Part of our role is to share evidence, learning and knowledge, so a few of my reflections on a little something from my reading pile.
This week I read a briefing paper published by Glasgow Centre for Population Health, setting out principles for effective social regeneration and interventions. It is based on the work of the music project Sistema Scotland, and GCPH suggest that the principles could be of wider application to any initiatives working to tackle health inequalities. There are seven principles, which they caveat as perhaps not all applying to every intervention, that aim to support discussion and debate among policy makers and practitioners round what is needed to make a difference. So as I was reading them, I started to consider their resonance with community food activity and they did seem to strike the right chords (forgive the puns!). Here are the principles and my reflections:
- Longevity and commitment – while community gardens or kitchens are clearly here in the long term other activities may find it hard to be sustainable, even though they are popular and well attended. More specific examples of organisations who have demonstrated this are The Food Train, North Glasgow Community Food Initiative and Healthy Valleys.
- Developing meaningful relationships – I see this as key in most community food initiatives I meet whether it is a cooking skills class or community café. Those who read Chris’s (from Edinburgh Community Food) blog the other week will get an idea of how this plays out in the real world.
- Inclusivity and accesibility – again another that would seem to be a fundamental aspect of most community food initiatives working across Scotland today. Indeed our Realist review of cooking skills classes clearly evidences the fact that this type of intervention routinely reaches the most vulnerable in our society.
- Intensity and immersion – this is about almost daily involvement and engagement, which may be rare for most community food initiatives whose participants or volunteers may have limited exposure of an hour or two a week. However, there are examples out there such North Edinburgh Arts Community Café and Possibilities where I saw how this principle in action has led to improved training and job opportunities for those involved.
- Innovation and flexibility – again another principle which is pretty prevalent within community and other organisations working through the medium of food. There are lots of examples of this such in services like Meal Makers and CentreStage, or collaborations to tackle food insecurity like Menu for Change or those involving Lanarkshire Community Food and Health Partnership.
- Collective and co-operative learning – another easy one for many, with learning all over the place: in cooking classes; cafes; growing projects and more. My instant thoughts turn to the peer learning done in Breastfeeding Network Scotland and organisers of events in the recent Power of Food Festival in Edinburgh like Gracemount Community Garden, WHALE Arts, Bridgend Growing Communities and Youth Vision.
- Excellence, aspiration and inspiration – most of the community food initiatives I encounter have high standards, this principle is more about going the extra mile and generating that special spark in beneficiaries and/or volunteers. And so my example has to come from folk I worked closely with last year, the organisations and community researchers involved in the community-led research on food security and insecurity = Central and West Integration Network, Borders Healthy Living Network and Linwood Community Development Trust.
Principles in practice, what more could you ask for……