Public bodies can learn from good practice and new ways of working which emerged in response to Covid-19 and use this to shape the way they work in the future to promote the best outcomes for local communities and help address inequalities. On this page we share some of the many good examples of the community response to the pandemic and summarise the learning. It builds on the Principles for community empowerment published in 2019 and ongoing engagement with the Community Empowerment Advisory Group. Public bodies should use this information alongside their own learning to develop longer-term approaches to supporting and empowering communities.
Covid-19 has disproportionately affected Scotland’s most vulnerable citizens. During the pandemic, local people and communities across Scotland played a critical role in supporting the most vulnerable people in society. Partnerships and the voluntary sector were vital in supporting and empowering people to do this. In areas where existing relationships were stronger, some communities were able to provide a faster and more targeted response, for example in North Ayrshire. This enabled rapid allocation of funding to well-established organisations supporting those most affected by Covid-19, including some of the funding packages announced by the Scottish Government in March 2020 for supporting communities.
For example, Highlands and Islands Enterprise administered Covid-19 support for communities and the third sector and there are many examples of how this was used by communities pulling together to help local residents. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) website was the main hub of information and support for communities and the third sector during the pandemic, updated regularly with new funds from both government and independent sources, and ongoing recovery funding.
1. Community control: Support communities to successfully take more control over decisions and assets
2. Public sector leadership: Strong and clear leadership on community empowerment sets the tone and culture of the organisation
3. Effective relationships: Build effective working relationships between public bodies, local communities, and local partners
4. Improving outcomes: Evaluate whether outcomes for local communities are improving and inequalities are being reduced
5. Accountability: Be accountable and transparent
There are still challenges around inequalities and poorer outcomes for the most vulnerable and for disadvantaged groups of society, such as those on low incomes, ethnic minorities, people without digital access, carers and people with disabilities and care needs.
There has been a varied response across Scotland and there is a risk of going back to old ways of working and losing improved and more efficient ways of working which have developed during the pandemic. There are risks in implementing new approaches but being measured, exploiting opportunities, and learning from unsuccessful approaches will bring innovation. Greater collaboration – across the public and third sectors, and with communities – will be vital to the recovery. It will also be important to review and consult on temporary changes brought in through powers granted by Coronavirus Acts.
Public bodies should be actively looking for feedback from communities and the third sector on how they worked together during the pandemic and how they can learn from it. Community organisations have a key role to play in supporting the public sector, strengthening links between services and communities, and building resilience. Public bodies should not underestimate the importance of the voice and experience of citizens, talking and listening to communities, being open and transparent, and continuing to develop strong relationships and partnerships. Public bodies should be able to take a step back and give people permission to take control and support new collaborations or ones that work in a different way. This will require strong leadership and a change in culture.
Our work will continue to support the public sector to reduce inequalities, improve outcomes, protect human rights, and give citizens a say in how services are delivered. Our dynamic work programme is continually updated to reflect changing circumstances and we will be considering how public bodies are embedding community empowerment and learning and how this supports recovery following the pandemic. This includes inclusive digital approaches, climate change, economic recovery, use of community assets and community wealth building.
You can find all the Covid-19 related reports we have produced so far, as well as other resources, on our website here.
"Amid the horrors of this crisis, the fear and the loss, there has also been gain. New ways of working, evidence of cultural resilience, expanding comfort zones, heightened creativity, lots of compassion, and a new kind of connectedness."
"We were able to channel Scottish Government resources to community groups during lockdown in a fair, open and transparent way because of last year’s PB process. If we hadn’t run the PB process last year I don’t know how we would have gone about doing that."
"Partnership has improved recently. Everybody seems to be saying we’re here for same reason. It’s been fantastic. The council has been only a phone call away. They put you through to the right person. We didn’t have the same kind of relationship before."