good life, good death, good grief


The Truacanta Project is supporting local communities across Scotland who are interested in taking community action to improve people’s experiences of death, dying, loss and care. On this blog, you'll hear from time to time from people associated with the project who wish to share their experiences.

Truacanta at the Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief Winter Get-together

a large screen showing a slide that says 'Truacanta'

On 1 December 2022, Good Life Good Death Good Grief held their first in-person conference since 2019. The Winter Get-together was on the theme of Caring, Dying and Grieving: encouraging and supporting action in communities. The Truacanta Project was delighted to be represented in both a plenary presentation, and a breakout session.

The plenary was on the subject of What have we learned about creating compassionate communities? and was presented by Caroline Gibb, manager of the Truacanta Project, and Janet Biggar, of Janet Biggar Research, who are the evaluation coordinators for the project. You can see the presentation slides HERE.

Over forty people signed up to the breakout session, which shows the interest in creating more compassionate

a hand drawn image illustrating the questions why who how where what. title: Vision for Change

communities in Scotland and further afield. We were delighted to share learning from the Truacanta groups, and lead discussion around Building Compassionate Communities using a visual exercise following the five basic questions: why, who, how, where and what.

We started with the WHY – why are people involved in or interested in compassionate community work? The answers create the foundation that you can then start to build on. The Truacanta representatives all shared their Whys, before delegates shared their thoughts. We then had a foundation we could start building on.

We then moved on to small group discussions and in the groups people shared their thoughts on the questions who, how, where and what:

  • The WHO is the people who will benefit from the change and who will drive the change
  • The HOW is how to connect and inspire, it is identifying and removing barriers, creating spaces and platforms for people
  • The WHERE is what you see down the line, your vague destination, your envisaged change
  • The WHAT is the activity that will get you there a collage of pictures showing flip chart sheets covered in handwriting

The discussions were really lively and energizing and the groups were quickly filling flip chart sheets with their reflections – at the end of the session the walls were covered in pieces of paper!

a flip chart sheet covered with coloured post-its

Delegates were very generous with their sharing and whether people were already involved in compassionate community activity or just thinking about it, there was something useful for everyone.

Before breaking for lunch, people wrote down the next steps that they would be taking after the event, and it was lovely to see how focused people are on taking community action around death, dying, loss and care.

Thanks to the Truacanta groups for helping to plan and deliver the session and to the delegates for their ideas and passion. It bodes well for future compassionate communities.

Truacanta does Bruges

Caroline Gibb, manager of The Truacanta Project, writes about the recent Truacanta trip to an international conference in Belgium

At the end of 2021, SPPC submitted an abstract for a workshop at the 7th Public Health and Palliative Care International Conference which was to take place in Bruges, Belgium in September 2022. We felt that the work of the Truacanta groups fitted perfectly into the theme of the Conference - Democratizing Caring, Dying and Grieving: Participation, Action, Understanding and Evaluation – and saw a fantastic opportunity to showcase that work on an international stage.

In April 2022, we found out that the abstract - The Truacanta Project: Building Compassionate Communities - had been accepted, and got to work preparing for the conference.

To keep the workshop true to the project, there were two key elements for us:

  1. that the Truacanta groups were involved in designing the workshop and
  2. that the Truacanta groups were involved in delivering the workshop.

We were fortunate to have enough funding to cover conference places, travel and accommodation for a number of Truacanta representatives. We asked groups to self-select representatives and apply to attend, and six people from four groups were able to come. We got to work on the logistics.

a picture of a table with pens and paper on it, with someone presenting in the background and people sitting at tables listening

We then needed to decide what we would be doing for the workshop. We held an online Truacanta networking event in June, where we workshopped the workshop, and came away with a lot of good ideas. This was then moulded into a draft workshop plan, and we had another online meeting with just the Truacanta reps to finalise this plan.

And then, suddenly, it was September and all nine of us – three SPPC staff and six Truacanta reps - were winging our way to Bruges in various ways at various times, armed with felt-tips and flip chart paper and all staying in touch via a WhatsApp group.

The full conference was four days long – from Tuesday to Friday inclusive. We didn’t expect anyone to attend the full event; four days is a long time to take away from work or family commitments, on top of which flights fell at inconvenient times. What we asked was that for the time folk were there, they attended what they could, and shared their learning.

a photo of the 'great crossing' - paper lanters with personal messages on them were placed on the canal in Bruges, to remember loved one

There were a few highlights for folk from the conference. Not least our very own Deborah from North Berwick getting a round of applause for asking excellent questions at one of the plenaries!

Others included the lecture on Homelessness and Poverty by Naheed Dosani from Canada, and the Great Crossing event (De Grote Oversteek), where hundreds of paper lanterns were placed on the canal as a way of remembering lost loved ones. People had the chance to write personal messages on the lanterns before they went on the water, and the crossing itself was a moving moment of reflection and offered, as Charli from North Berwick says, “a sense of belonging, something that bereavement doesn’t often achieve.” North Berwick Compassionate Community and Truacanta Perthshire have both been inspired to do something similar locally for this year’s To Absent Friends festival.

Helen from Say Something Dundee felt that the conference “underlined the importance for humans to feel they have a purpose, through all of life. Whether you are dying, grieving, working, caring,” and her biggest takeaway was “the value of building relationships in communities at all stages of life and how that eases conversations. And that these relationships can be built through arts, learning, conversations.” Karrie from Highland agrees with this and found that she made many meaningful connections through conversation over the course of the conference.

a flip chart sheet titled 'Our Next Steps' with lots of colourful, handwritten post-its stuck to it

The Truacanta workshop was on the final day. We suspected this might not be the ideal slot, and unfortunately we were right – many people had already left the conference and attendance was very low. However, although small we had an international and very engaged group of delegates! All the delegates had lots of questions, and all left with some clear next steps to take. Everyone did a fantastic job delivering the workshop, and it really highlighted the amazing work all the groups have been doing over the last couple of years – there’s a lot to be proud of.

Indeed, Anne from Highland says “I think we can all be proud of what we’ve managed to achieve,” and that she is bringing back “inspiration and confidence in our own abilities,” while Charli says she felt pride “hearing the Truacanta projects across Scotland, recognising our own approach to participation, sharing and taking ideas from the groups, and connecting in person.” Emma from Perthshire echoed this saying she was proud of “the global presence at the workshop,” and that “it was really lovely to be part of the team.”

a group of people stand smiling in front of a screen that reads 'the truacanta project'

And actually, while delivering the workshop was the aim of the trip, another benefit for all of us was spending time together and bonding in person. We’ve all been part of the project since 2020, but until now we’d only all met up online. This was a lovely opportunity to get to know each other a bit better, and really feel like part of a team that is doing something special.

Getting to showcase all the wonderful compassionate community activity each group has been doing over last two years (during a pandemic!) –– not just to international conference delegates but to ourselves as well - was the icing on the cake.


For more information about the Truacanta Project please visit or email

The Truacanta Project: how we've coddiwompled our way through a pandemic

In March 2020, our five Truacanta groups had been selected and we were all looking forward to working together over the following two years on laying the foundations for compassionate communities in Scotland. The local projects were due to launch in April 2020. By mid-March, the project was on hold as we wrapped our heads around the emerging situation which, as we all know now, was going to last a lot longer than the initial three months we suggested.

As time ticked on and the reality became…well, real, we realised that the Truacanta Project was not going to happen, at least not the way we’d all envisaged it over the previous few months. The visions for change that each group had worked on had been based on face to face contact, the ability to go out and meet people, get to know and work with local communities and – importantly – on the group having capacity to do these things. All of this had changed, almost overnight.

We know that compassionate community activity can make a real difference to people facing difficult times around death, dying, loss and care. And we knew that from March 2020, difficult times were all around and ahead for communities and individuals. So what could we do? How could we continue with a project that we were no longer able to take forward as planned? How do you do a thing when you can’t do the thing?

Well, in true community development tradition, we coddiwompled. And that looked a bit like this.

What the local groups have been doing:

Truacanta Perthshire

In Perth they grew some Selfie Wings, giving local people a place and space to reflect and share their experiences, and to mark To Absent Friendsv week they created a remembrance trail using QR codes.

North Berwick Compassionate Community

North Berwick invited local people to a series of Online Armchair Chats, with speakers, music and poetry. They also organised in-person events at their local Fringe by the Sea.

Two of the North Berwick volunteers have trained as EASE Online Facilitators and have since delivered two courses locally with another coming up. They are working with St Columba’s Hospice to build a local pool of Compassionate Neighbours, and now have a paid member of staff to take this forward.

Say Something Dundee

Dundee have organised several online Conversation Cafes, as well as Information Sessions in partnership with a local solicitor. They have an active Facebook page, and have hosted Facebook Live events. They are looking at the possibility of funding a development post.

Highland Truacanta

In Highland they have held lots of online events for local people, including regular Virtual Tea Breaks and Creative Conversations where they’ve looked at ways of celebrating and remembering people who have died, including using poetry and arts and crafts activities. They were recently able to continue with these conversations in person as face to face events started back up.

One of the group has also trained as an EASE Online volunteer facilitator and is aiming to deliver a course to local people.


In Ayrshire, they have only recently been able to regroup and have opened up the steering group back up to include people from the third sector and the local hospice. They have started mapping activity to identify gaps and recently held a face to face engagement event, to get input from the local community.

What else the project has been doing:

Toward the end of 2021, we held events for the Truacanta and wider GLGDGG community.

We organised online Truacanta Death Clubs.

We have held three Truacanta networking events, giving our groups the chance to gather together and share experiences, successes and challenges and to inspire each other going forward.

We will be offering regular EASE Online courses as well as EASE Online Facilitator training; and offer priority places to Truacanta groups looking to participate in the course and go on to train as facilitators.

Meanwhile, our Evaluation Coordinators have been working with the local groups and evaluating local and national activity.

So, we have been focusing on small steps and embracing change. At one of our networking events, our guest speaker Anne Connor from Outside the Box offered this quote which felt very apt:

“All great innovations feel like a mess in the middle.” Rosabeth Moss Kanter

We are very fortunate that Macmillan have extended our funding for another year, to allow us to support the Truacanta groups for a bit longer as they start to build their local activity.

At our last networking event, our guest speaker Emer O’Leary invited us to create new visions for the next and final year. There was a real sense of pride from the groups at what they have achieved in the last two years, under very difficult circumstances. And, despite all the setbacks and challenges, there was still enthusiasm, passion and drive to push forward in this final year and to really set solid foundations in improving local experiences of death, dying, loss and care. We may not know exactly where our destination is, and the path there may keep changing direction, but we’ll keep coddiwompling along knowing that it is worth it.

Text size:AAA
Before I die I want to ...
Bereavement Charter for Scotland