Graham McQueen: Partnership working is key to creating a sustainable Scotland

It’s been three years since our Smarter Choices, Smarter Places Open Fund made its first £10,000 award. Almost £7millon in grants later, Paths for All’s Senior Development Officer Graham McQueen reflects on the people, projects, and motivations helping to create a more sustainable Scotland.

Over the last three years, we have awarded almost £7million to over 250 projects all working towards encouraging people to get out of their car and travel more sustainably. But it’s not all about the numbers. 

For me, working in this sector is about helping to create a more sustainable society. Climate change is the biggest issue facing society today and it’s simply not taken seriously enough by the majority of people. I feel that working in the role I do, I’m a small part of the solution.

This environmental aspect and the personal stories about how our funding has changed people’s lives are what really makes my role rewarding. I have been working long enough to know what I enjoy doing and it’s the development of ideas, bringing together of working groups and seeing those ideas developed into successful projects that really motivates me. 

It was back in August 2018 that I was delighted to accept the position of Senior Development Officer with Paths for All to manage the brand new Open Fund. There was a clear commitment to make this new innovative fund, supported by Transport Scotland, as open and supportive as possible and help to address the issues facing people delivering active travel behaviour change projects. It also started with the ambition to reach audiences and organisations not traditional reached by active and sustainable transport funding.

Since then, there’s been many highlights.

A particular favourite, partially because of the strong working group set up around it, is the project we are supporting through the Development Trust Association Scotland (DTAS). The project aims to support DTAS members who want to develop sustainable transport projects (car share, bike share, demand responsive travel, car clubs) and to assist five pilot projects to set up and run shared transport hubs in their communities.

Working with organisations like DTAS, CoMoUK, Energy Saving Trust and the Scottish Community Transport Association has been really helpful in getting buy-in across the board and their shared knowledge and expertise has meant that despite Covid, Naomi, DTAS project officer, has made some fantastic progress and is working with five enthusiastic and committed communities in different corners of the country.  

Another favourite is the project being run by the Refugee Survival Trust. It helps people with little or no income who are new to our country access essential services and support through public transport in Glasgow. It’s a fantastic example of how the projects we support really can change people’s lives by providing access to sustainable transport.  

I’m also really passionate about the links between active travel and health. Clearly people walking and cycling more helps improve their health and the Smarter Choices, Smarter Places Open Fund is supporting three great projects across Scotland doing that. They each help NHS staff provide social prescriptions which aim to improve health and encourage more active and sustainable travel. Velocity Café in Inverness, Volunteer Dundee and Forth Environment Link in Forth Valley work with their respective NHS boards to deliver social prescribing in different ways. It’s fantastic to see buy-in from the NHS and again partnerships play a key role in the delivery of these projects. I’m hopeful that once we prove the success of these pilots, similar things can be rolled out wider and it’s this cross-service focus and delivery that will make the real difference in improving people’s health and changing their behaviours long term.

Apart from the wonderful creative projects we support, I think at least part of the success we have had comes down to the manner in which Robyn and I have worked with organisations since the fund started. With the support of the wider SCSP team we have constantly tried to be approachable, open and supportive from expression of interest, though application and delivery onto evaluation.

This approach, coupled with our no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point application process has allowed us to set up and deliver one of the most open, accessible and effective funds available, not just in the transport sector but within the wider third sector funding landscape.  

I’m really proud that over the last three years, because of the way in which we have delivered the Open Fund, we have been successful in reaching groups and organisations sustainable transport funding hasn’t previously reached.

I believe that in these difficult times, the only way to work and to achieve our aims and objectives is through working in genuine partnership with other organisations.

We all have our own motivations, we all have our own aims and we all have our own objectives, but if we all work together taking each other’s requirements into account then we will all have a much greater chance of achieving our goals.  

 

The Smarter Choices, Smarter Places Open Fund provides grants of between £5000 and £50,000 to public, community and third sector organisations who have ideas on how to encourage more people to walk, cycle, use sustainable transport or work from home.

To apply, click here.


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