Understanding the current enabling conditions, as well as barriers, to wider adoption of good place-based working in Scotland, and how to improve practice.

New report by Collaborate CIC and the Corra Foundation.

During the Spring 2018 Collaborate worked with the Corra Foundation (formerly Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland, a grant maker aiding charities across Scotland to improve the lives of individuals and communities experiencing disadvantage) on the first stage of a project funded by Scottish Government exploring what a ‘Scottish Approach’ to place-based working might entail. As part of the programme, a new report Place-based working in Scotland: learning from six case studies is now available sharing research on a range of approaches — from Community Land Trusts in Lewis and Harris, to regeneration schemes in Fife and Glasgow, the work of a local Health and Social Care Partnership and a national initiative for children’s services using a place-based model.

The research, led by our Scotland Lead Associate Annabel Davidson Knight, engaged a range of partners from across public, private, third and community sectors involved in each local collaboration. Annabel explored key strengths of place-based work in Scotland, the conditions that enable such work to thrive, and some of the challenges facing place-based initiatives. The findings demonstrate the power of locally-based, often community-owned schemes in bringing in investment of skills, time and finance that otherwise would not have been possible and transforming places for the better. All schemes display some common features.

They are…

  • Collaborative — Involving a range of partners and institutions from across sectors who are key to the place (ideally public, private, third sector and community)
  • Community centred — Communities and other stakeholders and institutions in a place recognise their interdependence and work together to shape the area
  • Able to work across different spatial scales — From neighbourhoods to towns, to local authorities, to regions and to the national level, partners engage across these scales to ensure planning and delivery connects.

We witnessed ingenuity and persistence among partners, particularly when faced with technical or cultural barriers. We also saw organisations who were resourceful in their approach, sharing assets, skills and more to achieve common goals. It was also interesting that while there is recognition that learning and measuring together is important, there is a long way to go to make the most of the opportunities to share insight and data to drive coordinated action.

It is worth noting one particular strength of the place-based initiatives studied: the change sought (whatever the goal of the particular project) is long term and sustainable, building places which thrive socially, environmentally and economically. The work is not principally about quick wins (though this can help create community buy-in) nor is it about growth (a narrative some found counterproductive to their efforts). Instead there is a strong focus on long-term change which can help sustain communities way into the future — 10, 20, 50 years hence. The long commitment of key individuals who remain involved for years or even decades makes this possible, moving beyond the constraints of political cycles.

The research findings were first shared at an event at the end of March, which saw a group of practitioners and key stakeholders gather from across Scotland to discuss place-based change, how such a movement might be supported, and what might be learnt from the rich and vibrant heritage of community-led change from across the country — from the first recorded co-operative in Fenwick in the 1700s to the success of community land ownership in the Highlands and Islands over the last 30 years.

At the session there was a real desire to build on the ‘fiery spirit’ of the people who make a place, to involve everybody in a place and break down the perceived barrier between professional and resident (professionals are residents too after all). There was consensus that the wider policy landscape in Scotland provides opportunities — in the shape of Planning Reform, the upcoming Local Governance Review and recent Community Empowerment Act; and that there is a desire among public servants to work more collaboratively together and with communities. However, we also found that the skills and cultures aren’t always keeping up and are rarely invested in well.

There is an emerging network of people who are keen to seize these opportunities and develop the field of place-based practice with the aim of encouraging more and more areas to take up this way of working. For the Corra Foundation, who will continue this work, the next phase will focus on identifying who and what will be needed to create the conditions for this work to thrive across Scotland. The Place-based working project is creating a knowledge hub of online resources, information and tools to support those with an interested in place-based approached. For more information on the project please visit https://www.corra.scot/place-based-working-project/.

To learn more about the research please contact Annabel Davidson-Knight or Zoe Rush.