Helping to make lasting change

P26 grassmarket cafe team

Jonny Kinross details the Grassmarket Community Project's approach to creating community 

TFN Guest's photo

17th February 2020 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

The Grassmarket Community Project (GCP) takes an innovative approach to creating community, drawing on and building up the skills and talents of each individual. Through a mixture of social enterprises and activities, a wide variety of opportunities are offered in a nurturing, supportive environment. These engender a person-centred approach, with each individual able to engage according to their own needs, interests and abilities.

While the GCP provides support and services primarily for people who register as community members, it is open to everyone through “open door” meals, targeted at those dealing with homelessness or vulnerably housed, volunteering, weekly community cinema screenings and many private and public events held at the Grassmarket Centre throughout the year. This creates a rich and diverse community with a wide variety of skills, assets and resources available, both from within the community and in partnership with others. Everyone involved helps to transform lives and promote an inclusive society in which everyone can truly participate.

GCP works with a wide group of people who face multiple disadvantages that have significant impact on their health, wellbeing and levels of social isolation. The community is growing, with over 600 members (compared to 100 in 2012) and around 130 individuals attending each month. Members are referred by other agencies, including NHS community practice nurses, DWP job coaches, GPs, social workers, carers and charities. Often the support other agencies can provide is limited to a particular circumstance or condition, and that support might be time limited. The GCP uses a social enterprise model to allow staff, volunteers and the wider community members to walk alongside each individual for as long as it takes, helping them make lasting changes and improve their quality of life.

Jonny Kinross

Jonny Kinross

A dynamic member’s activity programme provides opportunities for learning and social engagement, which help individuals develop confidence and enhance life skills. Each week this delivers a variety of practical (literacy, cooking, gardening), creative (drama, music, art, writing), physical (hillwalking, table tennis) and group-work (stress and anxiety, focus groups) activities. Members attending receive a free meal each day. For some this is their only meal that day, for many it is their only freshly prepared, balanced meal. Regular day trips, residential retreats and other events also help provide respite from the pressures of daily life and broaden horizons.

The community includes six social enterprises: wood furniture-making, tartan textiles, events, a café and two offsite catering operations. These provide opportunities for placements, training and employment for individuals furthest from mainstream employment and training opportunities. Learning includes accredited training (SQA modules) and “on the job” experience that develops specific role-related technical skills and a grounding in more broad work-related ethics. The GCP also develops successful partnerships in many forms, using other social enterprises in its supply chain, partnering with charities for delivery of services and providing services to organisations in the public, private, charity and social enterprise sectors.

Ultimately, the GCP seeks to reduce social isolation, improve quality of life, increase employability and create employment.

Jonny Kinross is chief executive of the Grassmarket Community Project. GCP can be found at stand 92 at The Gathering.