Bridging the SDGs: Citizens towards Sustainable Development

We're pleased to be partnering with Insights US on an exciting new project aimed at generating action-led advice from citizens, to support sustainable economic development within UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

A bit about Insights US... Insights was founded to help decision makers make better decisions that advance our collective welfare. They believe that governments, businesses, local authorities, NGOs and communities require more inclusive decision-making to solve problems and deliver change. The Insights online platform enables communities to promote their collective well-being through their collective wisdom and participation. 

And we aim to do just that - by bridging citizens with the high profile but often intangible UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) we will collate activities, ideas, and the collective wisdom of citizens and other key stakeholders on how they can be supported to take an effective role in progress towards the UN SDGs.

We'll be inviting participants to offer their thoughts and ideas on a specific question (officially released with the launch on the 31st August). We are focusing this engagement on UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, areas dedicated to testing new approaches towards sustainable development where people and the environment co-exist in harmony. 

UNESCO Biospheres welcome local community participation and involvement. They promote innovative approaches to sustainable economic development that fit within diverse social cultural contexts. They celebrate ecological and cultural diversity through collaboration, research and education. The Lima Action Plan, which sets out a global agenda for UNESCO Biospheres for the next ten years, recognises the contribution of entrepreneurs and social enterprises to the Biosphere (C6). With over 600 Biosphere Reserves worldwide, there is a wealth of knowledge and experience to showcase sustainable living around the world.

We will be reaching out to local people, social entrepreneurs, social enterprises, business owners, to biosphere managers, and local authorities. The insights generated will then be collated into a Community Insights Report for decision-makers and citizens and will be available on the open-access OASIIS Platform.


Bridging the SDGs launches on August 31st; watch this space!


With the financial support of the EU

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Engaging Community Assets to tackle Social Isolation

In recent years there has been an increased interest and awareness about the issue of social isolation and loneliness.  At the end of last year Voluntary Health Scotland published a briefing paper identifying 'Loneliness: [as] a threat to Scotland's Health'. It focuses on what makes a difference in reducing loneliness and improving physical as well as mental health. In response to this challenging issue, the Scottish Government committed to developing a Loneliness and Isolation Strategy.

Linking in with this current debate is the Engaging Community Assets project we were involved in with the Royal College of GPs and funded by the Scottish Government (2012-2014) . The project also focused on better health and social care integration and therefore seems very current and relevant in terms of its findings and outcomes;

One of the main findings from the project was that there was an underlying issue of social isolation (...) identified by each of the communities.

The project successfully used social capital to build local relationship networks and engaged with social enterprises to enable partnership working as well as share best practice. The project also

developed a model that could be adopted by other practices in Scotland which could assist them to engage local community assets, focusing on this universal issue [of loneliness] initially.

View the project summary here >>


6th Social Capital World Forum

Learning Villages: Connecting City and Citizens

Older men reading with child _ Shutterstock pictureWhat is a Learning Village

Based on the successful ‘test drive’ of the idea of Learning Villages at the 5th Social Capital World Forum in 2013 where we aimed at creating a space for ‘Creating Abundant Communities’ grounded in the approaches of social capital, sustainable development and participatory processes, in 2016 we want to bring the idea of Learning Villages to three communities across Europe: Glasgow (Scotland), Gothenburg (Sweden) and Dornbirn (Austria) as part of the 6th Social Capital World Forum to bring together and connect the 'Cities and their Citizens'.

The overall aim of the Learning Villages is to explore new ways and methodologies to foster social capital, trust and collaboration within communities to support them in building their own capacities and skills on inclusive local decision-making processes and policies which will enable those communities to come together and also bridge the exiting gaps between public bodies and their local citizens. The Learning Villages are meant to demonstrate that this kind of collaboration and co-production can provide a replicable model for local delivery through community-led initiatives.


If you would like to apply for the April Learning Village in Glasgow please contact For more information on the individual Learning Villages, visit our Social Capital World Forum Website:

You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter (@AssistSocCap) under #LearningVillage #SCWF2016 #Glasgow #CityandCitizens #SocialCapital

The next SCWF will be hosted in 2016 as a series of three 'Learning Villages' in

  • Scotland, 8-9th April
  • Sweden, 16-17th Sep
  • Austria, 25-26th Nov

Social Enterprise and Biosphere Reserve Event in Scotland – Featured BR: Lake Vänern

Lake Vänern Archipelago Biosphere Reserve, Sweden

As part of our Social Enterprise and Biosphere Reserve Event in Scotland at the end of the month, we are featuring some of the attendees biosphere reserves who are already working with this approach. As mentioned in our first article, the event is hosted by Assist Social Capital and co-facilitated by Colin Campbell (Assist Social Capital) and Johanna MacTaggart who is the coordinator of MAB Sweden and the Lake Vänern Archipelago Biosphere Reserve.

Lake Vanern BR -Sweden- LogoAbout the Biosphere Reserve

The Archipelago and Mount Kinekulle became an UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve in 2010. It is covers part of the Lake Vänern drainage basin and involves three local municipalities encompassing an area of ca. 278.600 hectare with about 75.000 inhabitants. The Biosphere Reserve itself is run as a non-profit organisation.

(get more info on the BR here)

A socio-environmentally responsive business model

As one of the largest inland lakes and fresh water reserves within Europe, Lake Vänern also has one of the largest fishing fleets. The sustainability of this ecosystem is crucial for the region to ensure clean water, a healthy fish population and food quality. This aspect of sustainable livelihoods alongside maintaining biodiversity provides a common ground for collaboration from  industries as differing as Ecotourism and Fisheries. Along the same line Social entrepreneurship provides the local economy with a business model directly deriving from social as well as environmental challenges. This provides an innovative and entrepreneurial approach responsive to socio-environmental as well as socio-economic needs in the region.

Additionally, stakeholder collaboration has been encouraged in the region to ensure that local decision-makers, businesses and civil society can overcome issues through taking joint responsibility on developing, ensuring and maintaining the Lake Vänern Biosphere.


Social Media Icons - Commons PictureYou can also contribute to and/or follow our conversations on the event and the related issues on Facebook and Twitter @AssistSocCap under #SEBRScotland #Biosphere Reserves #WCBRLima #Social Enterprise


Our Development Framework

Social Enterprise and Biosphere Reserves Event in Scotland II

Towards a World MAB Social Enterprise Strategy (2016-2025)

SCOTLAND, as announced a few weeks ago Assist Social Capital will be hosting a conference on social enterprise and biosphere reserves at the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Reserve. The meeting is aimed at bringing national as well as international participants from biosphere reserves together to contribute to the MAB Action Plan 2016-2015 which will be launched in Lima next year.

UNESCO 4th WCBR LimaA new Action Plan for the WNBR

The aim of the 4th World Congress of Biosphere Reserves is to create a post-2015 agenda for the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR). Therefore, the Madrid Action Plan for Biosphere Reserves (2008-2013) as well as the Seville Strategy and the Statutory Framework (1995) will be reviewed to identify and discuss progress made, lessons learnt and old as well as new challenges for the WNBR. The expected outcome of the congress is to create the Lima Declaration and the Lima Action Plan for 2016-2025 which will outline the role of biosphere reserves for sustainable development over the next decade.

Including Social Enterprise in the new Action Plan

As sustainable development aims at achieving a balance between social, economic as well as environmental factors, social enterprise provide a valuable solution as they are value-based businesses which reinvest their profits in social and environmental benefits to their local as well as wider communities. Therefore, we already have developed the Social Enterprise & Biosphere Reserves Development Framework as part of our work with a EuroMAB working group aiming at introducing the concept of social enterprise into biosphere reserves. Together with our partners in Europe but also further abroad in Canada and Asia, we have worked on bringing this idea into the WNBRs.

Social Media Icons - Commons PictureYou can also contribute to and/or follow our conversations on the event and the related issues on Facebook and Twitter @AssistSocCap under #SEBRScotland #Biosphere Reserves #WCBRLima #Social Enterprise


Our Development Framework

Social Enterprise and Biosphere Reserve Event in Scotland

Network Meeting on Social Enterprise and Biosphere Reserves


Assist Social Capital - Man and the Biosphere Event - ASCSCOTLAND, from the 28th – 30th October Assist Social Capital CIC (ASC) will facilitate this event to bring together various national and international stakeholders from biosphere reserves to discuss the topic of social enterprise and biosphere reserves. The meeting is aimed at supporting a new vision for Biosphere Reserves for inclusive Sustainable Development for the upcoming 4th World Congress of Biosphere Reserves in Lima, Peru, 14th – 17th March 2016.

The event will be co-hosted by Colin Campbell (ASC, Scotland) and Johanna MacTaggart (Swedish National BR Coordinator) at the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Reserve with representatives from Scotland, England, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Vietnam and South Korea attending. Among the topics discussed will be on how to create an open and collective response to introducing social enterprises in biosphere reserves to support sustainable economic and social development.

Another main aim is to establish and further develop north-south bridges between the different biosphere reserves and to create a thematic network on social enterprise in the biosphere reserve context where participants can exchange knowledge and learn from each other’s experiences on active involvement of local businesses and communities in the biosphere reserve.

To further explore some of the topics and aspects relevant to the meeting, we will publish a short news article every week until the event in October.


Social Media Icons - Commons PictureYou can also follow our conversation about the event and on related topics on Facebook and Twitter @AssistSocCap   under  #SEBRScotland #BiosphereReserves #WCBRLima  #SocialEnterprise   








On Biosphere Reserves

Our Development Framework

SEBR Framework Document - Cover Page

>Read More<


Community Consultation on Anti-Poverty in Glenrothes this Saturday!


This Saturday, 26th September 2015, Assist Social Capital facilitates a Community Consultation event on Anti-Poverty in the Glenrothes Area (Glenrothes town and the surrounding villages of Leslie, Markinch, Coaltown of Balgonie, Milton of Balgonie, Thornton and Kinglassie), Fife.

The event provides an opportunity for all people who live, work and volunteer in the local area to get involved in developing an anti-poverty action plan for the Glenrothes area. 

The aim of the event is to;
• Highlight good practice in Glenrothes area
• Identify specific actions/changes which would make a positive difference
• Integrate local ambitions on tackling poverty

The event location is the Rothes Halls starting at 11:30

Social Media Icons - Commons Picture

For more information on the event and to secure a place contact: 01592 583474 or ... or just drop in on Saturday

You can also follow our conversation on the topic online @AssistSocCap and @Glentogether or get involved with #Glentogether #anti-poverty

‘Swim School in a Box’ News

Get your swim school out of the box with your own ‘Swim School in a Box’


We are delighted to announce that we are offering two Swim Schools in a Box, valued at several thousands of pounds, for free!

Swim School in a Box’ is a fully integrated online platform aimed at community-led sport clubs and social enterprises, who want to start or are already running a swim school and who are looking for a suitable online-based website and administrative / management system.

ASC has developed the ‘Swim School in a Box’ with support from the Big Lottery’s Young Start fund. If you are interested apply to us with a short description of your Swim School and why you should get the Swim School in a Box.

The deadline for applications is Friday, 31st JULY 2015.

Not sure and what to know more about the Swim School in a Box before you apply? Click here  for more information.



Creating a Fairer Scotland

As part of  the 'Creating a Fairer Scotland' discussion about how we can create a more equal and fairer Scotland to live in, we have written a blog on one of our past projects- the Monday Club


Connecting Communities and Older People: Social Capital as Critical Resource to Community Wellbeing

By Claudia Fernández, Assist Social Capital CIC (


There is no question that that Scotland’s demographics have drastically changed during the last few decades with an ‘aging’ overall population. People are living longer and healthier lives whilst fewer children are born. This trend is putting growing pressure on the current system of health provision through the NHS.

At the same time, older people increasingly want to remain independent at home and actively involved in the decision-making of the care they receive. Social isolation is an additional challenge that this age group faces in today’s highly mobile society where families are often located far away from each other. Social isolation and loneliness are known to have a significantly negative effect on health and quality of life.

The conversation around a fairer and more equal Scotland for older people should not only be around restructuring health care, but also about how we can provide the space for older citizens to continue to be actively engaged and included in our communities.

An important aspect the new care model on ‘Reshaping Care for Older People’ mentions the need for a shift towards a more preventative, community-based and enabling approach overall.

So, what needs to be done to achieve this goal?

The ‘Linthouse Monday Club’ in the Govan area of Glasgow is an example of a project that set out to find a way to do just that.

In 2011-13 Assist Social Capital (ASC), worked in partnership with Linthouse Housing Association (LHA) with funding from the Glasgow Transformation Fund, to build an effective network of relationships that would provide easier and quicker access to community and public services for older residents.

Now, you might say that there are already a multitude of those projects all over Scotland. So what makes this one so different?

Well, what we did differently is that we used social capital strategically as a critical resource to cultivate social interactions, build trusting relationships and support people to solve issues collectively. Using social capital enabled us to take an asset based approach, tapping into already existing assets for the club namely the LUV café, the local community transport organisation and Linthouse HA’s newly developed IT suite.

We placed posters in the LUV Café inviting local people over 60 to come along and join the Monday Club, where they could enjoy a healthy, low cost meal each week. After that we invited them to make suggestions about what they wanted to do and what they were interested in. As a result the Lunch Club met at the café every week, went on trips every second week where the destinations were decided by the club’s members. Finally there were IT classes which the members decided that they wanted to do to improve their computer and mobile phone skills to help them stay in touch with family and friends. The IT and mobile phone classes were based on learning circles where the group’s members decided what they wanted to learn and they predominantly taught each other. Throughout these activities we actively encouraged the members to connect with each other and to engage with the activities.


he impact on the older people of the Monday Club was that they felt more happy, healthier and better connected as the club provided them a space to socialise, learn and stay active in a fun way by only doing activities decided by themselves.

So, a critical aspect of carrying out this project was not so much the activities delivered but ‘the way’ the activities were delivered: we used participatory approaches to encourage and empower the club’s members by entrusting them to make their own decisions and allowing them shape their own space.

And most importantly, as we knew the funding would run out, we informed the club members and they decided to become a constituted club. They are running the club themselves after ASC successfully applied for 3 grants on their behalf for activities they wished to carry out.

“It is not what they did for the people that counts most in what was achieved; it was that they led the people to ‘do for themselves’ that was really important”

Lyda Hanifan, 1916


Our Social Capital Training’s Framework is here!

 This month we are officially launching our Connecting Communities Framework

Social Capital is a critical resource for our communities' wellbeing and resilience and therefore Assist Social Capital works with organisations and communities to identify, measure and build their social capital as a critical resource.

As part of those services we are also providing social capital training  and have recently developed the Connecting Communities Framework which provides an introduction to understanding and using social capital  in practice within your community:

It provides a valuable guide covering the following main  areas:

  • What is Social Capital
  • Why is Social Capital a Critical Asset
  • How can you identify and grow Social Capital
  • How can you measure and evaluate Social Capital

 To get more information on our Connecting Communities social capital training

>  visit our webpage here 

>  or contact us