Cassiltoun Housing Association

Conversation Cafe
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Lead Organisation:
Cassiltoun Housing Association
Award Amount:

The Conversation Cafe began from feedback from some of the Castlemilk Park Volunteers.

As New Scots they were learning English at online college classes and through a translator told us that they found it difficult to learn online because it was hard to have conversations on Zoom and also because they felt that what they were learning “wasn’t actually how people speak in Castlemilk”.

We co-designed with them ‘Conversation Cafe’ whereby local Castlemillk people who signed up as volunteers and people with English as a second language from across Castlemilk met in a hired local cafe to practise conversational English over a shared meal.

Facilitated by a freelance ESOL tutor and all learning themes participant led, this was a hugely successful initial 3 month pilot which then successfully received another years funding, ending on the 27th of March 2023.

All participants have linked in to other opportunities whether that be signing up as Castlemilk Park Volunteers, attending community lunches and art classes, or their children becoming Youth Advisory Panel members.

We want to continue this project and expand on it, as do the participants and partner organisations.

New Scots reached
Key Infomation
  • Conversation Café Workshops (Monday evenings); the same model of community-led workshops as stated above with the addition of a sessional worker to do workshops with the children that attend – this was identified as reducing barriers
  • Conversation Café & Connect (Thursday afternoons); continue our Community Lunch whereby community members, volunteers, other group participants and Conversation Café participants meet. This is a vibrant, chatty and friendly space with information on what else is happening, staff from across the Community Team attending to build relationships and where many previous Conversation Café participants started attending to practise what they learned at the Monday workshops.

Key Information


Castlemilk Youth Complex

Geographical reach

Glasgow South


April 2023 – November 2023

Target Groups

Male & Female Adult Refugees, Migrants, Asylum Seekers

Project Type

Range of Employability Services, including employer engagement with placement and work experience, skills profiling and employer skills matrix.


The group of New Scots recognised that although they can attend ESOL classes, sometimes that doesn’t meet their needs as they need more help understanding the Glaswegian accent and how to have conversations with key service providers such as doctors/reception staff etc.

Involvement of New Scots in project

They helped us create the project idea before the project started. They had a consultation workshop with the group at the beginning of the project and listed what topics they needed help with.

This was then implemented throughout each block where they had a suggestions box for the following weeks workshops. The plan and topics were regularly reviewed and changed depending on their needs.


The time given by local people to support this project has been invaluable and incredible. The knowledge of the local area and of Scottish history and words as well as their kind and welcoming ethos has made this project the success that it is. Castlemilk is brimming with folk making a difference in their communities and this group are a shining example of this.

A survey with all participants took place before the project ended the results were as follows:

  • 100% agreed or strongly agreed that attending conversation café has increased their confidence.
  • 71% strongly agreed attending the project has increased their social interaction with people they normally wouldn’t get a chance to meet.
  • 57% strongly agreed attending conversation café has increased their access to other community spaces, 14% agreed, 28% neutral.
  • 85% strongly agreed that attending the project has increased their ability to speak the English Language.

Challenges encountered

Informing people across the community that the opportunities to attend the conversations cafes were available.

Limited choices on when the workshops could be hosted. Castlemilk has fewer venues that are open in the evenings, however these are the times that would suit a number of people in our communities due to work or family commitments.

Fluctuating attendances depending on other priorities and transitions, such as school holidays, working later shifts at work etc.



To overcome the challenges encountered, we;

  • Put posters in English and in multiple languages across the whole community including the local library, schools, community centre, local noticeboards and on lamp posts. we also shared this information by email and social media.
  • Had engagement stalls across the community offering hold drinks and further information.
  • Utilised our busy community events to inform people.
  • Current participants and volunteers used their own networks to share info about these workshops.
  •  Other challenges were met with creativity, resourcefulness and by harnessing the good will of the team towards New Scots.

The positive aspects of taking on a new approach (innovative)/How the project has expanded on existing examples of good practice (good practice)

Our project is community-based, community-led, builds social connections across Castlemilk has a cultural orientation focus as all previous participants are hugely interested in this, has creative and fun workshops to practise language and links it to our own employability pathways of our wide Volunteer Development Programme.

Very much a celebration of language and culture, this is a space to connect, share, explore and create new and lasting connections. We will meet the specification of social integration however the pathways to our Volunteer Development Programme will link participants to opportunities related to employability.

As we are committed to an asset-based community development approach,  we recognise skills, strengths, knowledge, resources and capacity of the people, places and partners in the geographical area that we are based. We celebrate all cultures, languages and the experiences that people bring to the area.

Our engagement approach is very much embedded in reaching and reaching to those that are “easiest to ignore” – we know a whole variety of methods is required in order to ensure that those that would benefit most are aware of the opportunity.

Our Sessional Workers will commit to this approach. And our approach is partnership working. Many of our participants have taken part due to our attendance at Parent’s Nights at local schools, due to our linking in with partner organisations such as the Castlemilk Youth Complex, contacting ESOL teachers in local primary schools, attending the South East Integration Network to promote the opportunity and through strong partnership working Glasgow Life who regularly refer adult learners for ongoing learning.


Participants have linked quite well with other groups. In Nov 2023, we delivered the exit strategy whereby the staff involved in other projects delivered taster sessions with the group.

This was designed to build long lasting relationships with other groups ad reduce barriers to participants attending workshops. The volunteers and participants wanted to continue the project subject to funding being available.

Project Partners