Community renewal

09 August 2018

"Confidence is growing within the community, people are starting to feel empowered to take the lead and make changes that are important to them."

In this blog, we hear from Ann from Community Renewal Trust, who works on the Local Conversation project in Govanhill, Glasgow. The project is supporting Roma residents to create a shared vision for their neighbourhood and address priorities they decide on together.

“We are nearly two years into the Local Conversation project in Govanhill and the social and cultural activities are very important to project members, supporting them to strengthen their social links as well as being the main connector to the wider community.

Community Renewal Trust operates a community canteen which has become a central pillar for the Local Conversation. A large number of people come along to the canteen, and it is always a good opportunity to engage with local people. It is where so many of the social connections and activity ideas have started.

As the project began, a group of local residents knocked on doors and asked their neighbours questions to find out about their aspirations and ideas for the area in a really informal but engaging way.

One of the things that came out of these conversations was the importance of social and cultural activities - having somewhere to go to have social interactions and to meet new people.

Other things that people said were important included reducing communication barriers which impact upon peoples’ ability to access employment and training, housing and the physical environment. These have gone on to become our Local Conversation’s main priorities.

We have a community event every few months to bring everyone together, which gives people the opportunity to engage with others they might not have known before.

All the activities that are supported by the project contribute to expanding the social links of members.

We know that it is so important because when they start getting together and building social connections, their confidence builds and they start to develop their knowledge and skills.

We now have a Community Forum, a men’s group, a volunteer group, a youth group, a sewing club and even a dance group – there is so much going on.

The sewing group has been established for just eight months and already has a core group of women that attend each week. The group is supported and facilitated by a professional sewer, and we have crèche facilities too, to make it accessible and to support people with young children. The skills and capacity of the group is growing incredibly quickly and they have their sights set on becoming a social enterprise.

It’s great to see them really start to feel part of a group and to watch their ambitions and aspirations grow. They’re becoming confident enough to take control of and lead the group, and have even created an identifiable brand for their designs. They are making bags which are being sold in Govanhill, and received a first order from Glasgow City Council to supply 40 conference bags for an international event that the city was hosting. It’s great to see them getting such strong local support.

The youth group is also flourishing, it has been very successful. Young people are connecting with other activities outside of the project, too. They’re going along together, and taking advantage of everything that’s available to do in the area.

Govanhill Festival is later this month, and the young people are working together to create the bunting that will appear on part of the route. For three weeks, the team of young people will be learning new skills as they create the bunting and they are really proud of what they are achieving.

A group of Roma women are also involved in a cooking project in partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University and Soul Food Sisters - a multi-cultural cooking and catering social enterprise.  The women will be making and selling food at the Festival, this is an opportunity to enhance their cooking skills but also to better understand what the business of delivering street-food is all about. 

Volunteering hasn’t been a natural thing for a lot of people around here, but it has really grown to become one of our biggest strengths over time. Now, everything we do is supported by a fantastic team of volunteers whose confidence and capacity are growing constantly.

We encourage and support volunteers to take responsibility for the activities that they want to do, including for them to plan and deliver them. It’s putting the power in their hands that really makes it all work. People who live in Govanhill know Govanhill, and they know what their neighbours want and need. We support them to deliver what they want to make it an even better place to live for everyone.

For example, volunteers had been hearing that local families wanted to visit Edinburgh Zoo and decided to organise a trip. One of the volunteers went away and got prices, organised the bus and really took control of the planning. She was completely in charge on the day too, and she felt really empowered.

Confidence and aspirations are growing within the community, and people are starting to feel really empowered to take the lead and make changes that are important to them.

Ann Hyde, Community Renewal Trust


The Local Conversation in Govanhill is funded by People’s Health Trust with money raised through The Health Lottery, and supported by Community Renewal Trust.

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