Leith Links - Bringing the Community Together

Table top discussions about project ideas

Table top discussions about project ideas

The afternoon of on Saturday 11th March saw a celebration of all that is good in Leith as a large team of community volunteers was organised by Leith Links Community Council to host a social voting day.  People gathered, chatted and found out what was happening in Leith. Hundreds of votes were cast amid a lot of socialising.

Jill Williamson thought it a really successful event, telling us “It’s been great, a really good opportunity to network and meet new people and get involved in the community a lot more.”

There were no public pitches for votes; this was a low stress day (for everyone other than the organisers), with a constant ebb and flow of people dropping in and out around their Saturday activities. Muddy football boots didn’t cause a stir when a school football coach arrived with an excited gaggle of young players.  Tea and coffee was always on the go, enjoyed in social café areas with community groups dotted around the room. Some groups ranactivities, while some offered ‘bribes’ of fresh fruit or cakes. Others simply displayed their name and talked to people about their ideas for a project.

Keeping it Simple
A voter left a comment saying: “I love how simple and low fuss today has been.  It’s always better to keep things as simple as possible...  Having four votes to share is the best way to go.”

Leith Links residents, aged eight or over, were greeted at the door of Leith St. Andrews where they were registered. With hands freshly stamped, participants were invited to wander round the lower hall and chat to the projects and people bidding for up to £400. Each person was given four votes to spread across projects, while only being able to vote once for each idea. This meant there was an onus on speaking to all the projects.  If voters liked what they heard they collected a voting card from that project’s table and simply popped it into the polling box.  The same process was repeated in the upper hall for projects who were looking for larger sums of up to £2,000.

In total, 192 people cast 1467 votes St Andrew’s Church halls, with many more voting online.  The £15,500 pot was then divided amongst the most popular projects with an evening celebration event where funding is announced later in the week. So far so simple, but the really good stuff seemed to happen in between voting.

Come to vote, stay to volunteer

Social voting was the selling point of the day but it seemed increasingly that people were really buying into the projects on show.  Debbie Douglas, was asking for funds for ‘All Together Edinburgh’, an organisation creating opportunities for people with learning disabilities.  She saw a benefit beyond the funding, stating: “this is a great event to raise the profile of the projects that are here and it’s a good chance for the community to find some more information about what’s going on in the area”.

David Hamilton, from Leith Links, agreed: “It’s a great event, helps people get engaged with projects and find out what’s going on in the local community.”

Carla Acheson was a striking example of the added benefit of social voting.  Having recently moved to Leith she was helping out with the event to get to know people and projects in the community before deciding which to volunteer with.  Taking a break from serving tea and cake, Carla told us: “I’m quite new to Edinburgh so I’ve come to get familiar with the community. I’d definitely come to more in the future.”

Votes are in

Feedback from participants

Feedback from participants

One tweek was suggested for future events. Debbie Douglas noted that it cost time and money for projects to attend voting events like this and suggested each group taking part be given a small award to recognise their costs and time. She asked: “Could every project that takes part get a bit of a participation fee of maybe £100 to cover some of their costs of printing or leafleting or covering their own project?  Even though they are raising their profile, you don’t want projects to have to pay just because they are participating.”

There was also a suggestion that groups be brought together at the screening stage to make for a more strategic offer to residents. One participant inquired:  “There were a few different litter picking projects for small areas – could we bring them together to work in a bigger area? Win win?”

At the end of a busy day our evaluation wall was filled with positive comments, including:

"Very good Brilliant!"
"Great to discover other projects even if you've come to support one"
"Good mix of age groups"
"Really good event, highlights all the amount of work in Leith"

Out of 47 people who returned evaluations, 97% rated the event as good and 95% told us that they’d like to see more money given out in this way.

Overall, a great day, summed up by the following comment: “To involve the community in decision making is a fundamental right and a great opportunity for a fairer society.”

David Hamilton said goodbye and told us: “You get a lot of bang for your buck with events like this; small amounts of money make a big impact in the local area.”