Cascade is a Scottish Charity, number SC047065

The aim of CASCADE (Coupar Angus Social Capital Audit & Democracy Experiment) is to enable communities to assess how well they meet the needs of their members, and put together action plans that address their hopes for the future while identifying opportunities and threats.

Many communities hire professional social research companies to produce community plans for them. Such companies will come into the area for several weeks, carry out a series of public meetings and focus groups and then produce a community plan that allots specific tasks to local groups.

This is often seen as an attractive option, because it appears to provide a quick and effective solution. However there are some problems with this approach. Firstly, it is expensive, typically costing upwards of £10,000. Secondly, the resulting plan will be static, unable to adapt to changing circumstances and new ideas. Thirdly, can we really say that the community has been empowered if the process has been organised and carried out by an external agency?

CASCADE aims to develop a highly democratic and inclusive system of local community planning that communities can carry out themselves at very little cost.

The first stage is a questionnaire which asks you how well your community meets your social, economic and environmental needs. Next, several research groups are established – which any community member may join – to analyse completed questionnaires, carry out further research as required and prepare a local community plan.

The process is a not one that sets goals in concrete. Rather, it is an ongoing process whereby a community is constantly reviewing progress in the implementation of its plan, and updating it in light of changing circumstances and new ideas.

The CASCADE approach includes calculators for measuring a community’s social, economic and environmental capital (well-being) in numerical format. This means that if several communities use the same method they can see at a glance how they compare with each other, and then help each other to increase their levels of capital. They don’t even have to be neighboring. In these days of electronic communication, communities at opposite ends of the globe can help and advise each other.

We believe the CASCADE method will be of great benefit to local authorities in meeting their obligations under the Community Empowerment Act 2015, especially with regard to developing effective Local Outcomes Improvement Plans (sections 6-8) and helping deprived areas via locality planning (sections 9-12).

Lastly, our very great thanks to Dr Terry Barber and Dr Fernando Fernandes for their invaluable help and advice in developing the CASCADE method.

Michael Gallagher, Co-Director, CASCADE

Coupar Angus Social Capital Audit + Democracy Experiment (CASCADE) 2019