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Empowering Communities

Empowering Communities is a pilot project designed to provide Community Councils in Orkney the opportunity to influence and shape the policies that affect the county's fragile island communities.

The Orkney Islands Council led initiative centres around the concept that local input can provide a new way to support and develop communities across Orkney, leading to services which are more responsive to local demand, while also creating a more efficient means of delivery for the Council.

Whitehall Village, Stronsay, from the air. Image by Colin Keldie.

Whitehall village, Stronsay, Orkney. credit Colin Keldie

The unique partnership approach of Empowering Communities supports the Orkney Community Planning Partnership’s Single Outcome Agreement with the Scottish Government, especially National Outcome 11:

“We have strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others.”

It is anticipated that there could also be significant opportunities for other local community groups to contribute to, and benefit from, this innovative approach.

How it works

The key objectives of Empowering Communities are to develop and assess options which will:

  • Increase employment opportunities in island communities.
  • Up-skill the island based workforce.
  • Increase sustainability through building capacity to manage and deliver local services and improve access to services.
  • Enable locally based community groups to work together to maximise the potential benefits to island residents.
  • Create efficiencies in terms of resource and/or cost.

In practical terms, this could mean:

  • Enabling Community Councils to take greater responsibility for the management and delivery of Council services in their area.
  • Reducing the use of contractors for Council services and instead finding ways to foster and develop local skills, or use local businesses to carry out the same work or services.

How it came about

The project was borne out of response to the feedback from OIC’s Tough Times Tough Choices public consultation sessions held in 2010 where responses suggested that Community Councils should play a greater role in administering Council services - as an alternative to reducing the Council services provided.

From there, the Council arranged a feasibility study and prepared a business plan, identifying the resources required to establish pilots within two island communities. Community Council’s fed into this process by identifying a range of skills available in each community. Following a thorough evaluation process, Papa Westray and Stronsay were identified as being the best placed communities to participate in the first stage of the pilot.

Where we are now

In partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the Council has established a centrally-based project liaison officer. The Council has also funded an ‘Island Link Officer’ on each of the two pilot islands.

A ‘Community Office’ has been established on each island – in the former library at the Papay Schoolhouse, and the Fish Mart, Stronsay. These offices provide a base for the Link Officer, offering some of the services provided by the Council’s main Customer Services team on ‘the mainland’, in Kirkwall. The Community Offices also provides working facilities for Council officers visiting the island.

Work is ongoing now to explore the options for extending the pilot to further island communities.

Find out more

Contact Orkney Islands Council’s Democratic Services team on 01856873535 or email Maureen Spence, Democratic Services Manager.

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