The Communities Together: Fishguard and Goodwick project was funded by the Big Lottery and run by Alcohol Concern Cymru from January 2014 – March 2017.
The aim was to promote a healthy relationship with alcohol for individuals and for the community as a whole. Fishguard and Goodwick were selected because they represent a typical Welsh community, not because they have any particular alcohol-related problems.
Participation Cymru were appointed external evaluators at the outset and the approach was highly participatory. A wide range of methods were used including a baseline and end of project survey, participatory workshops and one to one interviews. Four theme papers were also produced to aid reflection and inform the final evaluation.
The project’s asset based community development approach “starting where people are at”, underpins the project achievements. Local people were engaged from the very start and helped set the project’s aims and objectives. The role of the project manager was key and the post holder’s personal qualities and skills made an important contribution to the success project’s success. Being able to deploy small amounts of funding was important and showed tangible support and helped build trust. There were two key process; providing support to individual activists and supporting the development of projects and activities identified by local people. These processes enabled people to work together to a common purpose and helped to “break down” silos. This resulted in a positive feedback loop or “virtuous spiral” with volunteers coming forward to organise activities.
In essence the ethos of the project from the beginning has been ‘this is yours’ rather than ‘this is ours’”.
Achievements of the project against aims and objectives
The project substantially achieved most of its aims and objectives. There were three main strands:
Raising awareness – there was strong evidence that the project has substantially increased awareness of the consequences of alcohol misuse and four types of activity achieved this impact;
1) where the main focus was on alcohol eg taking part in Dry January and a community performance “It’s the Drink Talking”
2) Where the main aim was to bring people together and create community benefit, but with an explicit element of alcohol awareness eg The Wave – an event to raise awareness about safety issues surrounding swimming;
3) alcohol free activities such as Sound of Youth, a youth music event and Tea dances demonstrating it is possible to have fun without alcohol and
4) providing information about alcohol at activities run or supported by the project
The project also helped those who need it to get advice about alcohol use.
Bringing people together – this was achieved by organising new activities for older people such as intergenerational IT projects and nurturing a wide range of activities, some of which have achieved a significant impact through bringing large number of people together. “What’s in it for You”, a community fair with over 350 visitors in 2016 and the “Lights On” event that takes place at beginning of December and attracting over 1,000 visitors in 2016 are good examples.
Promoting a dialogue about alcohol – the evaluation did not find a great deal of evidence that it encouraged parents and children to talk together about alcohol use. The project though did promote an extensive dialogue within the community and it is clear that parents and children will have been involved in these discussions.
In summary the project was an innovative process led by local people and supported by the project and had the following demonstrable results:
· New activities, organisations, and skilled and committed individuals.
· Greater awareness of the consequences of alcohol use;
· More advice for those who need it
· A dialogue about alcohol
· A more cohesive and positive community
· Sustainable impact
A copy of the final evaluation report written by Alain Thomas and Siobhan Hayward (Participation Cymru) is available.