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Community Panels 

“I have a passion in the development of rural communities” Panel Member Muir of Ord

“One of the challenges is to highlight the fund and ensure that groups will come forward who can make a difference and ensure the money is used effectively.” Panel Member, Dumfries and Galloway

“I got involved with my local panel as I was relatively new to the area and I thought it would be a great way to meet more people as well as make a contribution to the community.”  Panel Member,  Gordonbush

What is a Panel?

The Panel is a body of local residents drawn together for the specific purpose of advising on decisions about grant awards from wind farm community funds. It is not a legal entity, but has significant responsibility towards its community.

Having helped shaped the Fund’s purpose, along with other local people and bodies; the Panel will ensure the Fund is spent in accordance with the Fund purpose and strategy. 

The Panel will be guided by Terms of Reference, which are agreed between Foundation Scotland and the local community to ensure that each fund reflects the needs of the community it benefits and the wishes of the developer providing the funds.

Who is on the Panel?

A good Panel requires a team of people who share a knowledge and understanding of the local area.  Panel members can come from all walks of life; the one common factor is that each member has an active interest in the community. In smaller, rural communities active community members often have multiple responsibilities and commitments to local or regional groups.  This can make involvement in the Panel both an asset and a challenge! Foundation Scotland supports communities to develop recruitment and appointment processes that are open and transparent.

The Panel comprises representatives of the community or communities benefiting from the Fund. Ideally, members will represent a good cross section of local residents. In fact, the more mixed and diverse the Panel, the more representative of the local community it is likely to be.

However all Panel members need to be well informed about and take a healthy interest in community issues and be keen to see the Fund make a real difference to their community.

Public perception of the Panel is important.  If, for whatever reason, community members do not have a high regard of the Panel, or the Panel is not seen as working in a credible way, community groups may be less inclined to apply to the Fund, and it will not therefore deliver the greatest benefit for the community.

In some instances, Foundation Scotland and the wider community agree to mandate the Panel’s work to an established community organisation.   

This could be a Community Council or a community company or development trust. This arrangement may be preferable where the Fund only affects one distinct community and/or where sums are relatively small. However there are instances where the community prefers a new group to be established. 

Panel Examples

Lairg Community Fund (a relatively small fund for the benefit of one  Community Council area. The Panel is the Community Council. Foundation Scotland receives applications, assesses the application and sends the Community Council assessment reports for consideration. The Community Council advises Foundation Scotland of its decision and Foundation Scotland manages and distributes awards.

Kildrummy Community Fund Panel (this Fund is being established for a defined area within a large Community Council area. The Community Council is mindful that the majority of its representatives come from out with the area and is working in partnership with Foundation Scotland to help establish a decision  making panel of local representatives).

The work of the Panel

The Panel’s remit includes making decisions on how the Fund should be spent, and more. Their key tasks include:

Helping develop the Fund Purpose and Priorities

Research will guide effective use of the funds available. We work with community representatives and local organisations to create a practical and accessible ‘community profile’, identifying priorities for targeting your Fund. We make best use of existing recent surveys, profiles and community plans, and consider them alongside the scale of the Fund. We validate our findings with local people through open meetings and local workshops.

Grant making

The Foundation understands that the majority of Panel members will have limited or no experience in grant making. Foundation Scotland supports Panels to develop skills in and understanding of good grant-making processes and practice and the related opportunities and challenges.

Annual review

Panel meetings make decisions on grants and can also provide opportunities for the Panel to discuss other issues related to Fund implementation including promotion of the Fund, how they as a Panel are working and external factors that may have an impact on the Fund or the Panel. Foundation Scotland advocates building in time for such critical thinking, to maximise the opportunities from the Fund. Foundation Scotland encourages Panels to dedicate one meeting each year to reflect on the Fund and the Panel’s performance.

Panel arrangements in multi fund areas

A multi fund area is an area that is in receipt of one or more Community Funds, that are most probably sourced from various wind farms with different owners.  To date most wind farm owners wish to keep their funds separate. In time this may change and owners may agree for their funds to be ‘pooled’ so as to enable a more effective use of monies available and more efficiency in their distribution.

Where the Foundation has been working in a multi fund area, it will generally promote a locally established Panel for decision making on any awards. This is most straightforward when the Funds share the same area of benefit.

A multi-fund example

SSE & E.ON Community Funds Panel, Sutherland – Awards from two separate Funds sharing the same area of benefit are made by one established Panel. The Foundation has facilitated discussions between developers and the local Community Councils to ensure the best option has been established for the benefit of the local communities involved.

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