Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) researchers are working on a new project supporting the development of social spaces known as ‘sheds’ to encourage community development and evidence enhanced health and wellbeing for the people using them.
Run by community members, sheds are organisations which create spaces for people to pursue their hobbies, run community projects, spend time with those with similar interests, learn and share new skills, and enable others who may be isolated and lonely to engage in activities such as education and training initiatives.
In addition to engaging with new social activities helping to reduce social isolation and loneliness, sheds introduce people to other community networks and, as such, can help to develop social capital and enhance community resilience. By providing opportunities for volunteering and income generation, it is argued that sheds enhance employability skills, increase self-esteem, build a sense of identity/value by being productive, and encourage confidence to facilitate a return to work.
The Sheds for Sustainable Development project, led by Dr Artur Steiner, Lecturer in Social Entrepreneurship in the University’s Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health, aims to design mechanisms for sustainable community development through creating sheds that are both financially and socially sustainable. As such, the project aims to tackle some socio-economic challenges and contribute to creating stronger, healthier and more resilient communities.
Dr Steiner will work with a group of sheds to identify the development and entrepreneurial challenges they face and the opportunities they have for training and employment, and explore the impact of sheds on participants’ health and wellbeing. Through a series of workshops, the team will provide evidence to a wide group of stakeholders including practitioners, health providers, social workers and governments.
The project is funded through the Big Lottery Fund, which exists to help communities and people most in need and supports projects which bring people together, create understanding, help people think about their future and reduce isolation.
Dr Steiner said: “This exciting project is embedded in community-based activities and aims to support community sheds though collaborative work between practitioners and academics. We want to make real positive impact and contribute to the development of sustainable sheds. We will do that by considering community views about shed practices and combining that with expert knowledge. The project will bring social innovation into play through co-designing and introducing new solutions to address selected community challenges.”