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An Evaluation of Community Involvement in the Ferguslie Park Partnership - Research Findings

DescriptionThis study examines the nature and extent of community involvement in Ferguslie Park Partnership and the effectiveness of the system of participation.
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 29, 1998
Environment Research Programme Research Findings No. 3 (1994)
An Evaluation of Community Involvement in the Ferguslie Park Partnership


Publisher The Scottish OfficePrice £5.00
The terms of reference of the study were to examine the nature and extent of community involvement in the Partnership and to assess the effectiveness of the system of participation. The work involved an analysis of the extent to which the Partnership had encouraged the participation of the community, as well as the degree to which the community had sought participation. The brief required the researchers to examine the nature, extent and success of community involvement in decision-making (at Partnership Board and other levels), how the community organised itself, its representation in Partnership structures and the degree of influence it had.
Main Findings
  • Involvement in the Partnership is only one of many ways in which Ferguslie people participate in the life of their community. In the remaining years of the Partnership it will be important to encourage and support the strengthening of community and voluntary organisations in the area so that they are well equipped to sustain and extend the positive momentum already created by the work of the Partnership. The importance of the Community Forum as a vehicle for bringing together diverse community interest should not be underestimated. Many urban areas have not succeeded in creating such an organisation. It is important that the skills and capabilities of the Forum should be further strengthened, particularly on matters of resource management and inter-agency negotiation.
  • The 4-part pledge made by the partners in 1988 remains only partially fulfilled. There is further work to be done in order to follow through the full intentions of the pledge, and to turn these into durable benefits for Ferguslie Park and its people.
  • One of the hopes of the Partnership is to achieve 'greater local commitment to action and greater community responsibility'. Progress towards this goal was hard to assess in such a short study. There has never been a shortage of community determination to improve life in Ferguslie. Yet, on the question of the growth of community responsibility, it would be useful to establish some reasonably objective and measurable indicators to help determine the degree to which this has been achieved. A list of such indicators is included in the report.
  • Given the complexity of the work of the Partnership and the immense challenges which lie ahead, the staff (seconded or employed) may benefit from opportunities to develop some of their management skills. Similarly, the community leaders may reap rewards from a planned investment in management and leadership training.
  • The community organisations, and in particular the Community Forum, need to become more resourceful, more financially independent of public grant-aid, and more effectively connected to Scottish and UK urban regeneration networks. The Business Support Group might play a role in helping to access sources of charitable and private funding for urban community development
The Scottish Office, which has had 25 years experience of supporting initiatives to tackle urban deprivation, has become increasingly appreciative of the need to involve local communities in regeneration. The publication of New Life for Urban Scotland in 1988 marked the start of a concerted attempt to focus resources in a comprehensive way, and over a 10-year period, on some of Scotland's most deprived urban housing schemes. One lesson learned from earlier initiatives was that 'plans for the regeneration of problem areas must have the full understanding, involvement and commitment of the local community'.
The community of Ferguslie Park has been involved in attempts to regenerate the area for many years. Previous research noted that 'community involvement has helped historically to bring attention and investment to Ferguslie Park' and, in the context of EU-funding initiatives, Ferguslie Park has been cited as an exemplary model of how 'residents act as agents for local development'.
The Ferguslie Park Partnership, established in 1989, was built around 3 key principles:
  • involvement of the local community in the regeneration process, and encouraging residents to take responsibility for their neighbourhoods;
  • inclusion of the private sector in order to break down the economic isolation of the area;
  • an integrated approach to economic, social and physical regeneration, delivered through a long-term partnership.
The Partnership consists of 12 organisations, including public agencies, a private business group and 2 locally-based organisations, including the Ferguslie Park Community Forum. Almost all the organisations, including the community, have maintained bi-lateral relations with most of the other partners, outside the formal structure of the Partnership. In the first 5 years of the Partnership, 6 new organisations have been set up in Ferguslie Park to deliver services and achieve the objectives outlined in the original regeneration strategy, produced in 1989. These bodies are concerned with training, employment and enterprise development, sport, recreation and leisure, environmental improvement and management, child care services, support for innovation, and the management of a major new Civic Centre.
A history of regeneration in Ferguslie Park
Ferguslie Park is a housing estate on the north-western edge of Paisley, Scotland. It was built as a series of housing projects between 1926 and 1966, reaching a peak of 3,500 dwellings, with a population of 13,500. By the early 1960's Ferguslie's fortunes went sharply into reverse, matching the decline of the area's main industrial employers - textiles, shipbuilding and car manufacture. Though geographically well positioned, Ferguslie Park was always socially isolated, a factor reinforced by public housing allocation policies which concentrated many of the district's poorest families in the area. By 1988 the population had fallen to 5,600; 39% of households were headed by a single parent, and unemployment had exceeded 30%.
Ferguslie Park had been the subject of previous attempts at regeneration - the Community Development Project (1972-77), Area for Priority Treatment policies (from 1979), Community Business initiatives (from 1980), Ferguslie Park Area Initiative (1984-1988), and Renfrew District Council's housing investment programmes. But, despite their efforts, none had succeeded in reversing the steady decline of the previous 25 years.
In 1988, The Scottish Office launched New Life for Urban Scotland which established 4 new Government-led Partnerships, one of which was to be based in Ferguslie Park. The aim was to show how the lessons of successful inner-city renewal the late 1970's and 1980's, could be adapted to revive some of the most deprived peripheral housing estates. Over several months, a 10-year strategy for the regeneration of Ferguslie Park was developed in collaboration with the local community, which set out a pattern for how the area might be improved in physical, social and economic terms.
One of the reasons that Ferguslie Park was selected as a Partnership area was the existence of vibrant community organisations with a track record of previous commitment to the improvement of the area. Tenants' associations had existed since the 1930's; the area had often elected independent councillors to the local authority, and a community-wide federation of tenants organisations had been in existence since 1972. The Ferguslie League of Action Groups (FLAG) had emerged as the dominant representative body for the community by the mid-1970's, and continued to perform that function well into the 1990's.
FLAG had its own staff, offices, and representative structure, and a constituency which comprised tenants' associations, the elderly forum, community businesses and the sports committee. Initially, FLAG earned a reputation as a politicised organisation, running campaigns against housing demolition and the Poll Tax. But it was more than a campaigning vehicle, having gained the trust of the Regional Council to manage several Urban Programme-supported projects on community transport, health and holidays, worth over £120,000 per year.
The Ferguslie Park Partnership
Prior to the creation of the Partnership, the 2 local authorities had already adopted an integrated approach to tackling the problems of Ferguslie Park, which included the commitment to involve the community in policy making and implementation. The Scottish Office initiative had an opportunity to build on what had already been started. Initially, unpopularity and mistrust of the government's motives fuelled suspicions about what lay behind the initiative. The community feared that the collaboration which had been established with the local authorities might be hijacked for wider political purposes. However, The Scottish Office soon demonstrated that it was both aware of the depth of problems in Ferguslie Park and that it was able to work with, and respond to, the community's agenda.
The strategy for the area's regeneration which was prepared in the second half of 1988 was a collaborative exercise involving all the agencies and the local community. The document identified 5 'core issues' which were to be tackled - training/employment, poverty, housing, environment, and the area's image. Later, education was added as another priority issue. The focus for the first 3 years of the strategy was on physical regeneration and economic/employment issues. More recently, and largely at the community's behest, greater emphasis has been placed on social and community development.
From the outset, all the partners committed themselves to an ambitious and far-reaching pledge to:
  • maximise community involvement and community benefit;
  • allow residents to take greater control of their area;
  • involve residents fully in the regeneration process, so that they can assume increased responsibility for their own lives;
  • appoint local residents to posts directing and servicing the community's regeneration, wherever possible.
The strategic management of the Partnership is provided by the Partnership Board which brings together representatives of all partner organisations, including up to 6 members of the community and 3 local councillors, under the chair of The Scottish Office. Four permanent sub-groups are responsible for taking forward work in specific areas - housing/environment, employment/training, poverty/social issues, and eduction. The community participates in all of these.
The day to day work of the Partnership is handled by the Implementation Team, comprising staff seconded from partner agencies and people recruited directly to the Partnership. On its own, the Partnership, as such, has no legal status; it has established a number of companies to handle the implementation of its work. The community has representatives on the Boards of each of these companies.
The Ferguslie Park Community
FLAG has played a significant part in the history of Ferguslies's regeneration, having started out as a pressure group for tenants' interests, and latterly, from 1989-93, serving as the community's voice in the Partnership to renew the area. Its decision to play a full part in the Partnership's structures was not, however, without controversy. FLAG had to rebuff local Labour Party accusations of a shotgun wedding with the Torries, before it became instrumental in selling the Partnership to local people.
The sudden surge of activity following the creation of the Partnership stretched FLAG's staff and resources. FLAG's attempt to mirror the Partnership's structures in the community was over-ambitious and its claim to represent the whole community was threatened by plans to diversify housing tenure patterns. In January 1991, 2 years into the Partnership, a review group was established, with FLAG's participation, to seek ways of broadening community participation in the Partnership. The report which emerged was critical of FLAG's role and capacity, and so began a lengthy process of reorganising community involvement in Ferguslie Park.
The creation of a new structure of community representation took 2 years. Although there was resistance to change among some FLAG members, the main reason for the slow pace of change was the determination of community leaders to consult widely, and to create a structure which would command broad support and commitment. The Partnership remained determined not to interfere in the community's deliberations, but endangered itself to accusations of indifference.
Ferguslie Park Community Forum finally emerged in summer 1993, with an Executive Committee of 18, including 6 representatives from each of 3 main interest groups, a structure which bore a strong resemblance to the Craigmillar Festival Society, an active community organisation in Edinburgh. The Forum subsequently assumed FLAG's former role in the Partnership; the Partnership's Community Development Officer (a local resident) became the Forum's Chief Executive. The Forum consists of about 60 community groups. It has a salaried staff of 5 people. Its annual running costs of £127,000 are met mainly by an Urban Programme grant guaranteed for 7 years. The Forum will also take over FLAG's responsibility for the management of several Urban Programme Projects.
It is too early in the life of the Forum to asses its impact. Some changes from FLAG are evident, but there is a long way to go to broaden and deepen community participation in the work of the Partnership and its member agencies. Unlike FLAG, however, the Forum offers residents many different ways to become involved in the community, to a degree which suits their wishes and abilities.
Partnership agencies and external relations
In the short 5-year life of the Partnership, several of its member public agencies have been undergoing profound organisational, and in some cases, policy change. This process is set to continue and intensify as the 2 local authorities prepare for abolition and replacement by a single tier council. It is to the credit of the Partnership Implementation Team that they have been able to achieve substantial forward movement in spite of these factors.
Some of the agencies chose to establish a base in Ferguslie Park for the duration of the Partnership, while other shave continued to operate from their offices in Paisley, Glasgow or elsewhere. Several of those in Ferguslie feel that a base in the community has allowed them to understand better the needs and problems of the people, and to tailor their services accordingly, often in quite innovatory ways.
The two local authorities have, of course, had a longer history of working on the ground in Ferguslie Park than most of the other partners. The Regional Council's long-term strategy since the late 1970's of focusing special resources on Areas for Priority Treatment - supported by The Scottish Office through the Urban Programme - had already led to the involvement of the community in tackling some of the area's problems. The persistent and dedicated role of the District and Regional Councillors is sustaining policy commitment and resources for the regeneration of Ferguslie Park has been highly significant. So, too, has been the close relationship between the Regional Councillor and the community leaders, which has often been mutually beneficial.
Ferguslie Park was one of the founders of the Quartiers en Crise network, supported by the European Union and continues to play an active part in its work. Perceptions of the value gained from the network vary, but it is clear that Ferguslie's profile at European level, gained through participation in the network, was a major factor in winning the allocation of ERDF funding for the new Civic Centre.
Evolution of the community's role
The role of the community in a long-term partnership does not take the form of a continuum; there are periods of high activity, points of real significance, and time when the emphasis is on the steady implementation of agreed programmes. Over the course of the 10-year life of the Partnership, the role of the community changes - from initial confrontation, to a long period of partnership, and, towards the end, into a period when the community might assume new management roles as the Partnership prepares to make its exit.
The report describes 5 defining moments in the recent history of the Partnership, which together illustrate different ways in which community involvement has been expressed. These cover the development of the housing and land-use strategy, embedding the Community Forum, devising the Partnership Education Strategy and Youth Policy, and, lastly, managing the Ferguslie Part Civic Centre project. The report also details descriptions of 2 other key issues - the setting up of the Partnership and a Training and Employment strategy.
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