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Catch up on the latest happenings across Scotland's inspiring development trust network, from impact stories to upcoming events near you.


DTA Scotland Blog

Posted on: Wednesday 01st May, 2024

Blog: Burnout in the Sector DTAS Debate

Julia Carreiro Rolim - Research and Insights Team



In the landscape of development trusts and the wider third sector, the issue of burnout among dedicated staff is a familiar and pressing concern.The most recent DTAS Debates session provided a platform for DTAS members working in development trusts, whether as paid employees, board members or volunteers, to discuss their experiences around burnout. 

Presentations by panellists covered diverse perspectives on the issue ranging from the definition, warning signs, and symptoms of burnout, practical strategies to address burnout, the impact of digital tools and remote working, and personal accounts of burnout. A recurring theme throughout the discussion was the widespread impact of burnout among development trust staff and the effects on their physical, emotional, and professional well-being. 

Development trusts are often the last resort for the provision of essential services in their communities and find themselves grappling with expanding responsibilities without the requisite resources. From managing community centres to spearheading heritage projects, and constructing affordable housing, individuals within DTs juggle a multitude of roles and responsibilities which had, for many, lead to feelings of being stretched thin and overwhelmed. 

The relationship between staff and volunteer trustees also emerged as a significant aspect influencing organisational culture and staff well-being. While trustees play a crucial role in guiding the strategic direction of trusts, there's often a disconnect between their understanding of frontline realities and the day-to-day challenges faced by staff. Facilitating conversations between staff and trustees about wellbeing is essential to preventing burnout and instituting positive workplace wellbeing measures. 

Practical strategies for managing burnout also gained considerable interest from participants and panellists alike. Strategies shared included: 

  • Implementing clear boundaries around work hours, email/digital communications, and time off.
  • Blocking time before and after meetings, especially online meetings, to avoid constant context-switching. 
  • Creating visual systems to better prioritise and communicate workload 
  • Seeking out external support and perspective, whether through wellbeing services or peer networks 
  • Cultivating self-compassion and remembering that the root causes of burnout lie in systemic issues, not individual failings 

As the session ended, one message resonated deeply – addressing burnout necessitates a collective effort and a culture of support to prioritise staff well-being and foster open dialogue.

In the wake of this important discussion, we would like to announce the launch of a new free service for DTAS members: the Workplace Wellbeing Support Service. This service will provide:

  • Face to face or online 1:1 support from our Wellbeing & Inclusion Coordinator
  • Tailored resources based on workplace wellbeing
  • Relevant training and webinars
  • Staff engagement sessions
  • Practical tips on how to look after your workforce

Find out more about the wellbeing support service. If you are a full or provisional DTAS member you can make a referral here or by contacting

A Fair Energy Deal for Scottish Communities

Posted on: Wednesday 10th April, 2024

DTA Scotand is pleased to share our Call to Action to the Scottish Government for a Fair Energy Deal for Communities.

This paper is the result of close partnership working between Development Trust Association Scotland, Community Energy Scotland, Community Land Scotland, Scottish Community Alliance and Scottish Communities Finance.

Our Call to Action includes seven actions which the Scottish Government can take to start addressing the growing inequity between communities and the energy system.

Communities are ambitious when it comes to decarbonisation, and we have numerous examples of Development Trusts and other placed-based organisations working towards a truly just transition to net zero.

However, it often feels as if the energy system is working against community climate ambitions and we believe the wider community energy agenda needs urgently reviewed. This paper outlines the urgent action we believe is needed and aims to put the interests of communities to the fore.

We ask the Scottish Government and partners in parliament, local authorities, community groups, and other stakeholders to work together and bring forward these actions to sustain our communities in the next energy revolution.

PDF icon Fair Energy Deal Full Paper.pdf

DTA Scotland Blog

Posted on: Thursday 04th April, 2024
A collage of photographs showing people of different ages in rooms having discussions and writing on flip charts. Includes a picture of some sandwiches to help keep the conversations going.

DTAS Policy: Reflecting back on the Democracy Matters 2 consultation

Local democracy, and the idea of devolving power closer to communities, has been talked about for many years.  Much has been written reflecting on the centralisation of Scottish politics, contrary to the original intentions of devolution at the end of the last century. Scotland (and the UK) has found itself as an outlier amongst other European nations in how distant people are from the people who make decisions about their communities and places, and it’s in this landscape that development trusts have often tried to fill the gap.  They are democratic, community led and owned organisations, advocating for and delivering on the projects people in communities want to see happen, filling the gaps when the system fails in some way, and trying to give people voice and agency in their community. Other countries, with more developed systems of local democracy have less need of these kinds of third sector organisations so the strength of our own community sector is, to some extent, a response to the absence of the state at the community level. Whilst politics debates how much the state should have a role, and how it should be funded, development trusts just try and get on with doing what needs done, often driven by volunteers, with very little funding.

This phase of the Democracy Matters process tried to tease out what local democracy in Scotland might look like. This was a big ask and an exercise for the imagination to think about how it could work in “our” place. DTAS hosted a series of in-depth conversations on this in Carluke, Mull, Duns, Udny and Easterhouse, as part of an SG funded partnership with SCDC, to help communities in each place tackle some of the issues, and feed their thoughts into the consultation response. These conversations have been helpful in shaping our own thinking and are reflected in our response published here

Pamela Barnes, who hosted each of these conversations said:
the conversations were really rich, and while there were themes in common, there were often differences in how people wanted to see this happen in their community. Communities were energised by the idea of having more say, but wary of more responsibility without more resource or capacity.

The ball is back in the court of the Scottish Government now, to consider what comes next. Whatever the proposals are for democracy at the most local levels, they must be part of wider political system change to ensure that democracy becomes more participative at all levels, to tackle the disempowerment and disillusionment we came across in so many of our conversations. With last year’s consultation on a potential Community Wealth Building bill highlighting the need for more local economic democracy, we must also look at how changes in local democracy link with economic development, as well as issues such as land reform, climate emergency response and regeneration. We need whole system change!

Our CEO, Pauline Smith said:

local democracy is what our movement is built on, and we want to keep the momentum going after this consultation. Our members are in touch with what their communities want and want to be part of shaping new models of local decision making. The disillusionment with the way things are just now is quite stark and means we must keep pressing the Scottish Government for change and working with them to help achieve that.


DTAS Debates - Community Benefit Funds

Posted on: Thursday 29th February, 2024

DTAS Debates: Community Benefit Funds

Felix Richardson - DTA Scotland Research and Insights Intern

On the 7th of February, the second DTAS Debates session was held for our members. For this event, the topic of the debate was on the community benefit funds (CBF) landscape from renewable energy developers. With approximately £25 million coming into communities across Scotland last year through these arrangements, the debate explored varied experiences of development trusts have had in setting up funds and receiving monies. The guiding question of the debate was: What could an equal, consistent and transparent Community Benefit Fund landscape look like?

The debate welcomed three different speakers: Stephen McCarron from the 9CC Group, Rachel Searle from Foundation Scotland and Karen Edwards from DTAS member Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston Community Company. Each panellist gave an overview of their organisation with the strengths and challenges relating to community benefit funds. The event was chaired by Morven Lyon, head of Democratic Finance.

The importance of partnership with the stakeholders involved in the CBF process was emphasised throughout the evening. Whilst the Stephen and Karen shared what their organisations have been able to achieve through strong relations with developers and innovative models, the debate allowed members to share a variety of different experiences. Once the discussion was opened to the members, some shared their cohesive work with local stakeholders in managing their CBF, other DTAS members spoke of their challenges of cooperation and conflict with local authorities and community councils to create effective CBF arrangements. 

The debate illustrated the complexities and barriers in the current landscape of community benefit funds. In particular, the inequality of communities receiving community benefits was raised with some development trusts earning more than £500,000 per annum whilst others across the country aren’t seeing a penny. 

Other topics included:

  • Community engagement in decision-making processes for fund distribution.
  • Mandatory Community Benefit Fund arrangements
  • DTAS’ role in supporting members with CBF.

With DTAS’ Research and Insights Team and Democratic Finance Team currently conducting research into the community benefit fund landscape, the debate shed light on the complicated landscape of Community Benefit Funds and the need for more support for development trusts in this area.

DTA Scotland Blog

Posted on: Friday 05th January, 2024

DTAS Debates Launch: Local Democracy           

Julia Rolim - DTAS Research and Insights Intern

The end of November marked the launch of our new members-only event series, DTAS Debates. This new event series aims to be a space where DTAS members can come together to discuss the issues affecting development trusts and share grassroots practices developed in response to those issues.

Pauline Smith, DTAS CEO, says:

“I’m delighted that we’re launching DTAS Debates, providing valuable opportunities for dialogue with our members and wider community-led organisations. Together, as a member-led network, I want DTAS Debates to delve into the big topics that are impacting the future of development trusts, and our communities across Scotland. This is a chance to think big, debate issues, voice concerns, share ideas, and ultimately shape the future vision for communities in Scotland, and influence developments within the shifting policy landscape of Scotland.”

The first event took local democracy as its core topic for discussion, including the relevance of the Scottish Government's Democracy Matters 2 policy agenda to development trusts. Our guiding question was: 'What does locally relevant decision-making look like?'. In addition to providing an open space for discussion, this session sought to gather members' views and experiences with Democracy Matters 2 to inform the DTAS consultation response and position on the issue. Despite only lasting 1 hour and a half, the event yielded extensive information, opinions, challenges, and good practice examples.  

Our four panellists were Tom Sneddon (Carluke DT), Anna Bliss-Davis (Stronsay DT), Scott Mackay (Midsteeple Quarter), and Willie Sullivan (Electoral Reform Society Scotland). They briefly overviewed their experiences, challenges, and innovative approaches to local democracy in their communities. Then, the floor opened for participants to ask questions, raise issues, and discuss actions in their communities.  

Members highlighted common barriers faced when practising local democracy in their communities, with many explicitly citing an uncollaborative relationship between development trusts and local authorities and the perception of development trusts as 'risky' organisations. Funding, especially core funding, was another critical issue discussed, with members stating that DM2 must come with adequate resources, funding, and a statutory basis to empower communities and the challenges that can come with devolved funding. Other core topics covered included:

  • Digital democracy.
  • Improving consultation processes.
  • Involving young people.
  • Ensuring development trusts represent their communities.
  • Alternative models for local democracy.
  • Engaging with community councils and other community bodies. 

The next DTAS Debates event will be on the hotly debated issue of Community Benefit Funding from renewable energy installations. CLICK HERE to register and keep an eye out for subsequent announcements!

DTA Scotland Blog

Posted on: Thursday 02nd November, 2023

The Start of My DTAS Journey             

Felix Richardson - DTA Scotland Research and Insights Intern
I recently joined DTAS as one of the Research and Insights Interns in September this year. Over the next year with my colleague Julia, I’m going to be working on a range of different projects aimed at better understanding what DTAS’ can do to improve their own work in supporting members whilst exploring different avenues of research relevant to the development trust movement. 

My introduction to my new role was attending the second day of the Annual Conference at Glasgow Caledonian University. I was blown away by the inspiring work which communities across Scotland are doing and to hear the innovative ideas people have to improve local life for them and their neighbours. From Soren Hermansen's uplifting story of Samsø to an introduction on Community Wealth Building, it is fair to say, my brain was bursting with all the incredible work which comes out of community development! 

Since then, I’ve been settling into the office and introduced to the full DTAS staff. In the last month, I have been understanding how DTAS supports and represents its members whilst finding out some of the ins and outs of the community development sector. Julia’s and my main workload currently has been analysing the survey sent out to DTAS members a few months ago. This is going to be an exciting piece of work on the membership of the organisation and the emerging trends within the development trust movement. Additionally, Julia and I have got to be involved in understanding our members’ thoughts on the Scottish Government’s consultation on Community Wealth Building and we are in the process of setting up our new event, DTAS Debates with the first one coming on the 29th of November. It’s been a busy time for sure!

I’ve been lucky enough to have gone on a couple of visits to different development trusts in the last few weeks: along with Alice and Julia, we visited a couple of groups engaged in the Strengthening Communities Program in the Northeast. Getting tours to both Abriachan Forest Trust and Stratherrick and Foyers Development Trust were fantastic opportunities to see organisations in action providing unique services for the good of their communities! Seeing the groups in person really brought home the diverse range of members that DTAS supports and the incredible motivation which groups have in striving for better lives for local people.

Last week I went along with the Community Shares Scotland team for their Community Shares Practitioner meet up in Findhorn talking first to Ekopia and then on to Drumnadrochit, listening to presentations from Glenurquhart Rural Community Association and Glengarry Community Woodlands. Along with shares practitioners from across the UK, we got to hear the different successes, stories and setbacks involved in making community share offers. Getting a contrast in all the groups’ experience in making share offers illustrated the potential of raising funds from within communities. 

In summary, my time at DTAS has been nothing short of varied! I have loved getting to grips with Scottish community development as well as constantly learning about the incredible work of our members. I am very excited for what the year ahead holds!


Networking & Events

Connect and collaborate through an annual conference, regional events, Community Learning Exchange, and regular peer-to-peer check-in sessions to build relationships and share knowledge.

Training & Resources

Build organisational capacity through strategic review sessions, trustees and company director training, Continuing Professional Development sessions, and access to a wide range of DTAS publications and toolkits covering best practices

Representation & Influencing

Leverage DTAS's role as the voice for development trusts to influence policy, and participate in government consultations, and pilot programs. Amplify your voice at the highest levels.

Advice & Support

Get tailored guidance from dedicated development officers and access expert professional advice on legal matters, to inform and advance your work.

Our Partner DTA Scotland Services

The Community Ownership Support Service (COSS) is funded by the Scottish Government to support community based groups in Scotland take a stake in or ownership of previously publicly owned land or buildings.

Community Shares Scotland is a national organisation that exists to raise awareness of the community shares model and support communities who wish to raise money this way.

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