Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn
Galson Estate Trust
Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn (Galson Estate Trust) was established in 2007 to manage the Galson Estate on the Isle of Lewis for and on behalf of the community. The 56,000 acre estate comprises of 22 villages running from Upper Barvas to Port of Ness with a population of nearly 2,000 people.
The Trust’s overarching vision is to build a sustainable future for the communities of the estate by making best use of the estate assets for community benefit. The development of the Wind Turbines at Ballantrushal coupled with income from commercial developments provides the Trust with an income stream. This Community Investment Fund enables the Trust to give back to the community. They engage with the community in as many ways as possible, most recently through their strategic plan.
The Trust carried out a ‘Community Conversation’ consultation for their Strategic Plan 2017-2037. This plan was developed through extended consultation activities designed with integrity and was ‘meaningful, real and fun!’ They viewed this process as a re-engagement with the community they served, it was not just about the data collection but genuine relationship-building.
The process involved a series of group discussions and workshops with cross-sections of the community and with a range of interest groups. The emerging priorities from these events were developed into a household survey which was made available to all homes on the Estate both online and in hard copy. A sample of households across the Estate, covering a mix of ages and location, were also interviewed in person to gain a more detailed insight into their survey responses.
The Trust actively sought engagement with young people through a young people’s online survey and running a ‘future visioning’ workshop for the local primary school using creative methods of engagement aimed specifically at the age group.
Achievements and Benefits
It is fundamental that the community is engaged in the Trust’s decision-making process through ongoing consultations and communication. The engagement undertaken for the Strategic Plan, and future activities identified through this process now provide a sound foundation for shared decision-making, shared action and support for community-led projects.
The Trust understands the importance of young people in the community and strives to involve and support those living on the estate. They also understand the imperative of maintaining an understanding and support of community land ownership in terms of succession planning for the Trust, and to nurture a continued connection to the land. They have actively addressed this by specifically targeting young people in their consultation ensure that the needs and expectations of young families and young people are met as far as possible to encourage them to remain in the area.
The Trust works in partnership with many organisations and this approach saw them seek out external community engagement resources and advice. They followed the National Standards for Community Engagement throughout the strategic planning process, which was underpinned by the key principles of fairness and equality, and a commitment to learning and continuous improvement. Foundation Scotland and the Development Trust Association helped them to review other examples of community consultations so that they could learn from the wider experience of others. They also have access to Highland and Island Enterprise’s Community Account Management (CAM) ‘Growth at the Edge’ Programme.
The completion of consultation activities and the launch of the Strategic Plan did not mark the end of community engagement for the Trust. It was the beginning of shared decision-making, shared action and support for community-led action. They continue to work to build ongoing relationships and involve the wider community through various activities and events, for example, the annual ‘Dùthchas’ festival, weekly community health walks, exhibitions and open afternoons and various volunteering opportunities.
The Trust regularly meet with school / youth groups to involve and inform young people about their work within the community. They have run family outdoor sessions and a series of free to attend land-based skills workshops for residents aged under 26. The Trust is also about to embark on partnership project with John Muir Trust to further embed their commitment to listen to and support young people in their community.
Realising the importance of wider communication for their members and wider interest, they run an active professional website and social media accounts and a quarterly newsletter.
The Trust’s ‘Strategic Plan’ is a living, flexible planning document. The process of engaging the community gives the Trust the confidence that they are working towards the needs and aspirations the community have identified. They now hold a joint vision as a community and the Trust have a measurable plan of how to work to deliver that vision.
Find Out More
Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn
Tom na Bà
Isle of Lewis, HS2 0SH