Internet Interview with Paul McOscar


The Waste Wise Armadale Project

June 2008

A little from you; a lot for Armadale.
Many people have asked about the Waste Wise Armadale Project since its completion.

We were delighted when Paul McOscar agreed to give an internet interview about his Armadale experience .

Please note that the views expressed are those of Paul McOscar and not of Changeworks.

The transcript below appears in its full form. 

1. Why was Armadale chosen for the Waste Wise Project?

Changeworks Resources for Life (Edinburgh), the Project's initiator initially proposed to the Scottish Government’s Increase II Programme, that a trial waste minimization community education programme be established in two Scottish communities. The funder declined and indicated that this innovative trial would only be funded in one community. The socio-economic makeup of Armadale provided an excellent representative statistical cross-section of a Scottish community as a plus national waste minimization statistics indicated that the community of Armadale was in the above average category (that is to reduce, reuse, recycle).
I later discovered that many residents where unaware of this and were amazed that Armadale had this status.

2. Why were you involved?

Changeworks, the Project's initiator sought a person with community engagement experience to facilitate the project in Armadale. For Waste Wise Armadale to succeed meant achieving community buy-in. Because of my background experience through working with similar communities in NZ, Changeworks offered me a short-term employment contract.

3. How many people were involved? Residents, Project workers etc…

A difficult question and hard to quantify because we contacted over 1300 households to seek and encourage their participation. Then the Council and Changeworks schools waste education staff involved several hundred children through the schools waste free lunch programme. As for staff we employed 8 Project team workers to assist with the community doorstep programme. Behind the scenes there were a number of Changeworks and West Lothian Council staff who contributed to the design, management and delivery of the programme. My role was the link between these people to activate community change.

4. How long did preparations take before the Project began?

The Project commenced over nine months before it was launched in the Armadale community. This involved developing the concept and project objectives, obtaining funding support, project management, investigating which community to involve, establishing pre and after project measurement (research), discussing local authority involvement, project branding and the project format.

5. For how long did the Project run?

In all from start to finish the Project would have been spread over 15 months. But the community action part of the Project in Armadale was only 6 months.

6. What sort of reception did you receive in Armadale?

Personally I was humbled by the reception from those Armadalians that I met. While the publicity was targeted at the whole community of Armadale, the door-stepping (the direct community contact) part of the Project was with only a part (1331 households) of Armadale.
It really gave me a buzz as community involvement increased and Waste Wise was accepted. It was great to be recognized in the street particularly by the youngsters as being part of Waste Wise programme.

Sadly as with any community, a very small minority of those that we visited through the door stepping programme showed no interest in supporting Armadale and its involvement in the Waste Wise Project. More importantly they obviously had no interest in the impact that we are having on our planet and the causes of global warming.

5. What were your expectations before the Project?

When facilitating community projects such as Waste Wise you must believe in the project and its ability to succeed.
There were a number of indicators why I believed Waste Wise could succeed in Armadale. These were (in no particular order):
An active and identifiable community.
The cross-section of age groups.
Community pride.
Excellent inter-actions between local schools and the community.
Excellent communications.
Being a trial project part of the Waste Wise aim was to see what worked best and what didn’t; how the community responded; and what goals and outcomes were achieved. This meant that there was no right or wrong boxes to tick but the project would provide a better insight to how similar projects may proceed in the future.

6. What disappointed you re the Project?

Little. Again the Waste Wise Project had no right or wrong answers. Waste Wise Armadale was a trial project to allow Changeworks to measure what was achieved, how the community responded and what worked best and what did not.
As with any trial project of this nature it was required to work within its budgetary constraints. This did provide some challenges and belt tightening. The Waste Wise planning team met regularly to chart progress and redirect its resources/budget as necessary.

7. What responses surprised you in Armadale?

The enthusiasm and impact of Armadale's young people, particularly through the messages of waste minimization activities in local schools. This is obviously having a carry-over effect in their homes. All credit to school staff for promoting, encouraging and maintaining this commitment. The Council and Changeworks schools waste education staff should also be acknowledged here for their support.
Plus not forgetting the willingness of the majority of Armadale businesses for their interest, discussions and support to display Waste Wise Armadale Project information. One business broke its rule of not displaying community information, by allowing the “Armadale Whale” to be displayed.
The community impact of driving a truck with over one ton of rubbish (representing an average family’s annual waste), in the Gala Day Parade. This brought many on-going comments from residents, who were then aware about how much waste we create.

8. What pleased you………?

Finding a hospitable community and not believing the negative comments about Armadale before arriving in Armadale. Enjoying many cosmopolitan discussions with residents. Also pleasing about Waste Wise (because it was a trial project), were the number of facts and points identified that need to be considered for any similar future following project.

9. What did you learn personally from the Project?

Having been immersed in the Waste Wise Project has increased my concerns for our environment and particularly global warming. No community project is the same so as for fronting Waste Wise there were many benefits that I can draw on from this experience. It also brought home that for a Waste Wise type project to succeed you need a marketing plan that has the impact of telling a person that they cannot afford not to participate.

10. What were the Project’s official results?

Firstly there was SIS Tech’s project evaluation, which can be sourced from Changeworks web page. This was the technical research summary giving a theoretical project evaluation. It gives a range of outcomes based on its survey and measurement results in the control areas of Armadale and Broxburn. Probably the two most obvious outcomes are that a 6.1% decrease in waste occurred during Waste Wise and after the conclusion of Waste Wise 34.3% recalled the Project.
Changeworks as the Project's initiator also completed its own summary. This was to analyse community responses, how the Project functioned and also to identify how management and planning succeeded or failed. Again this can be sourced from Changeworks web page
As a trial project I personally felt that much was gained that may help future projects. As one example showed, residents were well aware of recycling, but not of the waste hierarchy that includes reduce and reuse. This pointed to a greater need to educate all to understand just what reduce, reuse, recycle means.

11. In the light of your Armadale experience, if you were to conduct such a project again, what would you do differently?

It was difficult just terminating the Waste Wise Armadale Project because the trial project ended. I felt it left those who were actively participating up in the air. From a marketing angle the message needed to be maintained particularly to encourage the swingers (not the converted) to continue to reduce, reuse, recycle. It was like we created this innovative community project, got buy in (we did explain it was a short term trial) and then left town. I would in future check out how and if a community group had the capacity to maintain and facilitate the project.

12. What is your lasting impression of Armadale?

Among my memories are: a fast expanding community with many willing people (particularly volunteers) contributing to Armadale's infrastructure. The Gala Day experience and the excitement it brings to the town. The friendliness of its people.

13. Any message for the people you met in Armadale?

Those that are converted to the Waste Wise message, please encourage your neighbours, family and friends to become waste wise and show that Armadale cares about diminishing its waste. The challenge for Armadale is to surpass Aberdeen and Stirling as Scotland’s top waste minimization communities. Many in Armadale were not aware that its residents' waste minimization practices meant it was one of the top reduce, reuse, recycle communities in Scotland.

14. Anything else I haven’t thought of?!
What should the residents of Armadale cherish more?

I’ve already mentioned the Gala Day. I don’t think many in Armadale including the West Lothian Council really appreciate the Armadale (your) website and the value as a communication tool.
I would also hope that Armadale doesn’t become a dormitory suburb of the big cities nearby and that it maintains its own character and community involvement.
Maintaining its pride of place as a top Scottish community at waste minimization.

Thanks, Paul.  I think that your responses have given Armadalians, and other website visitors, much to think about.  From the viewpoint of many involved in the Project, much of its success was down to your positive approach, your committed involvement and, particularly, your dogged determination no matter what hurdles you had to overcome!

It has been a pleasure to 'talk' to you again.  Perhaps an alternative Armadale's slogan should be: A lot from Paul; even more from Armadale!


If anyone has views about the Project, please e-mail Rosie


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