Building Rural Communities

Creative Care Project – GrowBiz

GrowBiz provides community-based enterprise support in rural Perth & Kinross. With a combination of one-to-one support, peer learning & support sessions, a mentoring programme and networking events, it has worked with more than 400 individuals starting or growing businesses and social enterprises in the last twelve months.

GrowBiz’s approach to enterprise support is unique in Scotland, and is based on a ‘relational’ model, rather than a ‘transactional’ approach, building long-term relationships with the businesses and encouraging them to connect, collaborate and share with other enterprises in their local community, as well as networking further afield.

In addition to supporting and connecting a wide range of local enterprises in sectors including tourism, technology, creative services, food & drink etc., GrowBiz has helped to develop and support the unique Care & Wellbeing Cooperative based in Highland Perthshire. The Cooperative is an umbrella organisation which has grown from its original nine members, to a community of 30 micro-businesses and social enterprises, all involved in providing social care, health and wellbeing services to the local community – an increasingly important growth sector which needs innovative and creative solutions, particularly in rural areas, due to critical demographic changes and pressure on the statutory health and social care services.

Based on its experience of developing the Cooperative, GrowBiz is now delivering a ‘Creative Care’ project across rural Perthshire. The overall purpose of the project is to support local people, in particular older communities and people with disabilities and health problems, to lead the life they want in their local community, by offering an ‘enterprising response’ to the provision of care, support and wellbeing. It aims to create and support a network of micro-businesses and social enterprises delivering a range of services within the care and wellbeing sectors, based on the Highland Perthshire Care & Wellbeing Cooperative. The project is currently working with communities in Comrie, Dunkeld, Rannoch and others to develop more entrepreneurial community-based solutions to provision of care. Part of the innovation is in the creation of diverse economic and enterprise opportunities for local people with a range of skills and expertise, providing services beyond just personal care and therapies, including transport, therapeutic gardening, accessible tourism, dog-walking, befriending and many more.

The project is managed from Blairgowrie and covers rural Perth & Kinross. //


Kirrie Connections

Kirrie Connections offers advice, support and activities to people living with dementia, their families and carers. Our community hub is open 6 days a week and we run a variety of regular sessions covering everything from arts and crafts to seated exercise sessions. All activities we offer are based on a strengths-based model, where we endeavour to support each individual in activities that are meaningful to them.

We frequently work with local artists, musicians and poets, bringing them into our hub to help our members express themselves through various mediums. Local poet Mark Thompson spent several months with one group, using poetry to explore their journey through dementia. Those taking part wrote some poems along the theme of “Try Being Me” as you can see here. All those that took part found this to be very powerful exercise, and some close bonds were made between them as they discussed their shared experiences.

Another successful art project was completed last year. Artist Maureen Crosbie gathered stories from our members and designed an 8m long mosaic that featured items from these tales. Over the summer of 2017, we invited the whole community of Kirriemuir to come in and help create this work of art. This was a truly intergenerational project, with over 100 people aged 8 to 88 helping to make the mosaic. The finished piece is now in place in a prominent position on the town for everyone to enjoy.

The mosaic project was a great example of the core ethos of Kirrie Connections, that people with a dementia are active and creative members of their community. Our hub’s location, right in the middle of the High Street in Kirriemuir, means we are ideally suited to engage with the wider community. This is achieved through intergenerational partnership projects with the local schools, uniformed organisations and other third sector groups in the town.

Kirrie Connections, while currently quite a small charity, has big ambitions. We are about to pilot the first Dutch style “Meeting Centre” in Scotland. This model has been hugely successful in dementia care in the Netherlands, and we have been invited by the University of Worcester to join their UK Reference Group to set up a national network of these dementia support hubs. The dream is that eventually, every town in the UK could have one of these centres. Kirrie Connections will be the first one in Scotland. The centres are based on a grassroots community-led version of dementia care, where families and carers are as much a part of the centre as the person living with a dementia.

Where the project is based and if different what area it covers

Kirriemuir is a small rural town at the foot of the Angus Glens in Scotland. The Kirrie Connections projects works with people from the town and the surrounding hinterland. Much of this area is very rurally isolated, with little to no public transport. 10.7% of people in the town are aged 75 and over, compared to 9.3% in Angus as a whole and 7.7% in Scotland.  With an older than average population, there is a higher than normal incidence of dementia in the community. Around 1 in 5 people over the age of 75 will develop some form of dementia, rising to 1 in 3 in over 85’s.

Dementia is a key health issue facing Scotland over the coming decades. As our population ages there is projected to be a 75% increase in the number of people with dementia. Dementia is a major cause of disability in people aged over 60. It contributes 11.2% of all years lived with disability, more than stroke (9%), musculoskeletal disorders (8.9%), cardiovascular disease (5%) and all forms of cancer (2.4%).

Dementia is already an incredibly isolating condition. When it is combined with issues specific to rural locations, such as lack of transport or services, it becomes even more so. The Kirrie Connections project has now been running for over three years. In that time we have seen referrals into our service rise considerably every year, showing clear evidence of the need and demand for specialist support for people in the area who are living with dementia.


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Paul Daly

Paul Daly

Paul has an MSc in Environmental Studies, and a BA (Hons) in Psychology.

One thought on “Building Rural Communities

  • 21st October 2018 at 11:02 pm

    Grow Biz is a fantastic organisation with helpful and passionate attitude to support new businesses and individuals.
    Grow Biz has a wonderful approach in setting up meetings and training sessions along with time and devotion to help and support on encouraging a new business. It was eye-opening for me to meet the women’s enterprise sessions, network group meetings, training on setting up business or a website or even wellbeing sessions, all these do add up the values that Grow Biz has and is offering to rural Perthshire.
    My vote goes to Grow Biz.
    Special thanks to Jacqie Brierton , Merle and Joe for their great help and timeless support offered especially to me.
    Keep up with your superb efforts of supporting new businesses.
    Thanks you all Grow Biz,


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