healthy community is one that is engaged, open to new learning and more sustainable than it once was. As we move from a representative to a participatory democracy local people need to accept that circumstances have changed. Power and control over the destiny of local communities is being shaped increasingly by those who live there. Small communities therefore need help to shoulder these new responsibilities and to drive local, sustainable development with only marginal, perhaps sometimes minimal, support from the traditional agencies.”