Logframe planning
Logframe planning

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Logframe planning

2.2 The Laggan Forest Initiative

Figure 4 Laggan Forest
Figure 4 Laggan Forest

The Laggan Forest Initiative case study shall be used for your framework planning exercise.

Activity 3

Before attempting the next set of activities you will need to view the case study 'Buy out or sell out? Laggan Community Forest' (this video lasts about 18 minutes).

Concentrate on the description of the early years of the initiative and focus on the first phase of the project, forestry activities, rather than the mountain biking and other ideas that came later.

Not all the information you need for the logframe is given in the video. This means that often there is no 'correct' answer to the activities. What your logframe looks like will depend on how you interpret the information on the video, and your own ideas about how the project should be.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 1
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Transcript: Video 1

The Laggan Forest Initiative, which started in the early 1990s, pioneered the way for Community Forestry in Scotland. This case highlights the opportunities – and challenges – of encouraging community participation in social and economic development.
Neil Gerrard – Aftercare Officer, Community Land Unit
They’ve wanted for the last maybe ten years or more to acquire parts of the forest so they could expand the local businesses, and the use of the forest for the community.
They weren’t able to buy the whole forest because it’s just too big a project for the local community to handle. The community capacity wasn’t there.
Roy Tylden-Wright – Trustee, Laggan Forest Trust
When we started it was against, in a political climate, which completely ignored this as an option. Basically the forestry management was for the professionals, exclusively, and we were fringe lunatics to be considering that we could, in any way, develop ideas in relation to the management of the forest. It simply wasn’t an accepted notion.
The community of Laggan, had identified the Strathmashie Forest - which is owned by the Forestry Commission - as a potential source of employment, if managed and worked by local people. And they set out to take it into community ownership.
To do so, they needed to gain support from the Forestry Commission and other state institutions.
In terms of developing the vision it was very much a question of late-night whisky-fuelled sessions with the group of people that were interested enough to do it. We also had open sessions with the village. That evolved into more policy and strategic elements such as how we go about mounting a campaign, how we go about attracting money, how we go about attracting support. But it originally came from this feeling that somehow we, as a community, had a sense of identity, which enabled us to see things which were not being permitted by the powers that be.
David Jardine – Forest District Manager, Forestry Commission Scotland
At the beginning the vision of the Forestry Commission, the community at Laggan were totally different in that the vision of the community was, well, ‘there’s a forest resource there: we’ll buy that, we’ll manage it, we’ll get jobs out of it and we can manage this forest’. And the vision of the Forestry Commission was ,well, ‘we’re the foresters, we know how to manage this forest we’ll continue to manage it’ from that point of view.
And so we had, not diametrically opposed, but they didn’t sit particularly comfortably with one another.
It was ultimately a political decision, it was down through the Secretary of State at the time, Michael Forsythe, who basically gave instructions to deal with us, to work something out, to make it happen. And it’s always well worth remembering when one’s dealing with agencies that actually there are political masters who make decisions.
The political decision to deal with Laggan led to discussions with the Forestry Commission, and ultimately to a partnership agreement to manage the Forest - the first of its kind in Scotland.
Local support for the project was built through a series of community meetings and workshops: a range of tools was used to help identify interests and future options for community forest development.
We used PRA on two occasions.
It was particularly useful in maintaining community involvement. As you begin to go through the ways and means, the mechanics of mounting, inaugurating and designing a project like this people lose interest. ‘Where are we going?’ ‘What have you achieved?’
What the PRA did was reinstate that sense of general involvement. If you don’t pull in that wide based interest you’re not going to go forward with your own integrity as a community and you’re going to leave half the community behind you, who feel disenfranchised.
The initial five year partnership agreement between Laggan Forest Trust and the Forestry Commission was based essentially on the original aims of creating labour-intensive forest jobs for local people using chainsaws – or hand cutting as it’s known.
Forestry at the time was going through a period of rapid technological change and it soon became apparent that hand cutting was not sustainable.
Jo Cumming – Trustee, Laggan Forest Trust
I actually went out into the forest and I met with some of the cutters there, on site, and I asked them about how they saw the future of the forest. And up until that point Laggan had fiercely clung on to hand-cutting as a way of creating jobs but it became clear that fewer and fewer Laggan people were involved in that forest cutting.
This came as no surprise to the Forestry Commission…
I think I suppose if you speak to some of the more of the unbelieving members of the Forestry Commission staff they would say, oh it will get to that anyway but it was a case of community learning in that they believed they had to get jobs and perhaps the only way was to let them the community learn the hard way to try and see that it didn’t work. And Forestry Commission I think were sensible enough to say well, yes we have to go through that process otherwise people won’t learn.
When we started it was the cutters that were requiring the work, these days there are very few men with chainsaws. Things have changed.
At around the time that the Laggan Forest Trust began to realise that the forestry management agreement was not delivering the anticipated employment benefits, the Forestry Commission had plans for a large investment in mountain biking, which had been frustrated elsewhere due to environmental concerns. They offered this to Laggan.
Having researched the options and consulted the community once more, the Laggan Forest Trust decided to go ahead with plans for a mountain bike centre in partnership with the Forestry Commission.
We realised that skills were going to be necessary in terms of it and we talked with the Forest Trust and the forestry company and said, well, ‘what are the processes?’ And first of all we advertised and we asked ‘who might like to do this work’?
Now one of the tricky things was that we were looking for a skills base that covered both promoting and developing mountain biking; we were also looking for skills base that could deliver in terms of catering and could provide a rounded product, and they are quite different skills. We probably had quite a good offer on the catering locally but we had nobody locally that was going to deliver in relation to the mountain biking, and we had one proposal that was very strong on the mountain biking and the marketing.
The result was Wolftrax Mountain Biking Centre, run by BaseCamp MTB – a new business started by a couple from further south in Scotland who had put in the winning bid.
This development was a turning point for Laggan in several ways. It was hoped the new facility would provide local jobs in a range of sectors by increasing visitors to the area.
Though many welcomed Wolftrax as a new opportunity for the community, some existing catering businesses saw it as direct competition and a threat to their livelihoods. Tensions between community and private interests came to the fore.
I don’t remember a lot of conflict about the Wolftrax idea for Laggan. In fact a lot of people were excited about it, some people didn’t really care very much about it. The conflict came more from what actually ended up being at Wolftrax and who ran it.
Some people think you should develop the community resource because it is a community resource, it’s for the benefit of everyone and private business somehow is in some way does not have the same status.
Other people think that the private business should be considered as part of the overall community structure, commercial structure, and somehow or other has to be accommodated within the whole even if it’s not strictly a part of the forest development.
The conflict over Wolftrax can be explained by a perceived clash of interests between individuals in the community, and so could potentially be resolved. It was a desire to prevent such conflict that saw some wishing for more extensive and continued consultation.
The whole thing about consultation is interesting but, as I say, looking through the archives there were lots of questionnaires and events and the community kept on putting forward all these ideas, and I suppose my vision was to move the ideas from being on paper to actually something happening on the ground.
But people have got short memories, so there was obviously all that consultation in the past and we held various meetings and events and talked to people but then when we put something forward for a decision they would say ‘oh, nobody ever consulted me about that’. Very frustrating.
Morag Macrae – Resident, Laggan
I believe we are consulted. I have to say I feel that a lot of the decisions are made before we are consulted, but we are still being consulted to go through the process. So I’m not a hundred per cent confident that we are being listened to.
Ewan Campbell – Foreman, Laggan Forest Trust Forest Company
There are a few locals I suppose who are quite vocal but perhaps the majority just go along with what’s going on. With the Forestry Commission they do listen to what we say, take on board, but the partnership, like the whole of life, is just one big compromise; you don’t always get what you want but if you get some of it it’s a benefit.
There’s a huge load on a voluntary committee and remember all the local organisers are volunteers, always have been. Very, very occasionally do you have some project-based money but the general running of the thing, year in, year out, is without funding.
It’s very difficult, when you’re trying to meet the requirements of management, very difficult to maintain all those elements, which are about community involvement, participation, emotional elements. You know you get sucked into the other stuff and time is limited.
More than a decade after the initiative for community ownership of the forest started, the idea of owning some forest is firmly back on the agenda.
This time the burden on the volunteer managers has been eased a little by a 'community animateur' grant from the Community Land Unit to help develop a proposal to buy some small parcels of land from the forestry commission.
One of these will be as a permanent site for Wolftrax and the forest offices, and others will include, forest-based businesses and eventually, it is hoped, some low-cost eco-housing.
Jim Langley – Director, Laggan Forest Trust Forest Company
It goes back really to 1997 when the whole forestry initiative was created in Laggan. So I think a lot of what’s now being driven through are really ideas that were developed back then.
But more recently, in 2002-3, a lot of focus groups, if you like, got together to determine what would be best suited, if you like, for this particular forest. So a fair bit of community consultation; a lot of received wisdom from Forestry Commission as well as from other bodies, in terms of what could be done.
One of these bodies is the Community Land Unit, which is at the heart of the bid to own some forest.
The Unit has funding application processes that the Laggan Forest Trust has to engage with. A balance between the interests of funders and the needs of the community has to be struck.
We look at economic, social, environmental benefits of every project we do but they’re not necessarily the decision-making factors in terms of how we would look at a project.
A lot of the projects have a big social impact or big potential social impact that’s very difficult to evaluate that numerically. It’s very much being in contact with the community at an early stage, getting to know the community really well and whether they have the capacity to handle a project.
The consultation we’ve done has been more related to the application in the sense of making sure that what we want to do fits with the funding. I mean it’s so often that you have to adapt what you want to do to meet the funders requirements. So I think from that point of view it only really exists on how the application should be best framed and what sort of business plan is wanted.
In terms of consultation, public consultation, there hasn’t been a lot at the moment. We’ve produced newsletters, we’ve produced articles in the local magazine, the community magazine to keep the community as up to date as we can. But I think in the last three or four months things have moved rather rapidly and there’s not always a great opportunity to get back and re-consult.
Hopefully in CLU we are very flexible about the way we handle communities’ approaches and try and steer them through that minefield of what can be a… tick boxes and forms for each different agency are different because we have different criteria in which we will fund.
My own personal opinion would be, we should move towards a white sheet approach where we just take a community’s idea and get them to write it down without any conditions, and we make the decision as to whether it’s appropriate for us to fund it, rather than being prescriptive about what information we want, and what their outcome should be, and even how much money they want to get in a grant.
Whatever the eventual outcome of Laggan’s initiative, the experience to date certainly raises questions about how to encourage participation and consultation in development planning, development as a political process, and the management of competing interests and expectations.
From the place we started, it’s a huge success.
The challenges are to develop in a way that does include all the interests of the community and that the community feels a part of and also to make sure that those developments are managed.
If we’re talking about in-house development for the forest trust, boy-oh-boy do you need to be hot on the management; how do you work that out? If you in some way franchise it or lease it or whatever there are dangers that way but you still have to be careful that the thing does not develop without that community accountability. Real challenges but we always knew there would be so it’s exciting, major, major challenges and major, major adventures ahead.
End transcript: Video 1
Video 1
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