Campaign option No.1: Give a Day

It’s an occupational hazard, running a media outlet such as Place Design Scotland: there is never any shortage of ideas, including potential campaigns and projects. We have decided to let the readers decide which one we should seriously consider pursuing, and will be launching a poll of members in due course. Our first candidate is… drum roll, please…Give a Day 

THERE are everyday urban renewal tasks that a community can get its teeth into, and few are more everyday than this idea, to harness (and potentially encourage) community spirit by asking people to donate a day of their time every year towards the improvement of their place.

It might be rusty railings requiring a repainting, or persistent littering needing to be cleared or the pruning of overgrown shrubs – the community decides and then the community gets on with it.

The attraction of the term, Give a Day, is that it is relatively catchy – in terms of explaining and marketing the concept – not least because ‘it does what it says on the tin’.

One can imagine a community’s local newspaper throwing its weight behind the initiative, as it might a local gala day. And, indeed, Give a Day can be sub-headed a ‘Gala Day with a Paintbrush’.

It might be that Give a Day would attract retired (and, indeed, still working) tradespeople, ‘who want to give something back’, and to potentially pass on their knowledge to DIY enthusiasts and especially young people.

Young people can not only be hands-on during the day itself, but can take responsibility for deciding what tasks should be carried out. In other words, at least a couple of months before the designated day, a call is issued for suggestions (accompanied by some thought as to time, skills, risks and other requirements).

Weighing up the entries – for practicality as well as potential impact – pupils at a local school can decide which of the options should form the basis of the day. Dialogue can then begin with the authors of the original ideas as to the materials, skills, numbers of people, etc that might be required.

A certain amount of central, co-ordinating might be required to oversee each of the local Give a Days, not least interrogating any health and safety assessments and, when necessary, advising as to which tasks might be potentially too dangerous to pursue. At the same time, it might be necessary to organise any public liability insurance, and there will be definitely a need for public relations activity (local newspapers, broadcasters, social media, etc).

A central office might also be in a position to source sponsorship and also materials and tools at a discounted price, or even donated.

Most likely, it would also require to liaise with school head teachers, so that pupils can be assisted in organising their local patch.

But it would be there solely in a supportive role; fundamentally, it would exist to serve local initiatives, providing advice, possible answers and emotional sustenance.

A dedicated website would seek to not only recruit people willing to Give a Day – including, no doubt, folk wishing to revolve a holiday break around taking part in one – but also tell the stories of the successes of each event (bearing in mind the GDPR responsibilities of any photographs appearing on the site).

It might be too that the website provides a series of simple how-to videos, as guides as to how to approach certain jobs.

And being a ‘gala day with a paintbrush’, it would be nice to think that each local event would conclude with a social gathering, probably in the evening, with some local musicians and refreshments on the go.

It might be that Give a Day becomes a national phenomenon, taking place all across the country on a single, given date. Alternatively, each local event might wish to choose its own particular date, perhaps to work around other community events.

It might also be that Give a Day morphs into much longer-lasting programmes; perhaps even some form of year-long ‘national service’ (voluntary or compulsory – who knows?) not dissimilar to a Gap Year.

Mike Wilson is a member of the Place Design Scotland team

Pictured: Some fencing needing mending, Picture credit: Place Design Scotland