News  |  Posted February 15, 2023

‘Meet people where they are’

Reflections on our second round of the Sustaining Choices project, by our Community Development Manager, Erin Fulton

Two weeks into starting my role as Community Development Manager at PAS, I received an email from Kenny, one of the community facilitators on our Sustaining Choices programme, proposing running a Place Standard engagement activity that week. It was a great opportunity for Kenny to reach out to members of the community at an event where there would be food and childcare.  

This would be the first engagement of the 2022 Sustaining Choices programme, and I was still figuring out which way was up in my new role. I arranged to give Kenny a quick call and get us on the same page. The following Monday I messaged to check in to see how the day had gone. Kenny replied that it had been a great success and he’d managed to capture 22 views about active travel and sustainable transport within the Inner East End of Glasgow. 

This was brilliant news as it was exactly what Sustaining Choices is all about – that is, supporting participants to engage with their communities and surface a wide range of views and experiences on issues relating to active travel and sustainable transport. This year we worked with six communities across Scotland including Oban, Lochbroom, Ullapool and the surrounding area, Inner East End Glasgow, Whiteinch and Scotstoun, Garnock Valley, and Kilmadock, guiding them through a programme of training, engagement and reporting to produce a strong evidence base in the form of Active Travel and Sustainable Transport Action Plans.

We learned a lot from this year’s participants and here are some of our key take-aways: 

  • As demonstrated with Kenny’s engagement, there is so much to be achieved by making the most of an existing opportunity and ‘going to where people are’. This was replicated throughout the programme from chatting to parents at school gates (Oban) to a presence at a wood carving festival (Garnock Valley). One of the benefits to this approach was the opportunity to reach people whose voices aren’t often heard, which is essential to any effective, meaningful, and healthy engagement.
  • Connected to the above point, the value of engaging people who aren’t normally included in these processes was emphasized. Inclusivity was a core theme and value which the participants felt was important to do. The communities involved worked hard to reach out to youth groups/schools, local disability representatives and this is something we want to do even better at in the future.
  • One of the challenges of this year’s programme was the final delivery events where we asked participants what and who could help with the issues raised throughout the engagement. When asking these questions we were often faced with blank faces and questions like ‘aren’t there professionals who know more about this than us?’ It’s a tricky balance to strike. We don’t want to neglect the wealth of knowledge in a community and we really want to avoid communities feeling like they have solutions imposed onto them. However, we also appreciate that, yes, there are professionals who know a lot about these issues who can be helpful. To avoid leaving participants feeling like they haven’t been useful next year we’re looking to present potential options and solutions for comment at a celebratory end of engagement event.

You can take a look at several of this year’s active travel action plans below (more coming soon):

We’re looking forward to embedding this learning into a third round of Sustaining Choices, with applications opening in April. The diagram below illustrates the sequence of activity on the programme, leading to the production of an Action Plan for each participating community.  

If you’re interested in joining this journey with us, please contact myself, Erin (Community Development Manager) and I can keep you in the loop. Likewise, if you are an organisation with useful information and resources to share, we’d love to hear from you.

Many thanks to Paths for All and the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places Open Fund for supporting and funding Sustaining Choices.