News | Posted February 10, 2022
Live Life Morvern
Using the new Place Standard with a Climate lens for a Community Action Plan on the west coast of Scotland. A blog by Paul Ede, Project Manager for the Live Life Morvern project.
“Just to let you know, overall, what a fantastic and impressive service PAS are providing for the community here. It’s making us all feel listened to and the whole process feel very smooth and easy.” – Local resident
About 15 years ago things were looking bleak for the residents of Lochaline in Morvern, just north of Mull. The local mine had closed, along with all its jobs. One resident talks about how she feared the community might die. But over the last decade, after Morvern Community Development Company was set up, and a community growth plan established, the community has gone through something of a rebirth. Not only developing their own affordable housing and a new community hub, as well as a new set of landing pontoons in Loch Aline itself and Scotland’s first zero-carbon distillery (NcNean), but also opening the community-developed Barr Hydro scheme, and enjoying the successful rebirth of Lochaline Quartz Mine once more.
I’m honestly staggered by what this community of 300 people have achieved in such a short space of time. And so is Angus Hardie at the Scottish Community Alliance. Which is why it has been such a privilege to be invited into their lives to help support the development of a new Community Vision and Action Plan for the next 10 years. If we have managed to do what the quote at the start of this post claims, it’s the least we could do just to respect the quality of this community’s achievements. The name the local steering group decided for the process was Live Life Morvern…which has become something of a primal scream and challenge when shouted by local kids at the top of their lungs! (Check out this promotional video that local volunteers created and wait for that golden cry at the end). Live Life Morvern is about declaring with passion that Morvern will continue life and thrive into the next generation despite all the challenges it faces. And getting on with planning how to make that happen.
We are still in the middle of the process, which is being supported by about 10 PAS volunteers. You can see an overview of the work we are doing here. But in terms of our approach, it’s always about foregrounding the gifts and leadership of local people. For example, Douglas Taylor from the Steering group created this great 3D animation (see video below) of the adventures of Ally “Morv” Lochy to promote our shared journey, so named by local primary kids. It’s also about honouring our conviction that the future always grows out of the past. In this, we habitually take a humble posture that respects the long rhythms and narratives of a community, looking for what’s emerging rather than trying to impose a grid or framework from the outside. So we have worked hard not only to research and understand the backstory of the community (check out this lovely 15 minute video about the area by the BBC) but also create space for the community to shape and choose the methods and approach we take. Community moves at the speed of trust, after all.
This local leadership is why LLM involves three new departures as to how PAS approaches our work, linked to funding we were able to receive from the Rural Communities Ideas into Action Fund, designed to trial new and innovative ways to address local challenges and benefit from local opportunities. First, we have employed a local PAS Associate called Bonny Mealand. Bonny is passionate about helping the community to work together and is well respected locally. The idea here is two-fold: to honour local skills and relationships and keep money locally in the community, and to maximise the benefit of Bonny’s local understanding to balance the strength of PAS’s outside neutrality.
Second, we have developed what for us is a new approach to developing a community vision before we jump into action planning. All too often these processes can basically just boil down to answering one core question, at scale: “what do you want your community to be like?” But this can miss that critical component of understanding what a community needs to become in light of trends and outside forces that are likely to come to pass. Saying “we want a playpark” is one thing. Realising that “we need to develop local energy sources because energy shocks are very likely to come our way in the future” quite another. So in Morvern we have started by running a series of ‘future scenario’ sessions that helped us imagine what Morvern would need to become in the next 10 years, based on existing trends like demographic change and the challenges of increasing tourism. More on that in a later blog post, but you can see the initial results of that work here.
Third, in light of COP26, we are working with Sniffer and the Place and Wellbeing Alliance to trial the use of the Place Standard with a Climate Lens, and learn about how best it can be applied in a rural context. We are using it across three themed workshops as we develop concrete actions designed to get to where we want to go, and make sure that climate resilience is factored into all aspects of life in Morvern.
We will write more in later posts about what we are learning. To follow along meantime, you can check the project website here and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Or contact Paul Ede at email@example.com.