What is sustainability?

Written by: Marianne Brennan, Development Officer, the ALLIANCE

Published: 21/06/2019

Marianne shares her thinking around sustainability.

Working as part of the team who administer the Self Management Fund each year on behalf of Scottish Government, we are regularly asked as projects near the end of their funding questions surrounding sustainability. The Self Management Fund is in its 10 Year Anniversary and our learning shows that sustainability is still viewed as one of the biggest challenges for projects, but is it?

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought recently as I’m aware many of our currently funded projects will come to an end in September and I took inspiration from Dr Jenny Peachy at Carnegie Trust UK at a recent conference. Through this it has slightly reframed my initial thinking around sustainability. Here’s what I’ve come up with in relation to our Self Management Funded Projects:

  • Sustainability can be about the partnerships that you create

We continue to see the ever-increasing benefits of partnership working and it feels we don’t always look back and give this the credit it’s due. Over the years, my own learning of working in partnership with different organisations for differing projects has always enabled us to reach larger audiences and learn about new ways or working. When a project finishes, the relationships that have been made between people and organisations are sustainable. This also means that in the future, if new projects ideas are being developed that we can reconnect with said partner and the relationship has already been established. It’s always easier to chap at an open door…

  • Sustainability can be about the impact a project has on an individual

A project may run for one year supporting individuals to strengthen their skills, knowledge and awareness of self management. These could be skills that individuals have never had access to and could change the life of an individual. We’ve heard countless times, stories of individuals who have learned new skills, gained confidence in their own abilities and went on to great things. That is a legacy to be proud of however many people your project reaches. It’s about making a different in people’s lives.

  • Sustainability can be the skills and learning provided to staff and volunteers

Part of the criteria for the Self Management Fund is that people living with long term conditions are involved in design, delivery and evaluation. Through this we have huge numbers of people being upskilled or learning new skills. These include delivering training, becoming a peer to peer support worker and essentially learning skills they didn’t have the opportunity to learn prior to a project being funded. Projects have enabled this to happen.

  • Sustainability can be about sharing your learning with others

Over 270 projects have been funded in the 10 Years of the Self Management Fund. Through this the team at the ALLIANCE and individual projects have gathered copious amounts of learning about what has worked well, what things they might of changed and it enables us able to share this with others. This can help new projects avoid mistakes or think about how to overcome challenges. The Self Management Network Scotland also provides a platform for projects to share their learning with a large audience across Scotland through events, blogs, networking you name it.

  • Sustainability can spark creativity

Projects seeking funding from the Self Management Fund need to be new and different as we are unable to provide funding for the continuation of projects. Through this we’ve seen organisations develop new and exciting ideas that expand on their learning and channel this into new developments. This gives projects a push to think about what they can do to support individual’s self management in a variety of ways.


In a landscape where funding can be limited or hard to come by, I think we need to look at what we mean by sustainability. Many of us including myself well at least until I had my slight epiphany moment often translate sustainability with continued funding but it’s given me a some fresh ideas. Does anyone else have any thoughts?

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