Case Study: Creetown Initiative Ltd.

Shared by Andrew Ward, Creetown Initiative 

Name of Organisation/Project

Creetown Initiative Ltd/home projects and external consultancy work

Funding/Partners Involved

Big Lottery
Dumfries and Galloway Council
The Wolfson Foundation
Holyrood Trust
Robertson Trust
Children in Need
Kirkcudbright Common Good Fund
Trusthouse Foundation

Background Information

Creetown Initiative was formed in 2004. The central aim being to regenerate a rural town and locality. However, to support the groups long-term objectives it was decided that we would become a social enterprise supplying support to other communities. This would allow us to create an income stream to support staff, removing our reliance on grants. Initially (2004) we had one employee, we now employ 6 full-time staff and 9 part-time staff. We also use several associate consultants for specific work. Our work has two elements, home based projects and external consultancy. Such has been the growth of our consultancy we have now created a trading arm (Barhom Enterprise Ltd).

We now run or manage multiple projects including;

Home based

1. Creetown Enterprise Centre. A 28-bed bunkhouse, charity shop, cycle hire and repair, gift shop and car hire.
2. Youth Club.
3. Community hall, which we refurbished and now own and manage on behalf of the community.
4. Ferry Friends. A three-year project promoting independent living for elderly people.
5. St Josephs former church. We have secured funds to create a performance venue in this former church. Refurbishment work starts soon, the venue will also be the base for Creetown Silver Band
6. Creetown Car Club. We own three cars which we manage on behalf of the community. This project is designed to mitigate poor public transport issues in a rural area.
7. Film and Media. To support our own and our client projects we have a media department that can make film, create published media, web site design, carryout social media and other marketing requirements. On the back of this we publish a quarterly magazine to promote our work locally.

Consultancy work

1. We are currently supporting a new development trust in Barrhill. This is a 12-month contract. A major part of this work is helping the community take over the local pub.
2. We are currently supporting a new development trust in Ballantrae, this is a 24-month contract and involves multiple projects.
3. We are supporting Kirkcudbright Development Trust across a range of projects. The key project “Johnston School” is our main focus. To date we have raised £1.9m towards this key project which will contain a “Dark Skies Visitor Centre”, childcare facility, youth project, business start-up units and community spaces.
4. Newton Stewart Rugby Club. We are fund raising for their new pavilion
5. Moffat Beechgrove Sports Centre. We are fund raising for their new pavilion.
6. Let’s Get Sporty. We have an 18-month contract to support their development plans.
7. Kirkcudbright and Newton Stewart. We manage their youth projects.
8. Castle Douglas. We are supporting a new development trust and helping them complete an asset transfer of a major building.
9. Dalbeattie. We helping this group take a small former school building into community ownership.
10. Shambellie House. We are helping secure funds for this new project which is designed to create a new use for this much-loved building, formerly Scotland’s National Costume Museum.

The over-riding aim of our work with clients is to improve their capacity to take projects forward over the long-term.

Inclusive Growth Outcomes Sought

The nature of our work is to leave communities stronger than they were when we got involved. Be it local home-based work or work with clients. Building long-term capacity is vital.

Specifically, we aim to:

1. Increase the capacity of those we work with
2. Increase the knowledge of those we work with
3. Help strengthen communities by delivering projects that have measurable benefit
4. Support inclusive projects
5. Help identify opportunities for communities that they may not have recognised
6. Encourage creativity and participation
7. Show groups how to communicate with their communities and how to consult meaningfully
8. Help communities identify practical sustainable solutions
9. Help communities better understand the nature of their community, the economic challenges and other factors such as access to services, transport, education and employment
10. Promote the benefit of direct community action. In our view communities that take on board services and facilities themselves often deliver a better outcome than would be delivered by a statutory body such as a council

Actions Taken

In practical terms our work has delivered wide ranging benefits as a result of the actions, structures and capacity we have helped to create. Since 2006 we have completed in excess of 100 projects, ranging from small projects such as a bee keeping course to a major £2m project such as the Johnston School in Kirkcudbright. We have worked across Scotland from Aberdeen to Selkirk.

We have delivered specific actions that have resulted in projects moving forward quicker and more successfully. Key to this is planning and understanding what lies beneath the surface of a project. Our work initially means understanding what it is communities are trying to achieve. Assessing whether it’s feasible, and whether it has community support, and then would it receive financial support from funders?

An action check-list when we approach a project might look like this:

1. What is the project trying to achieve?
2. Who does it benefit?
3. Is there community support for the project?
4. Would the project attract financial support?
5. Has the group got the capacity to deliver?
6. Is the groups governance the right model?
7. Is the project sustainable?

Actions then required to help the group might involve a feasibility study which might lead on to a business plan. A consultation exercise to establish support. Work to create a group with the capacity to deliver, this might involve training or helping to secure funds to build capacity. Additionally, we might help groups build partnerships with support bodies, for example we might introduce them to organisations like the Development Trust Association Scotland.

Challenges Encountered and How Overcome

A key challenge for us and our clients is development funding. In the past funds such as SCARF (Scottish Communities Action Research Fund) and the lotteries (Investing in Ideas), gave communities the tools and resources to research projects viability. Such funds are not currently available and this presents a challenge. Sometimes the lack of such funds cannot be overcome and in some cases a project might be scrapped or in some cases taken on blind, which is a massive risk.

Another challenge is access to quality local support. Too often outside agencies are parachuted into communities which they have little understanding of; either socially or economically. Urban based practitioners offering solutions to rural issues or visa versa. The way to overcome this is to develop local capacity. Support providers should be charged with creating a legacy, in the shape of a well resourced and confident group capable of taking future actions forward and maintaining sustainability.

Of course, this means the support provider must put considerable work into this, something they don’t always factor in, or indeed have a desire to. From Creetown Initiatives point of view we do, and it is part of the service we deliver. As such we provide a full support service and project aftercare which enables groups to keep in touch even after we have completed a contract. This style of approach in is our DNA and is also born from our passion to make a success of projects and to strengthen the capacity of groups we work with.

Finally, we are totally honest with the groups we engage with. Too often we find outside bodies tell groups what they think the group want to hear, not what they should hear. This can lead to a waste of resources or in the worst-case scenario failure. Our approach is to be frank and truthful, so groups are under no illusion about the chances of success.

Assessment of Impact and Future Opportunities

At present we do not have to find work, it finds us. Our reputation and success rate being responsible. It is difficult to predict how this will pan out. The loss of Leader funding, falling Lottery funds may either discourage groups to not even start a project, or because of greater competition groups may seek more support. Whatever happens the likelihood is that in the future fewer projects will happen, unless other serious funding streams come on board.

Locally there might be support from the proposed new Enterprise Agency, however the shape of this as it currently stands does not give rise to optimism, however it is early days and it may yet emerge as a significant resource.

Another future opportunity is wind farm benefit funds. Many communities have access to significant funds but lack the experience and confidence to make best use of these funds. Some support agencies who specifically target wind farm benefit funds do not in our view encourage legacy projects and seem content for communities to fritter away money on small projects that have little long-term impact. There is increasing calls from communities who realise that these funds could be better used, and we are receptive to helping these communities.

Links to Relevant Documents

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