Our collaborative inquiry work in Aberdeenshire has focused on two broad themes: community capacity-building for health and wellbeing; and using evidence across local and central community planning.

Aberdeenshire photo

Discussions between Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership and What Works Scotland in 2014 identified three areas of potential development of collaborative action research (CAR).

Two of these areas were developed at the What Works Scotland National CAR Retreat in June 2015 into more focused areas of inquiries: community capacity-building for health and wellbeing, and evidence-use/working across local and central community planning.

These broad themes have continued to provide a certain direction of travel for the work although the action inquiry work has continued to evolve as the context of the work has continue to change.

What Works Scotland Research Associate James Henderson (University of Edinburgh) and What Works Scotland co-director Nick Bland (Visiting Professor at University of Edinburgh) are working with Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership, Health and Social Care Partnership and the third sector to develop this collaborative inquiring approach.

Community capacity-building for health and wellbeing

Inquiry into Community Links Worker pilot in Insch
Pictorial infographic showing bootrpints over fields with quotes from participants in the Insch Walking Group in the clouds

Quotes from participants in the Insch Walking group

Staff from the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), the Community Planning Partnership (CPP), the third sector (Aberdeenshire Voluntary Action), the community sector (Friends of Insch Hospital and Community) and What Works Scotland collaborated on this inquiry.

The group brought together those with knowledge relevant to policy and strategy; improvement and learning; third sector roles; community development; public health; and action research.

See an article about the collaborative ethos pursued by the team on the What Works Scotland blog

Following a year of inquiry work the group published a report that explores good practice in community capacity-building for health and wellbeing, and what supports the development of that good practice.

See the Learning about community capacity-building from the Community Links Worker approach in Insch, Aberdeenshire (2013-16) report

A new brief was drafted in 2017 for further potential inquiry work in relation to community linking and inequality.

Beyond Action Learning Report on empowering multi-disciplinary staff teams

10 Key Questions - Beyond Action LearningThe two facilitators of the (then) Aberdeenshire Community Health Partnership’s collaborative learning initiative worked with What Works Scotland to reflect on their own learning and practice in this spin-off from the Community Links Worker inquiry. The Beyond Action Learning project used an action learning set approach and improvement tools. The report illustrates 10 key issues for the practice of collaborative and inquiring approaches to partnership working for health and social care integration.

See the Exploring collaborative learning, research and action in public service reform: Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Change Fund Beyond Action Learning initiative report

The facilitators – Fiona Soutar from NHS Grampian and Jane Warrander from Aberdeenshire Council – also wrote a blog post about the project and their reflective experience.

See the blog post None of us is as smart as all of us!!

Deepening discussions of Aberdeenshire HSCP’s community capacity-building strategy

Building from the Community Links Worker inquiry, What Works Scotland has undertaken related participatory and co-production activities with the HSCP and CPP. These included:

  • Participatory Discussion Group to map local activity and practice issues, and broader discussions of the evidence-base regarding preventative community capacity-building – see ‘Exploring preventative partnership working’ below.
  • Consultation work on a draft evidence review on rural community capacity-building for health and wellbeing, to be published later in 2017.

This  joint inquiry work will feed into a policy briefing.


Community planning: partnership working and evidence use

Collaborative Learning Days to explore ‘Putting Christie into Action’

The CPP and What Works Scotland organised two collaborative learning days which  built from early scoping discussions with central and local CPP staff. These brought together staff and organisations across the CPP to

  • consider local and national evidence
  • explore common issues, opportunities and good policy and practice
  • build networks and opportunities for collaboration

The first Learning Day in December 2015 explored ‘Partnership and Participation’ and a Scoping Report was produced that established ‘preventing inequalities’, ‘managing change’ and ‘partnership working’ as relevant and rich areas for further inquiry.

See the Scoping Report from the Aberdeenshire CPP and What Works Scotland’s Collaborative Learning Day 2015

The second Learning Day in May 2016 explored ‘Prevention and Preventative Spend’ – including national and local contributions and evidence and led to work to co-produce a report on exploring preventative partnership working.

Exploring preventative partnership working

Building from the Collaborative Learning Days through Participatory Discussion Groups and individual discussions this work has mapped some of the developing collaborative practices, discussions and emerging issues across Aberdeenshire CPP. The report will be published in 2017.

Development work to support implementation of the Community Empowerment Act

The CPP and What Works Scotland organised two development workshops – one with CPP Board members (January 2016) and the other with Board and CPP Executive members (May 2016) – to support collaborative discussions of how partners could seek to work together in taking reform forward. Alongside the workshops, informal discussions and presentations with the Board and Executive members built a picture of the challenges currently faced by the CPP which was used by the CPP in conducting its own review.

Learning about partnership working and collaborative learning

What Works Scotland is interviewing a range of staff from the CPP partners, including those working at different levels – centrally, more locally and in local communities – to consider what the CPP is learning about the development of effective collaborative partnership-working. A report will follow.


Events and training

Section on What have we learnt by using CAR from Aberdeenshire's CPP presentation to the February 2016 National Retreat.

‘What have we learnt by using CAR’ – Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership

As part of the joint working, members of the Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership participated in several national events with representatives from the other three What Works Scotland case sites.

These included the What Works Scotland National Retreats held in December 2014, June 2015 and February 2016.

National Retreat – June 2015

See the What Works Scotland report about the June 2015 National Retreat  

National Retreat – February 2016

Facilitative Leadership training

Four staff from the CPP attended the Facilitative Leadership Training for Trainers course run by What Works Scotland in April 2017. You can read more about the aims of the course on the What Works Scotland blog.

Related resources

More than 10 differently shaped cogwheels in different colours connected with grey linesThe What Works Scotland approach to collaborative action research

Discover more about our approach to collaborative action research and the learning that is emerging from our work in multi-agency, multi-practitioner public service environments including Aberdeenshire.