The collaborative action research inquiries in Fife focused on welfare, family learning, and partnerships to support pupils with additional needs. Each inquiry group produced a report of its findings.

Two other reports consider the overall programme and reflect on the processes of undertaking collaborative action research across the inquiries.

What was the Fife collaborative action research programme?

The Fife collaborative action research (CAR) programme involved three inquiry groups, an overarching strategy group, and a range of events, meetings, resources, and tools.

Collectively the programme strengthened the capacity to:

  • devise and undertake action research across organisations and professions
  • use evidence and research to persuade others
  • understand different types of evidence and data options to respond to new problems
  • support individuals to have a better understanding of how to producing local evidence and research.

The Fife CAR programme involved the practitioner teams working together on all aspects of the inquiry  – identifying a research problem, collecting data, analysing, interpreting, and acting – for a prolonged period of time.

The inquiry groups  – called partnership innovation teams or PITs – explored three existing community planning activities as a way to understand the knowledge generation and collaborative processes involved in local community planning. Each inquiry group undertook an inquiry project which combined data collection, local and individual experiential knowledge, and research and evidence from elsewhere.

Dr Hayley Bennett from What Works Scotland (University of Edinburgh) worked with all three groups through the process, facilitating groups and encouraging individuals to think critically on the content, context, and delivery of initiatives.

Throughout this time each group met to discuss and progress with their projects. Individuals also worked across groups at two home retreats. Some practitioners involved in the strategy group or PITs also attended the national retreats where they were able compare their work and share ideas with practitioners based in the other three case sites undertaking collaborative action research with What Works Scotland. In this way the Fife CAR activities contributed to creating a community of practice around issues of knowledge generation and use in the community planning context.

Key stages in the programme

What did the inquiry groups discover?

Each PIT produced a final report with the inquiry findings and the experience of the collaborative action research process.

Welfare PIT

Report and resources from the inquiry which examined welfare sanctions, including available data, and how it can be used to support people who are at risk of or receive a sanction.

Collaborative Inquiry Exploring Data and Knowledge-sharing Practices in Responses to Welfare Sanctions

Family Fun PIT

Report from the inquiry group that focussed on learning across localities for the design and delivery of family intervention initiatives.

Collaborative Action Research Report: Fife Partnership Innovation Team exploring the Family Fun Model


Schools PIT

Schools PIT presentation screenshot
Report from the schools partnership group who built relationships across organisations to explore how to improve collaborative working to support students in secondary schools in Kirkcaldy.

Collaborative Action Research Report: Working in Partnership to Support Students with Additional Needs

What did we learn about collaborative action research?

A key aspect of the Fife CAR programme was building critical reflection and learning into all activities, including the experience of undertaking CAR and working across organisational and professional boundaries. Nearly all practitioners involved in the process produced reflections of their contributions and experiences, in order to help continual improve and develop collaborative practices in the future. Building on the practice of reflection the What Works Scotland research fellow and some of the practitioners produced two reports:

Overview of the CAR programme

Eight people in pairs, each pair holding a large differently coloured jigsaw piece and slotting them togetherThis report is an overview of the Fife and What Works Scotland collaborative action research programme.  It outlines the research activities, provides details to encourage the adaptation and spread of CAR approaches and presents insights for professional researchers who are planning similar CAR projects.

Fife Collaborative Action Research Programme: An overview of the process

Learning and reflections

This co-produced action research report highlights some of the learning from the experience of the whole collaborative action research (CAR) programme, both the positive learning that resulted from bringing together a diverse range of practitioners to undertake an inquiry and the challenges inherent in that process.

Reflections and Learning from the Fife Collaborative Action Research Programme 2015-2017

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 Fife.


Collaborative Action Research and public services – insights into methods, findings and implications for public service reform

A working paper sharing the findings from the What Works Scotland programme of collaborative action research (CAR). The paper highlights learnings and insights that the researchers gained from facilitating CAR over three years (2015-2017) in the four community planning partnerships. The findings demonstrate that CAR has the potential to contribute to developing the practices of collaborative governance – partnership, participation, performance and prevention – by constructively and critically engaging with current policy and practice expectations.