This study was commissioned by the Scottish Government to assess the community-led regeneration approach as delivered via the People and Communities Fund ( PCF).
The research was conducted by a collaborative research team consisting of EKOS Economic and Social Research (Lead Consultant) and Avril Blamey Associates.
The PCF was launched in 2012, as the main revenue fund underpinning the Scottish Government's approach to community-led regeneration. The Fund supports local organisations to grow and strengthen by delivering outcomes that meet the identified needs and aspirations of their communities. It is exclusively for community anchor organisations  , such as Registered Social Landlords and development trusts. Other recipients have included community sports clubs and neighbourhood centres.
The purpose of the Fund is to provide revenue funding that enables projects or services to either become more self-sustaining or to deliver a lasting legacy for the local community (robust applications for capital funding are also considered). The PCF is not intended as a long-term source of funding.
Since its launch, PCF has supported hundreds of community-led projects with grant funding totalling approx. £50m. In 2015/16 this equated to 197 projects which received funding totalling £12.9m; circa £10.9m in 2016/17 for 186 existing PCF projects; and £8.6m in 2017/18 to support 169 continuation projects as a transition year for the fund.
Funded projects have covered a range of target groups and types of project activity, aligned with current core aims of tackling poverty and promoting social inclusion (including mitigation of welfare reform). This has included support for training/upskilling, community facilities, diversionary activities for young people, healthy eating initiatives, tackling fuel poverty, and employability. Projects are required to demonstrate how they will make a real difference to disadvantaged people, irrespective of whether they live in an urban or rural area. The study was aware of the thematic diversity of the projects when reviewing the ToC and when assessing achievement.
Applicants must demonstrate compliance with a number of eligibility criteria, including a track record of successful project delivery in the community and crucially, community control and/or community representation within the organisation's decision making structures. The emphasis on community control and community representations within applicant organisations is a unique aspect of the PCF approach. As such, PCF funding is designed to support those community organisations with experience in the community-enagement and co-production process.
The existing community-engagement structures have also had an impact on the type of delivery models used in PCF projects depending on their specific circumstances.
The principle aim of this research study was to 'Explore the effectiveness of the community-led approach, as delivered through the PCF, in contributing to positive and sustainable change for individuals'.
The study brief identified the following study objectives, to:
- 'Test' if the PCF approach is operating as intended;
- Identify mechanisms used to deliver PCF activity;
- Evidence where and how the PCF approach contributed to change;
- Use evidence to inform understanding for whom the approach works/does not work, and why;
- Explore the circumstances and context for results to emerge/or not (including unexpected results); and
- Understand the role of barriers and enablers in delivery, why and for whom.
The required fieldwork was implemented with a sample of 12 PCF projects, each managed by a different community organisation, together with their target communities/groups and partner organisations.
A comprehensive fieldwork programme including consultations with stakeholders, volunteers, and beneficiaries involving face to face, group and individual telephone interviews being undertaken.
The report is structured as follows:
- Chapter 2: 'Study method and who was involved' provides an overview of the study methods and research tools used, the sample frame of projects and concludes with a reflection of study issues experienced.
- Chapter 3: 'Projects' offers a summary of each project included in the research.
- Chapter 4: 'Co-production approaches' presents a number of co-production models that have been identified on the basis of the research findings.
- Chapter 5: 'How participants benefited from PCF' describes the key findings from the research distinguishing between developments in co-production and community engagement, perceived achievements and unexpected results. The Chapter further discusses some of the more detailed outcomes at programme level by participant group.
- Chapter 6: 'Theory of Change and What lies at the Heart of PCF Implementation' offers some insight into the detailed approach of Realist Evaluation, starting with the review of the Theory of Change of the PCF, and progressing to some detailed analysis of the research findings articulating evolving realist theories.
- Chapter 7: Conclusions and Recommendations is structured in line with the study objectives, bringing together the key findings of the overall research. Recommendations are highlighted in text boxes.
- A number of Appendices provide detailed methodology descriptions, further detailed research findings, mainly in the form of graphs and tables.
- In addition, five Case Studies have been produced (available in a separate document).
There are a number of audiences who are potentially interested in the findings of this report. This includes the Scottish Government as funder of the Programme, community organisations, other stakeholders such as relevant partner organisations, and other strategic players interested in developing co-production initiatives to help improve their service delivery or Corporate Social Responsibilities policies.
While the report focuses on the key findings, an appendix provides further detail for those audiences who are interested in the more technical detail of the research method and detailed findings.