Practitioners in Glasgow and What Works Scotland worked together to produce these two case studies to present evidence of the work from the city’s Thriving Places.

As part of our collaborative work with Glasgow Community Planning Partnership (CPP), in 2015-16 What Works Scotland supported a group of five workers and one community activist to generate case study evidence of their work in Thriving Places.

Thriving Places is a ten-year commitment from Glasgow CPP to combat inequalities and achieve better outcomes for residents in nine neighbourhoods experiencing high levels of deprivation. It does this through public services implementing principles of co-production, capacity-building and working with assets.

Developing the case studies

Three members of the Thriving Places Case Study Development group are workWhat Works Scotland Research Associate Richard Brunner, University of Glasgow, facilitated the development process.

Using a collaborative action research model, six participants from housing associations, health, cultural services, the local authority and the community formed a Case Study Development Group. The Group met ten times between November 2015 and December 2016.

Richard supported the members to learn about case study principles and practice. Group members then decided on case study topics for themselves and sought to conduct one case study each. They provided comments and reflections on each others’ work, learning as they went.

All six group members are to be commended for joining this innovative evidence-gathering group, and trying to see it through. Two of the six members completed case studies in the one-year timescale. Other members were very close to completion; some much further away. This is a testament to the work involved and the multiple priorities of group members.

Richard Brunner, Research Associate, What Works Scotland

The two completed case studies, written by Alistair Mitchell, Community Connector in Ruchill and Possilpark Thriving Place, and Anthony Morrow, Community Development Officer in Priesthill and Househillwood Thriving Place, are on asset mapping and on community consultation processes respectively.

The case studies highlight aspects of Thriving Places about which there is little previous evidence. They engage with some of the real-world tensions that confront officers trying to work with a Thriving Places ethos. The case studies contribute to the ongoing accumulation of Thriving Places evidence.

The case studies will also be of interest in other places where public services and communities are grappling with asset mapping, consultation choices, co-production and the ethos of ‘doing with’ rather than ‘doing to’. They show how officers can, with external support from a university researcher, generate evidence about complex interventions.

Respect is due to Glasgow CPP, notably Jim Gray and Stephen Sprott (Glasgow City Council), for supporting this innovation in evidence-generation. It demonstrates how Glasgow CPP is interested in formative learning, and in supporting staff to evidence their work in complex environments.

Richard Brunner, Research Associate, What Works Scotland

What was learned from the process?

Behind these case studies is a significant collaborative learning process.

Notes from the Thriving Places Case Study Development work stuck on the wallThe key points:

  • Group members did not all know each other beforehand, so they co-produced ground rules which allowed them to have sometimes challenging conversations, assured of confidentiality.
  • Meeting locations and times were set to be as inclusive as possible for group members from North, East and South Glasgow, some with children and one group member working shifts.
  • Group members did this work in addition to their usual roles; they sometimes had no time at all in a month to progress their case studies.
  • One group member worked in a service that was significantly re-organised during the year, which was detrimental to their ability to participate.
  • Although the group met ten times, email exchanges and additional one-to-one meetings with the What Works Scotland researcher happened in between; producing research is not a minor commitment.
  • The group had to learn in real time how to decide a case study topic; make the topics focused enough to be achievable, but deep enough to critically engage; be ethical in the research process; use policy and academic literature where needed; ‘own’ their case studies; and accept that they are the experts in the data they collected and in their interpretation and analysis.
  • The ability to be prepared to talk about draft ideas and draft writing, and to be prepared to both give and receive feedback on these, require the facility to take some risks and require skills in sensitive communication.
  • The completed case studies went through multiple drafts, requiring significant application by the authors.

What Works Scotland facilitated this collaborative action research process as part of its Scotland-wide programme to find out how public service reform is delivered, and how evidence is generated and used in the process. What Works Scotland will publish separately on these aspects, drawing on data from this and other collaborative action research groups across all our case sites.

The facilitation and research process used to produce these case studies can be adapted by others. Please contact Richard Brunner for more information.