Meet the facilitator: Alistair Trail (SAC Consulting)

“I would explain facilitation as bringing people together”

Food and Drink Consultant Alistair Trail of SAC Consulting (part of Scotland’s Rural College) facilitates projects looking at local supply chains, sustainability, innovation and funding.

As part of the Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS), he’s facilitated our Scottish Tea group, Scottish Rapeseed Oil group, and our Adding Value to Estate Game group.

Here he tells us what facilitation means to him, a bit about the groups he’s facilitated with RISS, and how he tackles the challenges a facilitator can face.


“Facilitation is about giving businesses an extra resource”

“I would explain facilitation as bringing people together. It’s about trying to understand the needs of a group, and translating those needs into a useful project, or identifying potential collaborators.

“With RISS projects, it’s often about doing the background work that businesses might not have the time to do in between their day-to-day work. We can do the digging to see if a project is feasible, and get in touch with the right people to help turn an idea into reality.

“Really, it’s about giving businesses the extra resource to do something new.”


Working on the Adding Value to Estate Game RISS group

Along with Ceri Ritchie (also of SAC Consulting), Alistair is currently facilitating a RISS group that has brought estates in Aberdeenshire together with a supply chain business to explore shot game as a market opportunity rather than an unwanted sporting by-product.

“Within the estate game group, there were a lot of busy people working on day-to-day activities on the estates who didn’t have the capacity to co-ordinate getting everyone interested together.

“So we started by organising meetings between the different estates, which meant we could understand what their needs were and find common ground.

Thanks to the RISS group Alistair facilitated, estates across Aberdeenshire are joining together to introduce consumers to a Scottish food product they might not usually pick up on their weekly shop.

“We then did the work looking into potential market opportunities and collaborators. In particular we had the marketing and branding expertise we could bring in as part of the facilitation role.

“The group is developing a plan of action, they’re developing a good relationship with a processor and hoping to get some trial products to them soon, so that’s a positive outcome.”


"It can take a lot of work to move things forward"

“The biggest challenge is probably just the time it can take to get things done. Everyone’s really busy, and everyone has got businesses they’re trying to grow, so it can take a lot of work to move things forwards.

“Trying to co-ordinate a big group of people and getting them to make decisions when it’s a long-term project which won’t have immediate gains can be hard. It just might not seem as important as day-to-day business.

“As a facilitator, it’s really about making sure you pull together as much information as possible so that when groups do have the time, they can make decisions quickly and move forward with the project.”

Alistair is facilitating a RISS group of Scottish rapeseed oil producers who aim to increase either the efficiency or quality of high-end rapeseed oil production in Scotland.


"It gives groups the time to get something done"

“I think the value is in taking away the burden from the members to do that background work and co-ordination that needs to happen. We can link groups with people with similar issues, and help develop a solution that’s practical for the businesses.

“I think it’s a great role, and it gives the groups the time to get something done.”


More about Alistair

Alistair became a Food and Drink Consultant with SAC Consulting in January 2017, with expertise in areas including:

  • Innovation, Funding and Project Management
  • Supply Chain Management; Environmental Management
  • Circular Economy and Food Waste
  • Deer Farming and Venison Supply Chain
  • New Product Development

He also helps manage the Rural Innovation Support Service, has delivered a number of Knowledge Transfer and Exchange (KTW) projects, and collaborates with SRUC Hospitality on new product development.

You can contact Alistair by email or find out more on the SRUC website.

> Read about the success of the Adding Value to Estate Game group facilitated by Alistair

> Hear more from our other RISS facilitators

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