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All in one - a community garden, community cupboard and personalised welfare advice

The MAXwell Centre Community Centre and Garden

Volunteer lunch break at The MAXwell Centre Community Centre and Garden

Author: Alison Goodfellow, Project Manager.

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Who we are

The MAXwell Centre is a vibrant, thriving centre with a large, well-established, award-winning garden based in Dundee. Our project is unique, we connect vital activities and services such as food bank referrals, a food cupboard, personalised welfare advice and support groups with food growing, cooking, and youth work. This model is successful as it offers multiple engagement possibilities for diverse interests and needs. Years of community food growing experience means we can evidence the huge positive impact and difference this has made for our community. 

Implementing the Dignity Principles

A sense of control:

We work tirelessly to provide a range of options so emergency food aid is never the first response. Our community cupboard has a give-and-take ethos and we always provide a choice of what is available. We also provide choice through an extensive range of activities. 

Able to take part in community life:  

We ensure everyone feels able and welcome to take part in any activities or services, regardless of background or financial situation. 

To engage as many local individuals as possible, we hold regular open days in the centre. We invite new and existing participants to come in, discuss what we do, and what further services we can provide that would support our community to be self-reliant. We attend other local community events and meetings to promote our project and establish new relationships with community members. 

To ensure the continuing success of our youth work, we liaise with local schools, parents/carers and other youth groups. Our youth worker regularly attends local primary school assemblies to promote our youth groups. Our holiday garden club enables children to participate fully and positively, making their own decisions and feeling empowered to contribute.

Nourished and supported 

We create a welcoming space and always provide the most nutritious, highest quality food we can. We actively involve participants and volunteers with experience of food poverty to inform our work. 

“We also have a dedicated staff member who works with people on a case by case basis to support them to access support available to them.”

This includes information on benefits, the Scottish Welfare Fund, links with employability services and information on other community support groups.

Involved in decision-making

Local people are involved in the development and running of our centre at every level. From our board of trustees who steer the overall project, to the individual volunteers who deliver and support our daily activities, and to our participants of all ages.

“ We are in constant discussion and evaluation with the community to ensure we are meeting their needs in the best way. We aim to make engagement as clear and easy as possible for everyone.”

Having lunch at the summer 2022

Our project is governed by a board of trustees made up of 7 local individuals. These individuals are hugely involved in the design and development of the project in addition to management responsibilities. Our trustees bring a wide, diverse range of different experiences, knowledges, and backgrounds to the project. 

Our community's concern over the impact of climate change is also increasing the number of individuals wanting to be involved in promoting growing produce at a local level. 

Valued and able to contribute

Our volunteers are local people who play a key role in the planning and delivery of the project. They bring a variety of skills and talents to the project, from admin and IT to carpentry, gardening, and cooking. Creating an environment where people can put their skills in practice supports them to feel valued and able to contribute. Our volunteers and community members are true ambassadors of our work. 

We carry out regular consultation with all project participants for feedback on what we are doing and planning. Always asking for ideas of new activities that may be of interest and giving responsibility and recognition to all. 

Overcoming challenges

The greatest challenge we are currently facing is the huge increase in demand for all our services and activities post-pandemic. We are at full capacity delivering pre-covid and our new blended activities. We are currently doing a strategic review to ensure we can build capacity to meet demand while ensuring dignity is at the very core of everything we do. 

Implementing the Dignity Principles for the first time? Here’s my advice:

“Use all the fantastic tools and resources available on the website and come along to the peer support meetings to hear first-hand, good practice from a wide range of different projects across Scotland. ” – Alison Goodfellow, Project Manager.