CoDeL was set up on Uist in 2018, by Thomas Fisher, Theona Morrison and Gemma Steele. They bring together a wide range of experience, insights and skills across different sectors and across different continents. This depth and diversity of experience is not at all uncommon within island communities such as Uist, in spite of these islands being so remote and still so rooted in their land and culture.
CoDeL’s first community-based research analysed the number of young people returning, settling or staying on Uist in the Outer Hebrides. CoDeL’s first project, supported by the Scottish Government and the Social Enterprise Academy, is enabling young people on Uist to develop their leadership skills and work together as a peer group to give young people greater influence, visibility and voice in the future of their islands.
- to analyse micro-trends on islands and remote rural areas of Scotland to identify trends that are missed in data aggregated across larger areas
- to contribute positively to community development based on a deeper understanding of what is actually happening in small communities
- to create opportunities for younger people to influence and reshape their local communities.
For too long many islands and remote areas of Scotland have been written off as in terminal decline. This has often overshadowed an appreciation of the extraordinary innovation, entrepreneurialism and resilience that has sustained many such communities in spite of the challenges of remoteness they face. These assets have helped underpin positive achievements, such as a revival of traditional Gaelic culture, a flourishing of community organisations, and the development of smart energy projects that have put Scottish islands at the forefront of sustainable energy solutions.
Young people on Uist are also responding to shifts in global trends, where modern communications and social media are allowing young people to remain connected while enjoying the advantages for lifestyle and wellbeing that island and rural communities can offer.
CoDeL is rooted in over a decade of work on the seven islands in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland that make up ”Uist”. The islands include, from north to south, Berneray, North Uist (and Baleshare), Grimsay, Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay, and stretch for some 60 miles all linked by causeways. These islands have a total population of around 5000.
Uist, like the rest of the Outer Hebrides, have long faced the challenge of a declining population, and an ageing population profile, and all the inherent challenges that these bring for island sustainability. However, work with young people, in school and beyond, over many years gave the founders of CoDeL deep insight into micro-trends on these islands, and have inspired them to act.
They sensed a revival on Uist, driven by factors such as an enterprising and innovative community sector, a growing cultural revival, the introduction of superfast broadband and 4G, and an increase in the number of young people choosing to return, settle or stay on the islands, and an accompanying increase in the number of children in school and pre-school.
CoDeL has sought to focus a lens on such changes, first by undertaking community research to analyse what is happening, and then, inspired by the results, to build on the positive change identified.