Welcome – Can Do Towns

The CAN DO TOWNS Innovation Challenge Remember Phones 4U ? Or Woolworths? The rate of change in our towns has been both swift and dramatic, but that doesn't alter one basic fact: we love our towns. They are the places and spaces that provide a backdrop to our culture and history, and there are lots …

How Community Shares Saved a Village

How Community Shares Saved a Village – Almost a decade ago, a busy, historic harbour in the seaside village of Portpatrick in Dumfries & Galloway was facing a very uncertain future.

The village’s livlihood depended on the pleasure craft that the harbour attracted but, in 2007, a plan by its private owners to build a modern marina on the site was rejected by the local authority as being wholly inappropriate for the architecturally listed harbour and the village itself.


Local people got together and decided to form a trust with the aim of buying the harbour for the community and making improvements that would secure its “integrity and appearance” but would be modern enough to satisfy 21st century boat owners.

But it wasn’t until 2012 that the Trust reached an agreement with the owners to buy the harbour for £350,000 (three hundred and fifty thousand), the finanace coming from a local wind farm and a loan of £125,000 (one hundred and twenty-five thousand) from the owners themselves, to be repaid by 2015.

Fast forward to the end of 2014 and the realisation that, despite efforts to raise funds from grants and other sources, it seemed that the Trust would not be able to pay back its loan by the deadline.

At that point, Trust member Calum Currie (an offshore oil technician born and raised in Portpatrick) suggested they might be able to raise the money by selling shares in the harbour through CSS – the Community Shares Scotland scheme funded by the Big Lottery Scotland and the Carnegie UK Trust.

Locals, former residents, visitors, tourists and boat owners were so keen on the idea that, in the space of just three weeks, they’d bought enough shares to save the harbour which is now run by the Portpatrick Harbour Community Benefit Society and is being geared up for its first summer in community ownership.

Said Calum Currie, now chair of the Portpatrick Harbour Community Benefit Society: “Few investors buy community shares to make money but the Society must make sure the harbour is running at a profit so that shareholders can get their money back if they want it.”


Ex Bank Becomes Can Do Space

The sun is well and truly shining on Leith when Can Do Places pitches up at the Edinburgh Remakery, the social enterprise which recently celebrated its first anniversary, having opened for business at 127 Leith Walk (somewhat ironically in former Santander bank premises) in May 2016.

Described elsewhere as a “re-use and repair superstore”, aiming to “reinvent second-hand shopping and repair skills in the city”, it transpires that only the word “superstore” is something of an exaggeration.

The Edinburgh Remakery which is supported by funding from Zero Waste Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council, is the High Street face of Remade in Edinburgh, the social enterprise founded by Sophie Unwin in 2011 with the aims of promoting repair, reuse and recycling in the community, and zero waste.

Previously involved in setting up a remakery in London (the Brixton Remakery), Sophie had been inspired by a year spent in rural Nepal where, as part of a household of six people: “we created less than a dustbin of rubbish in a year.

And if our precious stove broke down, it would be fixed locally.

“When I got back to London, it struck me that people with fixing skills were not valued as much as they should be. This seeded the idea for creating a reuse and repair centre, with a business model of repair education.”

Fast forward, then, to present day Leith . . . where the sun is still shining and a steady stream of customers is/are (grammar – always a challenge!) visiting the Remakery where, like a normal charity shop, there is very affordable repaired and refurbished furniture for sale (£10 for a chair, anyone?) but, unlike a normal charity shop, there is also refurbished tech equipment for sale (including lap tops, keyboards and . . . OMG: an Apple mouse for just £8 and I just paid £40 for a new one!!!!) and, very unlike a normal charity shop, you can see, through a viewing wall, what’s going on in the woodwork repair room.

One customer who had come in looking for a desk also signs up for a repair surgery for her laptop which has developed a glich and she wants to find out how to sort it.

She also picks up info about an Introduction to Sewing workshop.

Another customer buys some tech stuff but, while chatting to staff member Stephanie (a full-timer who formerly worked as a fashion PR), learns that he can drop in later in the week for a talk about volunteering for the organisation.

“This could be something I could do while I’m looking for a job” he explains.


Postcard on Funding

Tips from the Can Do Places Enterprise Mash Up in August 2014: a funding and how to get it

  • Bring the passion that you have for a project with you, and allow the people with the money to see that;
  • Before you fire off an application form, talk to the funders; start a dialogue with them in the early stages, to determine if your project is a match for their funding;
  • Don’t try to tick boxes for your funders if it’s not what you’re good at. There are people out there who love ticking boxes who will do it for you.
  • When you’re looking for funding, think about what’s in it for the funders. What are they going to get in return for supporting you?
  • Funders won’t point their money at your project. You have to point your project at the funders.
  • We collected statistics every step of the way. Funders love stats.
  • You don’t always have to ask for money. We asked the council if we could use their logo on promotional material and give them a progress report once a month and they were delighted.
  • When you get turned down by a major funder, you need to think: do I quit now, or can I achieve this another way, by borrowing, bartering etc?
  • Don’t forget: it might be ‘no’ today but it could be ‘yes’ tomorrow.
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