The report below, on Dunoon Area Alliance actvity since the start of COVID19, was produced for the recent Bute & Cowal Community Planning Partnership meeting. I hope that you find it an interesting summary of the work that our Alliance helps to support. If you would like more information on any aspect of this work please feel free to get in touch - email firstname.lastname@example.org
SURF Dunoon Area Alliance
COVID19 Work Summary to November 2020
Supporting Communication & Information Sharing
Since 2018 DAA has been working to support cross sectoral communication and relationship building. As part of this process we have developed regular information sharing and communication between the public sector, third sector organisations, voluntary groups and individuals across our community through weekly e-newsletters and our social media channels.
COVID19 and the onset of lockdown highlighted the relevance of this cross-sector communication and knowledge base. There was a clear need for information to be shared broadly and more frequently as the many impacts of lockdown developed. The DAA facilitator took a central role in gathering information relevant to our community and rapidly sharing details on emerging guidance; funding and financial support; community action; and helpline information. Between March and June 2020 a series of 50 COVID19 information e-newsletters were produced and shared with 222 contacts across our community. A further 25 e-newsletters were created and circulated from July to September, with five of these specific to the Digital Dunoon Microbytes project.
Direct feedback from individuals, projects, businesses and public sector officers indicated that this information sharing helped to ensure that a range of funding and support was accessed locally.
Responding to Business and Community Needs
Through the DAA communication process it quickly became clear that, while many businesses were adapting creatively to the challenging circumstances and were able to continue trading, there was no central resource to share this information with the community. DAA started to gather information and share a basic spreadsheet of information through the regular e-newsletter, however this was difficult to share more widely through social media. Fortunately, through contacts established by the DAA supported Dunoon & Cowal Coworks initiative, we were given free access to Smartsheet, an online work sharing system, and we were able to create an easily accessible list of businesses trading through lockdown. Adaptations to the DAA website allowed businesses to register their details easily and the Open for Business list grew to over 200 businesses and individual traders.
We received very positive feedback from businesses and community members on this short-notice intervention, which provided contact information and brought local traders and customers together.
Dunoon Presents BID shared business support information to its members throughout lockdown. Once Scotland's Towns Partnership Resilience Fund became available Dunoon Presents engaged in discussion with DAA on the promotion of the Open for Business list. As a result, the list was printed in full in the Dunoon Observer weekly newspaper, helping to reach an audience that may not be active online.
Supporting Business Resilience
Following on from the work on the Open for Business listings DAA conducted a survey of local businesses to help inform a partnership response to supporting business resilience coming out of lockdown. This survey was completed by 95 local businesses and provided a useful insight into their immediate post-lockdown support needs as well as their more general digital support needs. In response to these findings Dunoon Presents BID led on PPE supplies and shared delivery options. DAA working with the Dunoon & Cowal Coworks network developed Microbytes, a month-long initiative building on previous Digital Dunoon discussions to improve the digital footprint of the area.
Co-produced with local design company, Tacit-Tacit, and supported by Dunoon Presents BID and Argyll and Bute Council, Microbytes was designed to build business-to-business connections; to highlight local contractors with digital expertise; to provide one-to-one advice; and to help point local businesses towards the most appropriate support and training on offer (across what can be a confusing landscape of regional and national providers).
The project directly employed 4 local businesses, including one Dunoon based start-up; keeping money and opportunities within the community.
The project drew in-kind staff support from Argyll and Bute Council and Dunoon Area Alliance and input on content from the Federation of Small Businesses, Business Gateway and Highlands and Islands Enterprise's W-Power project.
Support sessions were used by 16 local businesses across a range of sectors.
An additional 8 businesses contributed to the Microbytes blog, generating long-form content that aligns with the 'Scotland Loves Local' marketing message. This content will remain online for the next 11 months, so can continue to be shared to promote the town's enterprise and diversity.
A Digital Dunoon website was established to host all detail of this hyper-local project.It was used by more than 450 unique visitors, with an average stay time of 1 min 45, which suggest that the content was engaging.
Five newsletters were created and distributed through DAA channels using a Mailchimp mailing list and 92 direct email business contacts. Regular posts were created for DAA Facebook and Twitter feeds.
A summary report detailing project activity, outcomes and proposals for next steps is available to any interested parties.
Supporting cross sectoral regeneration activities
Pre-COVID19 DAA was engaged in supporting three strands of regeneration activity as identified in the Think Dunoon Charette. Through lockdown and the responses to the pandemic these have continued to develop, adapt and grow in relevance.
Heritage Initiative – The American Years Revisited
The Think Dunoon Charette identified the regeneration potential for the Dunoon area in developing a heritage response to the 30-year presence of the US Naval Base on the Holy Loch. Since 2018 a voluntary group has been established and a small grant from National Lottery Heritage Fund has supported the initial steps in developing the project through community engagement. With lockdown there was a significant risk that the project would stall, particularly given the older demographic of the volunteer group. However, the opposite has been the case – activity has adapted, moved online via Zoom and gathered pace in connecting locally, nationally and internationally to record a series of podcasts, now available on Youtube and via www.americanyearsrevisited.org website, to be launched at the end of November 2020.
Cycling Friendly Town
In 2019 and 2020 Dunoon Area Alliance facilitated a series of cross-sector meetings to explore the potential for developing a Cycling Friendly Town initiative. These meeting brought together local activity groups, third sector organisations, public sector officers and interested individuals and gathered an interesting overview of the range of walking and cycling activities connected to the area.
Initial research on cycling initiatives across Scotland included information on the Cycling UK Bothy project in Inverclyde, based at Gourock train station. Contact was made with the support team at the Inverclyde Bothy and a meeting was arranged in Dunoon to hear more about the model being developed there and in Ardrishaig by Cycling UK.
Subsequent meetings and discussions resulted in Argyll & Bute Council's Sustainable Transport team seeking funding from Transport Scotland's Paths for All fund to support the development of a Dunoon Bothy project in partnership with DAA and Cycling UK.
In August 2020 recruitment took place for a part-time Dunoon Bothy Co-ordinator to be employed and managed by Cycling UK. Dunoon Area Alliance and local steering group volunteers took part in the recruitment process. The successful candidate took up post on 5 October 2020 with the remit to establish a project action group, which will develop an action plan for project delivery and expansion. It is anticipated that the project will extend from initial volunteer training and community engagement focus to develop income generation services, such as cycle hire, bike repair, cargo bike deliveries and luggage transfer.
For these developments to progress the project will need a suitable, flexible base with bike storage space in a prominent position within the town. Discussions are underway with Argyll & Bute Council to explore options.
Dunoon & Cowal Coworks
Dunoon and Cowal Coworks is a volunter-led meet-up group and hyper local enterprise support network for freelancers, home-based workers, social and small enterprises. The initiative has evolved out of action based research into the unmet support needs of working age people carried out by the Dunoon based design and research agency Tacit-Tacit. Since December 2018 Dunoon Area Alliance and Tacit-Tacit have been working together to improve enterprise support in the Dunoon and Cowal area through Dunoon and Cowal Co-works as a place based approached to co-working.
Through lockdown, although meet-ups were not possible, members of the Coworks network have been central to the development of the Dunoon Open for Business Directory and to the delivery of the Microbytes programme.
Just prior to lockdown DAA secured a small grant from Argyll & Bute Council to develop a Freelancers Guide to Dunoon & Cowal ('Working on the Move'). The aim of this project was to design and deliver a marketing approach that would promote Dunoon and Cowal as a 'freelance-friendly' area for working visitors, travelling public sector staff, students and local small enterprises.
The main task would have been to engage with local venues, cafes and public facilities to collate information on available spaces for 'working on the move', for example, spaces with free wifi access; desks for hire; video conferencing facilities; printing services; meeting rooms for hire; conference and exhibition spaces; and office spaces for rent.
The impact of Covid19 on patterns of working and on the capacity of public facing businesses has forced this project to adapt. The focus has shifted to creating an online map that will highlight the variety of resources available across Dunoon to support working from home or working from holiday (WFH) (e.g. printing services; post offices; Covid-safe meeting spaces; stationery suppliers; Wifi hotspots, etc.). An introductory workshop was hosted online as part of the Microbytes programme and mapping will begin, using the Open Green Maps platform, in autumn / winter 2020.