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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Raising our gaze towards a wellbeing economy

This opinion piece is over 1 year old

Rachel Searle on discussions around a new Foundation Scotland report

At Foundation Scotland we've been exploring how we can channel more funding towards activity that goes beyond short-term fixes to support enduring transformative change. We recently published Raising Our Gaze, a learning report about this journey so far.

Encouraged by the interest in the report, we wanted to set out a few further thoughts for organisations keen to take stock of their own activity in relation to the wellbeing economy, which calls for a society designed to deliver dignity, justice, participation, purpose, and a healthy environment

Firstly, and at risk of stating the obvious, allow plenty of time. To help work out what this might mean for your organisation be guided by how you already talk or think systems and how these help or hinder who you are serving. We hoped we had given this work adequate time. But we couldn’t pause business as usual or some other work in development. The work requires space. Not only in people’s diaries but also in heads and hearts to begin imagining different ways to help create opportunities or possibilities.

Look out for those who emerge as ambassadors for the work. While we had a formal project steering group and which had a really important function in terms of cross organisational reach, links with board and governance structures, there were also other colleagues and trustees who just quietly engaged in productive and helpful ways to support and help steward the learning journey forward. These ambassadors helped make our work a success.

Language matters. But don’t get lost in weeds. ‘Economy’ can feel a slippery word but put the word ‘wellbeing’ in front of it and suddenly the purpose of the economy and what it could and should be in service to is much clearer.

Be sure to value the process of learning together with peers and colleagues. And be open to listening to and hearing them in new ways. Especially when discussions begin to look at the actual issues funding is ignoring, alleviating or addressing. At Foundation Scotland we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about our processes and systems. But less on the systems that the many organisations we support are trying to navigate or turn around  – whether that’s social care, food, education or asset ownership. But which all colleagues have insight and questions about – whatever their team or role. How to make the world a better place is what gets us all up in the morning. But we realised we rarely make adequate time to talk and keep learning about those issues together.

Keep focused on tangible adjustments or changes that are within your power. Marginal gains count for a lot. And when you can aggregate them it can feel like the dial is turning. Capture these small shifts and share them. Even the anecdotes which are often helpful indications of shifts in perceptions and mindsets.

And finally, if you’re involving another organisation in your explorations (and we would unashamedly recommend WEAll Scotland!), be open to what partnership can mean. WEAll Scotland modelled great collaboration. They didn't 'come in', appraise us and make recommendations. They sat alongside us. Sought to get to know us. They developed relationships with us, asked questions, they listened, challenged and fed back. They helped us work things out and we're becoming more focused as a result and understanding where and how we can contribute to building Scotland’s Wellbeing Economy.

Since we were founded in 1996, Foundation Scotland has distributed over £150 million in support to more than 12,000 organisations across Scotland. While the amount of funding being invested in community projects has increased over time, many of our funding programmes have been designed to meet immediate needs, responding to issues facing communities right now. While this approach can be vital, for example, during the pandemic, it rarely addresses some of the root causes of need within Scotland’s communities.  

Rachel Searle is head of communities and impact at Foundation Scotland.