HIE is working intensively with around 50 communities in its most fragile rural areas.
Building on its long history of support in remote areas, HIE is investing to encourage account managed communities which want to develop and implement plans for local growth.
Working in partnership with local authorities and other public agencies, the community account management initiative has identified and engaged with communities that are keen to lead their own development.
HIE, with support from Scottish Government, is investing in Community Capacity Building and jointly funds Local Development Officers (LDOs) employed by local community anchor organisations. As well as assisting with community consultation and planning, the LDOs work with local groups to take forward projects included in the overall community plans. In addition, a HIE staff member works closely with each community to advise and support the process.
Through account management, communities themselves are controlling and driving their development, with HIE on hand to provide the support needed. The intended outcome is enhanced resilience through communities undertaking sustainable community action planning and delivering projects of direct benefit to them. This includes the aspiration to develop sustainable community-controlled income streams.
In each area the community development officer, employed by a key local community organisation, will work to support social, economic and cultural activities to strengthen the community.
The majority of communities we are working with are in areas where crofting is a significant activity. Several of the community growth plans are incorporating crofting development aspirations. We will be using these programmes to continue, develop and diversify crofting in our remote communities.
A good example of the approach is on the Orkney island of Westray, where HIE has been working with the community since 2004. The projects which have been achieved there are unlikely to have happened as quickly or to such a scale without the support of their development officer.
Westray now benefits from a substantial income from its grid connected wind turbine and has done significant work developing transparent criteria and a decision making process for investing that income.
Other infrastructure and services have been developed or enhanced and as a result the community's confidence and resilience has been enhanced.