Written by: Kylie Fagan and Julie Adair of Common Good First
The first speaker was Danielle Trudeau, a North Carolina ex-pat and social entrepreneur, who became familiar with the sector in and around Scotland whilst working for Senscot. She then took the plunge and created her own social enterprise, Tribe Porty, in 2013 – a co-working space to enable ‘good people to do good things’. It acts as a community space, a creative hub and office space for individuals looking to work in a flexible, open environment. Members so far include artists, filmmakers, writers and photographers as well as hosting a range of musical groups, exercise classes, a youth theatre, up-cycling activities and mother and baby groups within the Portobello-based community space. The hub is used for regular events and projects such as TEDx Portobello, a local, self-organized event originating from the global phenomena that is TED/TED Talks. This was held in May this year, was run entirely by volunteers and showcased a wide range of speakers all nominated by local people. The success of the day (tickets sold out in 4 minutes!) ensured that this event is now planned to be an annual occasion, with discussions well under way for the 2016 programme.
While co-working opportunities become more and more popular in big cities, this space in Portobello takes it beyond the traditional city centre venue. Dani’s vision is based on speaking to people, understanding what they want and building the strategy from that. Her takeaway advice? Be open to other people’s thoughts and insights – and keep going.
Next up on the Melting Pot’s line-up was Pauline Gallagher from the Neilston Development Trust, a trained planner and architect – and key driving force behind one of Scotland’s most successful community development trusts. As part of developing the Neilston Development Trust, Pauline wanted a grassroots-led strategy, informed and directed by community voices. To put in practise they held two public meetings, full to brim with local people in 2004 – and the seeds of the Trust were born.
They have tackled many community issues over the course of their lifetime from utilising Community Right to Buy legislation to purchase the old Bank in 2006 and transforming it into a community space, café and an office for the Trust itself – to the development of the Neilston Community Windfarm, aimed at reducing the Town’s carbon footprint and generating a sustainable source of revenue to fund a wide range of community projects.
Fundamental to the success of these projects, and the Trust in general, lies within the bottom-up approach taken to every project and every development. In talking to communities about how they want their spaces to be designed, and putting rigorous and robust community research at the heart of their work, the Trust has put community-led sustainable development at the very core of their work. Of course, not all of these projects or plans worked – and Pauline is open about their less successful ventures as well as their most. As part of this process, she looked at these successes and failures, developed key points of learning and these lessons publically available for others to learn from.
During her talk Pauline highlighted the particular challenges involved trying to develop – and communicate – innovative solutions to audiences that were sceptical, unconfidence and cynical of success. In her mind, challenging this rhetoric is key to placemaking. It’s about proposing change, accepting the challenge in doing that, listening to the nay-sayers – and then trying to break down silos.
The third and final speaker of the night, Gehan MacLeod, introduced us to her work at the Galgael Trust. Her background is interesting, she cut her community development teeth in protest movements – that included Faslane and the ‘Pollok Free State’ protest, where she lived up a tree for nine days to protest motorway development in and around Pollok Country Park. She cites these experiences as vital lessons in community-building and citizen empowerment that ultimately would lead to the creation of GalGael. The charity is now 20 years old and supports many individuals who are marginalized, isolated and disenfranchised within modern society. It offers a workspace for skills sharing and centres its activities on traditional boat-building and restoration – the biggest undertaken so far by the team measures 28 feet long and cam carry up to 8 lucky individuals.
Members of the project come from the local Govan community – and all over Glasgow. Gehan emphasises that the biggest challenges these individuals face lie around uncertainty and anxiety about their life and their future prospects. Galgael offers a place of safety and somewhere to stimulate self-worth. What makes a great place, she asks? Realising that you’re there to work within the culture and community of that space, not taking your organisation and strategy for granted but constantly acting to re-imagine it and grow it.
The event was sponsored by Chivas Regal (and their pretty impressive whisky sours…) and it served as a great space for sharing information about The Venture; their search to find and support aspiring social entrepreneurs across the world. With over $1 million in funding, it is hoped this competition will enable budding social entrepreneurs to realise their dream, build their business and make a positive impact on the lives of others. Applications for The Venture close at midnight on Monday 30th November 2015 – for more information, visit (and apply) here!
Many thanks to the Melting Pot for hosting their 4th successful Social Entrepreneur’s Chat Show – we’re already looking forward to next year’s event. For more information on the wider work of the Melting Pot please visit their website here.
All photos by Rob McDougall.