The core of SURF’s work is the organisation of events and seminars which enable practitioners from all sectors to share information and act together.

SURF is happy to make available summaries of the reports and connections arising from past events for the information of all interested colleagues in the regeneration field.

This section features reports from our Annual Lecture and Food For Thought events. Food For Thought gatherings are small group discussions with leading figures in Scottish community regeneration, held over lunch or dinner and under the Chatham House rule.

Food For Thought

SURF convened a ‘Food for Thought’ gathering of third sector leaders in Scotland in April 2016 to discuss the topic of ‘A More Civic Scotland – What, Who and How?’

Click here to download a summary report of the discussion.

Outcomes from first phase of SURF’s collaborative programme

SURF completed the first phase of its 2011-12 Reality, Resources, Resilience programme, which is being delivered in partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and with support from the Scottish Government, at the end of 2011.

The purpose of this project phase was to explore the early impact of recession-based policy decisions on disadvantaged communities in Scotland. We investigated experiences in two case study communities – east Govan in Glasgow and Gallatown in Kirkcaldy – and held a collaborative seminar in November 2011 to explore wider resonance across Scotland (see details here).

In December 2011, we hosted a ‘Food For Thought’ Chatham House rule discussion event with senior policy-makers, practitioners and academics. The purpose was to discuss the policy implications from the case studies and seminar outcomes.

You can access a copy of a summary report of the discussion.

The Scottish Government asked SURF to convene a short series of discussion events aimed at supporting thinking and exchanges based on the themes of their regeneration discussion paper, Building a Sustainable Future.

These ‘Food For Thought’ events took place in February and March 2011 shortly after the launch of this discussion paper. The events enabled a range of well-placed cross-sector individuals to contribute to a sharing of thoughts and perspectives on each of the three key themes of the paper.

The key themes were:

  • Community-led regeneration
  • Tackling area-based deprivation
  • Investing in the economic potential of our communities

This ‘Further Food for Thought’ paper reflects and summarises the proceedings across the discussion events. The aim of this report is to provide some additional and informed feedback to Scottish Government and to assist consideration of the outcomes of the discussion paper exercise.

This event, on the theme of early intervention, took place in the Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh. The purpose was:

  • To bring together 16 leading figures concerned with the regeneration of Scotland’s disadvantaged communities, in an informal, Chatham House rule setting.
  • To hear a short introductory input from SURF’s Edward Harkins.
  • To promote an open and constructive exchange of views and ideas.

An outcomes paper from this discussion event is available for download.


SURF regularly organises ‘Food For Thought’ events to which a number of relevant key figures are invited to discuss a topic of mutual interest in a discreet and informal setting.

This lunch event for some key figures involved in relevant aspects of community development in Scotland was organised to discuss the potential for mutual benefits in taking a community development approach to realising the Government’s aspirations for ‘A Mentally Flourishing Scotland’. Download a summary report of the discussions.


Lessons for a Lasting Legacy

The 2011 SURF Annual Lecture

Baroness FordSURF was thrilled when Baroness Margaret Ford, Chair of the Olympic Park Legacy Company, accepted our invitation to deliver the lecture for 2011.

In recent years, Baroness Ford (pictured with SURF Chief Executive Andy Milne, left, and SURF Director and lecture chair Brian MacDonald, right) has held a number of high-profile regeneration-related positions in both Scotland and England. Her lecture provided valuable insights into the approach of using Olympic Games legacy investments to deliver sustainable long-term regeneration in some of London’s most deprived communities.

The lecture, which also featured a question and discussion session, was held in December 2011 in Dundee City Chambers. You can download the lecture transcript..

SURF is grateful to Dundee City Council for hosting the event.

A Vision for Regeneration in Scotland
The 2010 SURF Annual Lecture

peter housdenSURF was delighted to enlist Sir Peter Housden, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, to deliver the 2010 SURF Annual Lecture.

The event, which took place on Thursday 11 November in Dundee City Chambers, was Sir Peter’s first public speech in the role. The theme of Sir Peter’s lecture was: A vision for regeneration in Scotland – a view from the top. Over 100 SURF members were in attendance.

The lecture content includes Sir Peter’s considerations on the future regeneration priorities for the Scottish Government and a comparison of the English and Scottish contexts; prior to taking up his position in the Scottish Government in May 2010, Sir Peter was the Permanent Secretary to the UK Department for Communities and Local Government.

A full transcript of the lecture – and the questions & answer session that followed – is available for download.

SURF is grateful to Dundee City Council for hosting this event.

How Inequality Damages All Of Us
The 2009 SURF Annual Lecture

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 2009 SURF Annual Lecture was delivered by Professor Kate Pickett in the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh. Prof. Pickett is a senior lecturer in epidemiology at the University of York, and co-wrote the highly successful book ‘The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better’ with Prof. Richard Wilkinson in 2009.

Prof. Pickett used the lecture to present the compelling research evidence from her book, which shows that a wide variety of social problems are more likely to occur in less equal societies. She also outlined The Equality Trust campaign that is based on the research.

A full transcript of the lecture is available for download.

SURF is grateful to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for their support in the delivery for the 2009 SURF Annual Lecture.

Biological Consequences of Deprivation
SURF Annual Lecture 2008

The SURF Annual Lecture 2008 was delivered by Dr Harry Burns, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, in the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh.

Dr Burns drew on a series of linked research sources to set out his main position that the linkages between health and poverty are complex, and that – while there are no magic bullets – there is hope, particularly via early intervention.

The main messages of Dr Burns’s lecture included the following points:

  • Poverty: The relationship between health and poverty is more complex than is commonly acknowledged. While there may be a strong case for income redistribution on the grounds of justice, there is no evidence that making people wealthier will make them healthier.
  • Diet: Some evidence on linkages between improved diet and health outcomes, such as reduced levels of heart problems appear to be largely post hoc justifications.
  • Tobacco: Men in Scotland smoke less than those in other countries which have much higher life expectancy levels. A smoker in Paisley is four times more likely to die of lung cancer than a well off smoker of the same number of cigarettes in England.

The setting aside of these traditional concerns raises two key questions.

  • Do people in poorer areas have less resilience in combating and recovering from illness?
  • Is there a link between social circumstances and cellular biology?

The 1996 Everson Research which included measuring levels of ‘hopelessness’ or ‘pessimism’ in men indicates a relationship between stress, cortisol and the thickness of fat coating the inside of arteries.

Research from the NY University Psychology dept indicates that the greatest levels of stress in baby Macaque monkeys occurs when there is an inconsistent (rather than a deprived) feeding pattern for the mothers. This research further indicates links from stress to aggressiveness and
obesity. There is a further link to changes in the brain structure and development, resulting in poorer levels of decision making.

Separate research based on ‘the Dunedin Cohort’ from 1972-73 shows that improvements in social circumstances can help brain cells to repair and performance to improve.

Stressed poorer people have to run their cellular reparatory inflammatory system a lot of the time. This results in the thinning of artery walls.

Cancer- Telemores repair damaged DNA strands but eventually the cells can’t be repaired and then die or may become cancerous.

In his concluding remarks, Dr Burns made the following points:

  • There is clear evidence of a link between life circumstances and health.
  • Practical local initiatives, sensitive to local circumstances, are more appropriate to tackling this issue than top down policy making.
  • Early interventions in supporting a nurturing parent child relationship can be very helpful.
  • A practice based learning network should be established to support dissemination of this information and development of practical responses.
  • We should strive to find ways to get rapid access information support to practitioners.
  • We need to find the courage to set standards that will help shift attitudes and culture.
  • The timing and sequencing of regeneration efforts needs to be improved.
  • Robust and clear information is key to making convincing arguments for change.

Regeneration in a Civil Society
SURF Annual Lecture 2006

The 2006 Annual Lecture looked at Regeneration in a Civil Society, and was delivered by Geoff Mulgan. Geoff is the Director of The Young Foundation and ex-Head of Policy in the Prime Minister’s Office. He was also the co-founder of influential think tank Demos.

Poverty – The key challenge for Regeneration
The 2005 SURF Annual Lecture

The 2005 Annual Lecture was delivered by Lord Richard Best, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

New Ideas from the USA in developing 3rd Sector Regeneration Organisations
SURF Annual Lecture 2003

A fascinating presentation by John Colburn at the 5th SURF Annual Lecture showed how, with the right kind of assistance, some social economy initiatives can change the market they are involved in rather than just working within its limits.

By Will Hutton, Director, The Industrial Society

by Bishop Richard Holloway, Bishop of Edinburgh and Chair of the Lord Provost’s Commission on Social Exclusion

by Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG QC, former Secretary of State for Scotland

by Rt Hon Donald Dewar, Secretary of State for Scotland

Aberdeen City Council
Capital City Partnership
Clyde Gateway
Creative Scotland
Dundee Partnership
Edinburgh City Council
Glasgow City Council
Glasgow Housing Association
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Jobs and Business Glasgow
Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
Scottish Government
Skills Development Scotland