The Truacanta Project Evaluation Report has been published. The project, which ran from 2019-23, was set up to support local communities in Scotland who were interested in taking community action to improve people’s experiences of death, dying, loss and care, using a community development approach.
It was run by Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care (SPPC) and funded by Macmillan.
While an interim report was published in 2022, this final evaluation reflects on activity in the local Truacanta sites of Dundee, Highland, North Berwick and Perthshire, and sets out key findings of the Truacanta Project as a whole.
You can download a copy of the report here.
Caroline Gibb, The Truacanta Project Manager, said: “There has been some amazing, innovative compassionate community activity from our Truacanta groups.
There have been challenges, not least the pandemic, which flipped the project upside down. But each group has shown real passion and boldness in finding ways to improve local experiences of death, dying, loss and care. I have seen first-hand the impact they have had, and it’s great to be able to share that more widely with this evaluation.”
How did it work?
The Truacanta Project model saw one community development worker employed centrally to support compassionate community activity in five local Scottish communities.
The five sites were offered community development support and advice, networking opportunities, support with evaluation, and they could also access small grants for Truacanta activity.
In contrast to a traditional top-down model, the intention was that each Truacanta group would be community-led.
The project aimed to put a temporary scaffolding support in place; this support was designed around communities identifying their own assets, strengths and resources and using them to lay solid foundations that they could build future activity on once the scaffolding was removed.
After a call for expressions of interest, the Truacanta Project Manager worked with eleven shortlisted groups from around Scotland for six months. In this time, groups were supported to work on their local vision for change, to involve their local community, and network with other groups.
From the final applications to be a part of the project, five groups were selected. When the project was due to formally launch, it was interrupted by the pandemic and was placed on pause. As restrictions lessened, four of the five groups were able to re-vision their Truacanta activity and continue to drive it forward.
You can read more detail about the local Truacanta activity in this previous article.
Local Impact of Truacanta
“People told us they have more knowledge and ability to talk with family, friends, neighbours about death, dying, grief.” Truacanta group member
The report shows that all projects had a positive local impact, even faced with the challenges of the pandemic, and that progress has been made in all of the intended outcomes.
Project teams have widened their skills and networks, and across the four communities, a wide range of different activities were delivered, often in collaboration with other organisations.
Community members report increased levels of awareness and confidence and feel better equipped to support people with death, dying and bereavement.
Those involved in the project teams feel more knowledgeable and confident to continue the work Truacanta started in their communities. The groups are keen to remain in touch and continue to share experience, practice, and knowledge; they also report ongoing connection, collaboration, and influence in their own areas.
In terms of sustainability, two of the four projects now have dedicated people in paid posts to take forward this work, and a third has embedded this activity into the community.
And the local activity has left its legacy too, whether that’s in the form of conversations – structured and more informal – rippling through a community, or something physical, such as a remembrance bench.
When it comes to the effectiveness of the model, the evaluation shows:
- The local activity was community-led
- Being part of a network was helpful for the local projects
- Being part of a national project lent a level of credibility to the local projects.
- Having access to resources (such as the Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief web resources), was helpful and took the pressure off small groups to create their own
- Having existing festivals or awareness weeks to hook onto was useful – such as Demystifying Death Weekand To Absent Friends
- Lack of money and capacity limited what could be achieved in local communities
- Access to the End of Life Aid Skills for Everyone (EASE) course was hugely helpful to the local groups, three of which have gone on to train EASE facilitators and deliver the course locally
As a result of the Truacanta Projects, SPPC reports increased understanding of communities and community development, and the potential ways an organisation such as SPPC can support this kind of work. They have a better understanding of the practicalities involved in working with communities. Key learning points include:
- Volunteers aren’t a free resource. Their energy and capacity is finite. Often it is a small group of people doing a huge amount of work, on top of other work or responsibilities.
- Community development can be messy and intangible, but that doesn’t mean outcomes can’t be set and measured against.
- For many people a process that is messy and may not have clear measures or goals can feel unintuitive and uncomfortable. That’s okay – it’s important to sit with that discomfort.
- Every community is unique. People might see a local project and think that’s what they need – but it might not be the perfect fit somewhere else. Being community-led and embracing that community’s uniqueness is important.
- Money is important – but so are networks, the support of peers, the support of organisations.
- Finding ways to retain the original motivations and sense of purpose can help to invigorate small groups.
“On a personal level, I’ve learned what amazing things can be achieved with a few people, some enthusiasm, passion and boldness. All the groups have made and are still making a difference in their community and that can’t be understated, and I hope they’re all really proud of what they’ve achieved.”
The Truacanta Project Manager
Truacanta: Scotland’s Compassionate Communities Network will build on the legacy of the Truacanta Project, providing regular networking and peer sharing opportunities for members. It’s free to join – just click on the link.
The Scottish Compassionate Communities Toolkit is a free resource available to all.
The learning from Truacanta will be shared at conferences as posters and workshops, and there are plans to share papers on the project more widely.
EASE is being rolled out further, with both online and face to face courses available to anyone interested in becoming more comfortable and confident supporting family and community members with issues they face during dying, death and bereavement. Taster sessions are also available for community groups.
For more information on any of the above, or for print copies of the Truacanta Evaluation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org