Community Conference

Strengthening Scotland's Communities Conference

More than 200 community representatives from across Scotland will gather in Aviemore in September for a national conference on Strengthening Scotland’s Communities.

The event, hosted by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Scottish Government, will highlight best practice and innovation in community-led development here in Scotland and overseas. 

Delegates will also hear about the evolving policy and funding environment for the sector and how communities can work together with the public and voluntary sectors to build strong successful communities. Community groups who have delivered or are developing projects which shape the economic and social future of their areas, will be joined by public agencies, policy makers, academics and international experts.

Alex Thomson, chief correspondent of Channel 4 news will chair the conference and will be joined by a range of speakers including: Angela Constance MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities; Cormac Russell, managing director of Nurture Development and faculty member of Northwestern University in Chicago; and Frank Rennie, professor of sustainable rural development at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Josh Littlejohn, founder of the innovative ‘Social Bite’ concept, will be the guest speaker at a networking dinner where he will explain how his work with homeless people through social enterprises is making a lasting social difference and changing lives.

The conference will provide a platform to share learning, encourage collaboration and strengthen networks. It aims to explore approaches to community-led development, including a focus on community land and asset ownership, and discuss the lessons to be learned from successful, resilient communities.

HIE’s approach to strengthening communities and how this has evolved over the years will be highlighted. The conference will also look at the broader Scottish and international experience and how best practice can be shared.

Douglas Cowan, HIE’s director of strengthening communities, said:

“We have taken an integrated approach to business and community development for more than half a century. This unique remit has helped transform the Highlands and Islands economy into a Scottish success story.

“The region has pioneered community-led development and established an international reputation at the forefront of a strong social enterprise sector.

“This conference will celebrate the contribution communities make to Scotland and share the experience of HIE, communities, partners and specialists. It will look to the future, identifying opportunities to enhance community-led development.

“We look forward to welcoming delegates and speakers to what promises to be a dynamic and enlightening couple of days.”

The Strengthening Scotland’s Communities conference takes place at the Macdonald Aviemore Highland Resort on 21 and 22 September. Details are available on the Events section of the HIE website at


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