The Community Learning Eigg-change

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Some images courtesy of @juradevelopment

The value of Community Learning Exchanges was clear from the moment the Rural Renewal CLE in Mull was coming to an end. Every attendee asked whether it would be possible to organise further exchanges that would help strengthen the newly formed island connections. We are delighted to be able to facilitate more thanks to the funding made available through Scottish Community Alliance.

The decision was made to organise a CLE to Eigg. Many of the communities felt that visiting the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust would cater for everyone’s interests from affordable housing and renewable energy to ‘cottage industry’ and everything in-between.

Attending the Eigg CLE were representatives from Jura, Islay, Arran and Mull. There was a packed agenda spread over two days including: a tour of the island and a presentation on the buyout of the island by some of those directly involved; discussions on how the Trust enabled home ownership post-buyout through providing plots and their future affordable housing plans; a ‘walk and talk’ presentation by Eigg Electric; and a visit to some of the home based arts & crafts businesses.

Although there is a huge benefit to visiting projects and hearing first-hand how the community developed and delivered their project, the feedback from the Mull CLE was that it was equally worthwhile just having the time and opportunity to sit down and chat with other individuals involved in community development. We ensured there was plenty of time for informal chat and debate as we had booked the whole group into the Glebe Barn hostel which meant there was ample opportunity for lively discussions over lunch and dinner!

We feel that it is hugely beneficial for individuals involved in community development to be able to share with each other their successes AND their worries and frustrations without having to answer the question “So what is it you actually do?”. Don’t just take our word for it, however…

“At the first event in Mull we were genuinely astonished at the near identical issues encountered on all the islands represented. Many of us found we were working in different ways and expending a great deal of time and effort to achieve solutions which may already have been found elsewhere. The knowledge gained at these events has been invaluable on Arran and many of our advances could not have been made without these gatherings – or at the very least would have taken much longer.” –Barry Mochan, Chairman of Arran Development Trust

From a personal point of view, I found these exchanges to be of particular importance to myself as a lone worker with regards to energising and inspiring ideas, collecting essential contacts for future projects and building my own confidence in the role – a detail not to be undervalued in community
development work. Motivation aside, it is reassuring to know that ‘we are not alone’ in the challenges we face as Island Communities, and can comfortably work together where we can.” –
Amy Dunnachie, Local Development Officer, Jura Development Trust