Common Good Edinburgh

Cultivating and connecting the ideas working for the common good of the city and its surroundings.

Drumming for good?

Do you know anything about Samba? Neither did I really until recently when I had the opportunity to meet Edinburgh’s Rythms of Resistance. They are a community of people who seek to bring Samba music to bear in situations of protest or creative expression for the common good. This is how they describe themselves:

Edinburgh Rhythms of Resistance are part of an international network of Samba bands, playing for all kinds of socio-political and ecological causes. We actively criticise and confront any form of domination, exploitation, discrimination or oppression and choose tactical frivolity and/or other forms of creative protest as a way of expression.

They meet regularly in Edinburgh and until recently were using borrowed equipment or making musical instruments from old tins and the like. It was fascinating to me as to how they saw their purpose in not just contesting the bad but also in supporting a creative expression of the good in the city. They have supported children’s projects, will be along at an upcoming festival at the Union Canal and also have marched with protestors around several national issues.

Want to check them out? Here’s some details and also keep your eye out for news of the Union Canal Festival

Switch Youthwork

@_tomkirby interviews Sarah Prime of Switch, an Independent Christian Youthwork Project in Gracemount. 

So what do you do here?

We run 8 clubs every week for young people from primary school age to 18. These include basketball, football, break-dance, and arts and craft. At each club we have a short talk where we teach stories from the Bible, talk about our faith in Jesus, or discuss important issues.

We also run a street team on a Friday night where we walk around the area around the youth-centre where lots of young people hang out, chat with people there, and be a positive influence.

What are you excited about at the moment?

Lots of things!

We’ve just started a new primary-age club, which is good to have something to invite younger children to (we meet kids out on a Friday night as young as 3!). It means that for these kids we can be a stable positive influence in their lives for a longer period of time, hopefully giving them somewhere to feel safe.

How did this project start?

My brother Andrew and I grew up in Liberton just down the road. We wanted to do something for all the young people who were never likely to come to church, who were hanging about on street corners. 8 years ago we started a basketball club, and as we got to know people, we realised how difficult some people’s lives were. We started running other clubs, and other volunteers joined us. In 2009 we started a regular street team on Friday evenings. In 2010 we moved house into Gracemount, and Switch became a registered charity (previously it was organised by Morningside Baptist Church). In 2011 I was employed part-time, and as of April this year, I’ve been working full time. I train and coordinate teams of volunteers as well as leading the program of clubs.

What have you learnt over your 8 years of living/working in Gracemount?

When I was younger I went on trips to volunteer on projects in Brazil and S.Africa, I met and saw first hand a lot of people living in very poor conditions. But later in Gracemount I was shocked by the amount of suffering that goes on locally. It’s a different kind of poverty. So many people have suffered the effects of drugs or alcohol in their families. Young people are facing a vicious cycle that it’s difficult to get out of the pattern.

When you see how great the needs are, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.  But it’s amazing what you can see happen if you start small, with a group of people, and trust God.   For example, since we started the Friday street teams, the police have reported a significant drop in crime in the area where we’ve been working. It’s become a safer place for young people.

What are the best things about living in Gracemount?

The people are the best thing! The young people are so full of character and friendly. They love meeting new people.

There’s a strong community feel, and people can be really protective of eachother.

Is the area changing? It looks different to a few years ago, now that the high flats have come down.

Some people are glad that the area is looking different, especially that the Marmion pub has been changed in a Tesco. People were getting fed up of the area being known by the Marmion shooting.

The crime rate has dropped.  It feels as though there is a stronger sense of community now, but maybe we’re noticing it more as we’ve been here longer.

What’s it like for young people growing up in Gracemount at the moment?

They’re always very interested in who’s doing what, and what other people are into.  This adds to the local community feel, but also means lots of peer pressure, which can lead to an increase in destructive stuff.

Many have tough family backgrounds, very few have two parents at home. Some have little expectation of getting a job when they finish school.

What do you feel the young people of Gracemount can contribute to the rest of the city (and world)?

They have so many gifts and skills, and are really unique individuals. Many don’t realise that what they can do is amazing, eg. We have found some seriously talented breakdancers, but it’s difficult to get them to be confident in their abilities.

Many have a great deal of life experience very young, which can lead to them being very caring towards eachother.

What motivates you to do what you do?  Running 8 youth clubs a week isn’t easy!

There have been so many initiatives over the years in places like this, and they do help, but with so many problems, a deeper change is needed. This can happen through experiencing Jesus.

What do you mean by that?

It’s about having a hope that goes beyond this world. And about each person realising their value.  You don’t have to chat much to find that so many people think they’re bad, and have a really low opinion of themselves. I’ve seen the change in people who realise how much they’re loved by God, and that someone did something massive for them.

Do you have hope for the situations you work in?

Everyone is different. One example that gives me hope, is when some kids with extreme behavioural difficulties came with me on a week away (to a ‘Christians in Sport’ camp). They were getting up early every morning to go for a run, doing structured stuff all day no problem. They were getting lots of positive encouragement all the time, and we saw a huge change in them. When they came back this even spilled over (for a while!), they started encouraging their friends at basketball. Culture can change.

What would you like to see Gracemount become?

Young people using their life experience to help others.

People proud of where they live, and talking about the positives.

At the moment drugs and alcohol are like idols, God could be there instead.

What do you mean by that?

Alcohol and drugs are things that cause people to orient their lives around them, but that cause harm and destruction.

There is a verse in Ezekiel [in the Bible] about God changing people’s heart of stone into a heart of flesh. I think this is about people changing from being guided by self, to submitting to God. Jesus never thought of self, or selfishness, but lived for God and for others.  If lots of people could do this, it would deeply change the area.

Your faith obviously shapes the way you think about things, and what you do. What do you feel is the role of the church in Gracemount? Or what would it ideally be?

Gracemount is a very specific community, so it needs a local church that is relevant and applied to the local area. Lots of people never leave Gracemount, so there needs to be something nearby if they are going to be involved. A local church can be like an extended family, people who do life together. Within that there can be support for particular problems like giving up addictions, and a church can partner with other organisations to find the expertise for people that need it.

What would you reply to someone who suggested you are just trying to convert lots of people to your religion?

There’s never any pressure to convert. It’s about trying to love everyone we meet, and each young person who comes to the clubs.

If we were just trying to recruit lots of people to a church we’d do it in an easier area than here! We’ve been getting plenty of abuse for what we do.

Our faith gives us a sensitivity to the brokenness that people can feel, it’s about people’s whole lives. 

We believe we can be a positive influence on the lives of the young people we meet. There is evidence that even having a safe environment where adults listen to what kids have to say can be really beneficial to their lives. In our work, such as the Friday street teams, we go to see young people on their own terms.

Our faith in God motivates us to keep working when things are hard, and to believe that people are able to change.  It’s great if anyone works to support young people in an area like this, but we don’t see lots of people from anywhere else volunteering here.

What are your plans? What’s next?

There’s a recording studio in this building that we’d like to bring into use, so that some young people can learn new skills.

We need to build the sustainability of what we do. We want to be here for people in the long term, and maybe eventually work in different areas too.

Thanks for your thoughts and your time! There’s lots of other things I’d like to ask/hear about, but will have to save that for another time!

October marked Common Good Edinburgh’s first Common Good Breakfast at Iglu where Charlie Cornelius shared the story of Iglu and gave us some insights into its future as a Community Interest Company. 

Above is a clip from the talk, a longer video will be made available in time. 

Introducing Common Good Breakfasts

Hello Friends of Common Good Edinburgh,

Next month, Common Good Edinburgh will introduce regular morning storytelling events across the city highlighting people, projects, and businesses working for the common good of the city and its surroundings. As a complementary activity to our evening meals, each breakfast will feature one person who will share their story and answer questions about what they are doing. Limited to 20-25 people these breakfasts will be an intimate setting where we can get to the heart of why people do what they do, helping us all ask questions on our journey.

Our first breakfast will feature Charlie Cornelius of Iglu restaurant who will share the story of Iglu as an ethical restaurant and its current transition into a community interest company and social enterprise. This breakfast will be held at; 

Iglu at 2B Jamaica St on 5 October from 8.30 – 10.00 am.

This first event is limited to 20 individuals and is free. You do however need to book your spot due to the limited spaces. If you are interested in finding coming along, or finding out more, send common good and email at

Today’s Guest Blog is by Aiofe Behan, behind My Home Supper Club and Burger Burger about her new project Create:Eat

Create:Eat is a collaborative dining event, featuring the very best of everything. The idea is simple, take twenty-five collaborators; designers, chefs, mixologists, food and drink producers, food and drink retailers, artists, chocolatiers, coffee experts, photographers and film-makers. Ask each of them to donate a skill or an item that will contribute to a spectacular dining experience. Joining these people at the table will be another twenty-five paying guests whose contribution will have ensured that this amazing and unique dining experience takes place.

Create:Eat is the brainchild of Aoife Behan and Carol Soutar. They had an idea to put together a spectacular dining event which would showcase the talent in food,drink and design in Edinburgh. But the challenge would be to do it with out any upfront investment so they decided to crowdsource the all the elements required. After a request for collaborators on social networking sites, Aoife and Carol were overwhelmed by the responses. 

With a venue secured, Trinity Apse, and the twenty-five collaborators in place; from multi-award winning Chef Neil Forbes, to artists such as Alice Dansey Wright, a truly mind blowing event awaits its guests. However, to rather than selling tickets the usual way, Aoife and Carol have decided to crowdfund the event; offering tickets as a reward for pledges. 

“We felt that this is more in line with the collaborative ethos of the project. We want our guests to feel that they are part of the event, that they have had an important role in making it happen and we plan to give them the night of their lives to thank them for their pledge”

For those that like to take a gamble, there are Create:Eat canvas bags that can be purchased for a pledge of £20. In one of the fifty bags available are two tickets to Create:Eat on 19 October.

The response to the project so far has been overwhelmingly positive, as a result Aoife and Carol are planning further Create:Eat events.

The Create:Eat dining event will take place on Friday 19 October 2012 at 7pm. At Trinity Apse, Chalmers Close just off the High Street, Edinburgh. Aoife and Carol are asking for £100 pledges in exchange for tickets- our page is live now.  The pledges will allow them to pay for the production costs and expenses involved in staging an event of this scale. 

Read all about the project at



17 Rules for Sustainable Communities

I was reminded today of Wendell Berry, long time Kentucky farmer, writer, and agriculture/community rights activist, and his 17 rules for a sustainable local community. They are more relevant than ever for today’s social and economic climate;

1. Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth?

2. Always include local nature – the land, the water, the air, the native creatures – within the membership of the community.

3. Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbours.

4. Always supply local needs first (and only then think of exporting products – first to nearby cities, then to others).

5. Understand the ultimate unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of ‘labour saving’ if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or contamination.

6. Develop properly scaled value-adding industries for local products to ensure that the community does not become merely a colony of national or global economy.

7. Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm and/or forest economy.

8. Strive to supply as much of the community’s own energy as possible.

9. Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community for as long as possible before they are paid out.

10. Make sure that money paid into the local economy circulates within the community and decrease expenditures outside the community.

11. Make the community able to invest in itself by maintaining its properties, keeping itself clean (without dirtying some other place), caring for its old people, and teaching its children.

12. See that the old and young take care of one another. The young must learn from the old, not necessarily, and not always in school. There must be no institutionalised childcare and no homes for the aged. The community knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young.

13. Account for costs now conventionally hidden or externalised. Whenever possible, these must be debited against monetary income.

14. Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programs, systems of barter, and the like.

15. Always be aware of the economic value of neighbourly acts. In our time, the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighbourhood, which leaves people to face their calamities alone.

16. A rural community should always be acquainted and interconnected with community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.

17. A sustainable rural economy will depend on urban consumers loyal to local products. Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more cooperative than competitive.


If you missed his Jefferson Lecture earlier this year you can find it here

Hungry for some Elephant Juice?

@DuncanMcfadzean interviews JP from @Ejfoodco

So, why Elephant Juice Food Co.? (inspiration/manifesto)

I started my working life as a corporate restructuring lawyer at the beginning of the recession in 2008. It was (and remains) a very difficult time for the business world. After a period of time, I started to become frustrated by a system that promoted greed and self-interest. This frustration eventually fueled a fascination in businesses that did it differently – those that existed for a purpose greater than mere profit.

After spending many weekends with my laptop in Starbucks researching the leading compassionate capitalists including Innocent Smoothies, Toms Shoes and Warby Parker I resolved to start a business that mattered. All I needed was an idea. 

I learnt that 1 in 7 of people go to bed hungry every night and the World Bank cited malnutrition as the gravest threat to humanity. To me, it seemed crazy that in the West we were facing an obesity crisis as a result of eating too much of the wrong food whilst in many parts of Africa and Asia there were people dying as a result of not having enough to eat. 

There were many charitable organizations in the UK trying to tackle this problem but I could not find a business that was taking it head on. 

I loved food and thought it would be great to start a food business that made it easy to help those at threat from malnutrition. What if every time that business sold a meal it could feed someone in need? The concept of One Feeds Two was born. 

All I needed was a product. I wanted a product that was good for the consumer as well as benefiting a hungry person in need. Thanks to Innocent and the smoothie revolution it was easy to get a fruit fix and to me the best veg equivalent was soup. So we began producing really good soup and selling it from a Citroen van near Edinburgh University coupled with the promise that One Feeds Two!

Why ‘Elephant Juice’?

It is a bit random, I agree! I can also assure you that we do not make juice from Elephants!

When coming up with a name we wanted something memorable and fun that captured the essence of the company.

During my school days the phrase Elephant Juice was another way of saying ‘I love you’ – it shared the same lip movement. The mission of feeding hungry people is a practical way of saying ‘I love you’ so we thought it made sense to call the company Elephant Juice.

How long have you been running?

We have been trading since 21 January this year.

Some stats about Dumbo 1 (year, model, quirky thing about driving it ;-))

D.o.B – 1974

Model – Citroen Type H (Currus)

Weight - 2 tonnes

Top Speed – 21 mph so far!

Gears – 4 if you include reverse

In his former life Dumbo 1 was a butcher shop in the North of France. He has now been converted into a modern mobile kitchen. He is a big fan with all the customers and certainly turns heads when driving through the streets of Edinburgh. He is left hand drive with no power steering, making for quite the workout when attempting a three-point turn!

Who’s your team at the moment?

We have just recruited a fantastic new summer team to allow us to trade breakfast, lunch and dinner through the summer festivals. We now have Ben W, Bronagh, Ciara, Corrina, Richard and Benjamin.

What campaigns/charities are you currently supporting and why?

At Elephant Juice we believe that it is really important that when you share with others you should do so in a way that develops that person. For that reason we think it is really important to support feeding programmes operating in educational settings.

For this reason we are currently working with Equipe and Mary’s Meals to help deliver the ‘One Feeds Two’ promise. Both organisations have some excellent feeding programmes enabling some of the world’s poorest children to receive an education and an opportunity to work their way out of poverty.

The BIG vision?

The vision is to eradicate the threat of malnutrition - it is bold but I believe this is achievable through the power of global community.

We are now more connected than ever and I think we all seek purpose in our day-to-day living. Business’ together with charities have a part to play - providing customers with products and services that can effect a positive change. It is possible for a community of consumers to consume in a way that really does change the world!

Bringing purpose to the most simple of tasks – such as eating lunch – has the potential to yield incredible results.

Next steps …

We have a really exciting summer ahead as we develop and grow the business. We have just rebranded to The Elephant Juice Food Company so that we can offer One Feeds Two products for each meal of the day. This new product range includes porridge and granola for breakfast and hot pots for dinner!

We will be attending Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle, Dorset as part of the Young British Foodies tent at the end of July, followed by a busy month on George Square at Edinburgh Festival.


Find out more about Elephant Juice Food Company at

Say Hello to Truly Local

@josiahlockhart talks to@enterprisefoods about their new venture, Truly Local;

So what is Enterprise Foods and What does it do?

Enterprise Foods is a local sourcing company, currently focussed on the bakery industry and we have a network of over 200 local bakers throughout the UK who we help to supply high quality products to their local community.  This promotes sustainable food production, reduces food miles, supports the local economy and also gives the local community the opportunity to enjoy high quality food and drink which is often unique to that particular locale.  We define ‘local’ in line with the IGD Consumer Watch which reports that ‘The majority of consumers (63%) expect ‘local food’ to come either from their county or to be produced within 30 Miles of where they live or buy it’.

What motivates you to do what you do?

The abundance of great local products and the challenge of putting these up against the big guys!  In late 2011 we won @TheCooperative ‘Supreme Supplier of the Year’ and ‘Bakery Supplier of the Year’ which was recognition not only of the work that we do on behalf of our customer and suppliers, but more so of the great local products that add something different to a supermarket fixture which is often full of national products that you can get anywhere.

What are you hoping to accomplish with the Truly Local website?

We have seen our business grow over the years which confirms to us that our model works to the benefit of our local suppliers and our customers.  We are always keen to expand and our next step is beyond bakery and into local food and drink in general.  Our approach has been simple – we picked a region (Edinburgh), researched the marketplace, found some great suppliers with great products, created our ‘Truly Local’ brand to help highlight the local suppliers and now we are approaching potential customers to launch.  The website will be for the public to find out more about the provenance of the products they have bought and find out more about the suppliers who have produced them – who they are and where they come from.  Going forward the website will become more interactive and the public will be able to give feedback on current suppliers/products, give suggestions of any new suppliers/products and there will be competitions, news feeds about activities, details of sampling, etc on there too. 

How do you work with Local suppliers?

We try to work to our strengths which are to be able to deal with a wide array of smaller suppliers, pull them together and offer them a route to market.  We technically audit our suppliers, offering them support in food safety, we collate all their orders and invoices for them electronically which makes it more efficient for them to process, we have regional operational managers who link in with both the suppliers and the customer delivery points (shops/cafes/restaurants etc) so that the suppliers have got a day-to-day contact and we help organise the distribution of their products.  Finally we organise all the sales and marketing on their behalf so that we can highlight their products to the final customer in store and on-line via our website.  This leaves them to get on with what they are good at – making great local products packed full of quality and flavour!

In what way do you think this works for the Common Good of Edinburgh and its surroundings?

We have 17 suppliers signed up under our Truly Local brand so far and all of them are within a 30 mile radius of the centre of Edinburgh.  We’ll be looking to promote their business and products into retail and foodservice customers within the Edinburgh area.  This will therefore increase the sales of locally produced food and drink, help keep the £ in the local area which will in turn help the local economy.  At the same time, the public will benefit by being able to easily identify truly local products that will be of a very high quality and packed full of flavour , now that’s got to be good for everyone!!!


To Find out more check out

@duncanmcfadzean and I had the pleasure of visiting @ollyisland @edtechcube a few weeks ago. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a fantastic new incubator for tech start-ups based in the old Dick Vet School just off of the meadows… Here is a great video by Tech Meetup of Olly sharing the vision.

An Interview with Staff at PYCP (Pilton Youth & Children’s Project)

@_tomkirby meets the team who run PYCP

So what do you do here?

PYCP works with 5-18year olds in Pilton.  It’s been here for 30years, so it’s become an important part of the local community . We have a sports hall, a café, soft play, and an arts space.  We run clubs for different ages. We provide referred support, both 1to1 and groupwork. We provide support for young people in the transition between primary and secondary school. We do outreach in the schools and local community, do health promotion, particularly for sexual health, and we provide work experience and training placements.  Because we’ve been here so long, we’ve built up trust with a lot of people, and lots of people come in because they need advice, help with a form, or just someone to talk to.  We get people in their 20s coming in for advice, who know the place because they got their football pumped up here when they were 6.  I think for a while we had resisted being a general drop-in community centre, as that’s not what we’re funded to do; but now we’ve embraced it more as so many people appreciate us being here.

What are you excited about at the moment?

The coming Summer program. Turning our room at the back ‘the den’, into a performance studio with proper dance studio flooring. Getting trained as a zumba and boxercize instructor. Making more links with the community

How does life look for the young people that you know growing up in Pilton?

Most of the young people here are very local, their parents and grandparents live nearby, and they don’t have much need to go beyond Pilton, this has benefits and disadvantages. In some ways they have everything they need here, the sense of community is very strong. People see themselves as Piltoners rather than Edinburghers, but this means there can be a bit of fear of the rest of Edinburgh, and not feeling like they belong in it.

Some of them are excited about how the area is changing, the new developments are changing how the area looks, and there is a sense that things are improving in some ways.

Lots of people from all over the world have moved into the area, and people who’ve lived here for generations can feel threatened by this, there are tensions, but also times when diversity is really celebrated, one of the primary schools did a project about getting children to speak to their grandparents and there were 70 nationalities involved.

The biggest concern is employment. Because lots of people here have quite disadvantaged backgrounds, they can fall to the back of the jobs queue however keen they are. When there are less jobs this area gets hit hard.  In the past there were a lot more apprenticeships and there was a lot of manual work available.  There are always some young people who are a wee way off being ready for the world of work, but now there are lots struggling who a few years ago would have all gone into jobs.  Recently there were some jobs advertised to vaccinate fish in a remote place on the North West Coast, and 10 local young people we know all applied for it. Several people completed a training course with Railtrack. One guy drives to Dumfries and back to do a day’s work.  They are really keen, but our concern is that it can be difficult to keep up that desire to work, when doors are repeatedly closing in their faces.

What do you think are the things that young people in Pilton have to contribute to the rest of the city?

A lot of them have lots of life skills and resilience, having had to overcome some big challenges. So many of them are enthusiastic and want to contribute. Lots of them volunteer at things and are keen to do more.  They have a lot of skills that we can clearly see although they don’t always recognise them in themselves.

They can be very welcoming into community, very loyal if you gain their trust, and very motivated to help people.

What are some of the ways that we who live in other parts of Edinburgh can help and support young people in Pilton?

Come and Visit!

It’s really valuable when people from different walks of life meet the young people here. It challenges their preconceptions (eg about people who wear suits!) and it gives them a wider picture about what is possible, and what options are available, as many of their expectations and role models are just based in Pilton.  We need more mentors, (about life, not just employment), and people who are willing to share a range of skills. Perhaps people who don’t get to use artistic or musical skills in their work, could find an opportunity to use them working with people here.  It’s also good to invite people to things in the rest of the city beyond Pilton.

What motivates you to do what you do?

We know that it’s needed, and valuable.  Some of us grew up here and want to give something back, some of us just know that this is our place to be. It’s really rewarding, I wouldn’t trade this job for a salary of £80,000 dealing shares.  It’s never the same two days in a row! Definitely a mix of good and bad, but the bad isn’t personal. It’s like living in a soap! You’re a real part of people’s lives, you see them grow up, go to secondary school.  It’s definitely not all sweetness and light but you see a lasting impact and that’s really rewarding. You get to work with some great people, committed and talented professionals. I was sitting in an office for 6 years bored to tears, I decided to volunteer here, and it’s so much better. It’s a place to put down roots and get really involved in a place.

What have you learned from your time working at PYCP?

That it’s a really good place to be! That it’s ok to like the people you work with!?  That fancy dress is ok. That we belong here, PY is more than just the people working here, it stands for something and people have great affection for it. It really belongs to the community and in a sense we do too and there’s a responsibility that comes with that.  Expectations change, you can’t help everyone, but you don’t always know when you have helped someone. Pressure for measurable attainments is not always helpful, they’re not actually the important ones.  You have to know that you’ve done your best and can’t fix everything. Don’t devalue the little things. Nothing ever stays the same and there’s such a variety of work so we’re always learning.

Thanks for your time and thoughts! Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Come and visit! Meet the young people!


post by common-good contributor: @_tomkirby

If you would like to find out more about PYCP or take up their offer to visit, contact details are on their website.