Conference focused on engaging with research insights on what works in community empowerment and the implications for the future of policy and practice in Scotland.

Graphic with cartoons capturing discussions from the Empowering People and Places conference

Graphic capturing the discussions : click to see a larger version

The event aimed to:

  • share learning and resources developed by What Works Scotland
  • foster connections between researchers, citizens, practitioners and policy workers
  • think together about what’s next for democratic innovation in Scotland.

The conference focused on engaging with research insights into what works, and what does not, in community empowerment as well as discussing implications for the future of policy and practice in Scotland.

Held on Tuesday 6 November 2018 at the University of Edinburgh Pollok Halls.


Place-based approaches
Tackling poverty locally
National Standards for Community Engagement
Third sector interfaces
Community engagement in community planning
Participation requests
Community anchors
Participatory governance, including community councils
Participatory budgeting


9.30 – 10.00 Registration and tea/coffee
10.00 – 10.30 Welcome and introductionsOliver Escobar
10.30 – 11.10 Ministerial address and Q/AAileen Campbell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Scottish Government
11.10 – 12.30 Lightning talks and table conversations:  Community empowerment approaches

    • Claire Bynner: Can places be empowering?
    • Richard Brunner: Successful co-production in practice – and cultivating a co-productive future
    • Hayley Bennett: Can we design anti-poverty support in ways that are more dignified and less stigmatising?
    • Fiona Garven: National Standards for Community Engagement – are we there yet?
12.30 –13.30 Lunch
13.30 – 14.45 Lightning talks and table conversations: Community empowerment processes

  • Linda McNeill: Making Third Sector Interfaces more democratic: The experience of Strive
  • Sarah Weakley: Improving community engagement in community planning
  • Andrew Paterson: Building community councils for the 21st century
  • James Henderson: Community empowerment through community anchors
  • Clementine Hill O’Connor: Are Participation Requests helping community empowerment?
14.45 –15.05 Break
15.05 – 16.00 Closing session: What is next for community empowerment in Scotland?



Scotland has a long tradition of community action, engagement and participation. The Christie Commission and the COSLA Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy have placed community empowerment at the centre of public service reform. The What Works Scotland programme (2014-2018) has featured substantial research into these developments across the country and internationally.

Our research has explored:

  • participatory budgeting
  • community anchor organisations
  • community-led food aid
  • place-based approaches
  • national standards for community engagement
  • coproduction of services
  • deliberative participation
  • power inequalities
  • facilitative leadership
  • community councils
  • community planning
  • third sector interfaces
  • participatory governance

This was the first of three final conferences from What Works Scotland about the present and future of public service reform.