What Works Scotland publications

Action research reports

10 Key Questions - Beyond Action LearningExploring collaborative learning, research and action in public service reform: Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Change Fund Beyond Action Learning initiative

Co-produced report that illustrates 10 key issues for the practice of collaborative and inquiring approaches to partnership working for health and social care integration. These come from the Beyond Action Learning project in Aberdeenshire which used an ‘action learning set’ approach.

By Fiona Soutar, NHS Grampian, Jane Warrander, Aberdeenshire Council, and James Henderson

Learning about community capacity-building from the Community Links Worker approach in Insch, Aberdeenshire (2013-16): a collaborative action research inquiry (cycle 1)

Pictorial infographic showing bootrpints over fields with quotes from participants in the Insch Walking Group in the clouds

Inquiry into community capacity-building which improves health and wellbeing, and supports the process of health and social care integration.

The report focuses on a Community Links project in rural Aberdeenshire. It identifies what makes for good practice in community linking, and what supports its development and spread.

Partnership Innovation Team, Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership.

Briefing papers

Reflecting on what works in developing authentic relationships in complex settings

This briefing paper shares What Works Scotland’s early learning on developing authentic relationships that are durable, sustainable and honest when working with the complex dynamics of community planning partnerships.

Hayley Bennett, Richard Brunner, Claire Bynner, Chris Chapman, James Henderson and Nick Watson

Collaborative action research reports

Three inquiry reports from the Fife collaborative action research programme. Each Partnership Inquiry Team produced a report with the inquiry findings and the experience of the collaborative action research process.


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

Report and resources from the Fife 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.

Written by Hayley Bennett, based on the practitioners’ inquiry and the information they provided in the populated reporting template.

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

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

Written by Hayley Bennett, based on the practitioners’ inquiry and the information they provided in the populated reporting template.
Schools PIT presentation screenshot

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

Report from the Fife schools partnership group which built relationships across organisations to explore how to improve collaborative working to support students in secondary schools in Kirkcaldy.

Written by Hayley Bennett, based on the practitioners’ inquiry and the information they provided in the populated reporting template.

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

Hayley Bennett and Tamara Mulherin (What Works Scotland), Sharon Murphy (Policy Co-ordinator, Fife Council), Cat Maclean and Laura Thomson (members of Fife Council policy and research team), Coryn Barclay (Research consultant, Fife Council)

Collaborative publications

What Works in Community Profiling? Initial reflections from West Dunbartonshire

Claire Bynner and Bruce Whyte

Participatory Budgeting in Scotland

Chris Harkins, GCPH and Oliver Escobar, WWS

Event reports

New! Outcomes-based Approaches to Public Service Reform: Event Report

This event report summarises the key messages from the presentations and captures the learning and issues raised during the discussion. It concludes with a summary of feedback about the event from participants.

Fife Collaborative Action Research – Second Home Retreat Report

By Hayley Bennett

Scoping Report from the Aberdeenshire CPP and What Works Scotland’s Collaborative Learning Day on 8 December 2015 – What does it mean to put ‘Christie’ into action?

By James Henderson and Nick Bland

“Challenge current practice and assumptions! Make waves!!” What Works Scotland Collaborative Learning Event  23 & 24 February 2016

By Richard Brunner, Hayley Bennett, Claire Bynner and James Henderson

Report of Partnership Event held in December 2015

By Ailsa Cook and Karen Seditas

Report of Community-led Action Planning Day in West Dunbartonshire in October 2015

By Claire Bynner

Report of Fife Home Retreat held in October 2015

By Hayley Bennett

Report of Collaborative Action Retreat held in June 2015

By Hayley Bennett, Nick Bland, Richard Brunner, Claire Bynner, Ailsa Cook, James Henderson

Evidence reviews and briefing papers

Graphic with data about participatory budgeting in ScotlandReview of First Generation Participatory Budgeting in Scotland
A paper reviewing the evidence about participatory budgeting processes in Scotland up to June 2016. It examines the growth and development of the first generation of participatory budgeting in Scotland in order to generate insight to support the strategic and operational leadership and delivery of future participatory budgeting.

Chris Harkins and Katie Moore from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, and Oliver Escobar from What Works Scotland

Partnership Working Across UK Public Services

Partnership Working Resources Pack

Ailsa Cook

Scaling-Up Innovations Report

Kelly Shiell-Davis and Alex Wright

New! Tackling Child Poverty: Actions to Prevent and Mitigate Child Poverty at the Local Level

This evidence review and briefing offers practicable steps to support local authorities and community planning partnerships to mitigate and prevent child poverty and identify early trigger signs that may suggest an increased risk of poverty.

Morag Trainor

Actions to prevent and mitigate child poverty in South Ayrshire Community Planning Partnership

Morag Trainor


How to Design Collaborative Action Research

This guide is intended to assist practitioners in a wide range of public service organisations to extend their practical skills to design collaborative action research projects which engage a broad constituency and encourage the involvement of colleagues who are less familiar with the collaborative action research approach.

Chris Chapman and Mark Hadfield

Literature reviews

New! What Works in Public Service Leadership: Exploring the Potential

This literature review aims to provide an understanding of the forms of leadership necessary for the future of Scottish public services. It presents an overview of key concepts that underpin collaborative leadership in public service settings and reflects on emerging themes that support change.

Christopher Chapman, Daniel Van Amersfoort and Nick Watson

Perspectives on Improvement and Effectiveness: Key Definitions and Concepts

Christopher Chapman and Adele Rowe

Perspectives on Knowledge into Action in Education and Public Service Reform

Christopher Chapman, Stuart Hall, Kevin Lowden and Natalie Watters

The Cost of School Holidays

Mhairi Campbell, Nick Watson and Natalie Watters

Position papers

Outcomes Based Approaches in Public Service Reform

This position paper explores the concept of outcomes and their history; a concept at the centre of efforts to improve public services in Scotland and elsewhere.

Ailsa Cook

Research reports

New! What Do Citizens Want?

Carnegie Trust UK What Do Citizens Want coverResearch report that reveals the profound effect of formal and informal relationships on people’s wellbeing.

It looks in-depth at a small number of users of housing services, asking what makes their lives meaningful and exploring how support services fit into their lives.

By Jenny Brotchie, from the Carnegie Trust UK.

New! Pioneering Collaborative Leadership: A Facilitated Approach for Learning in Action

Five icons showing the learning logs’ five categories of learning and action. They are: 1) A hand with a plant labelled learning. 2) Five small figures labelled collaboration. 3) A paper aeroplane labelled innovation. 4) A thought cloud labelled reflection/question. 5) Three figures, one waving a flag, labelled action.Research report and summary about Pioneering Collaborative Leadership, an experimental initiative testing an innovative development approach for public service leaders in Scotland. Published in July 2017, it covers its first 18 months and includes a case study from the East Lothian Partnership.

By Nick Bland


Fife Collaborative Action Research Programme: An overview of the process

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.

By Hayley Bennett

Fun, Food, Folk: The Centrestage approach to dignified food provision

Centrestage infographicThis research report is focused on Centrestage’s distinct food provision programme in some of the most deprived areas of North and East Ayrshire; it describes how Centrestage achieves impact, empowers individuals and communities, and draws lesson to inform policy and practice.

By Briege Nugent and Oliver Escobar

Think pieces

Community Anchors

James Henderson

Policymaking – Does Anyone Care?

Rosemary Anderson

The Political Economy of Local Tax Reform

Ken Gibb

What Works and learning from failure

Ken Gibb

The emerging Scottish model: avoiding everything becoming nothing

James Mitchell

Working papers

New! Evaluability Assessment of Thriving Places: a report for Glasgow Community Planning Partnership

Diagram showing the Principles and Outcomes for the Thriving Places initiative in GlasgowThis report describes  and explains the evaluability assessment (EA) process used by What Works Scotland to develop and recommend options to evaluate the ten-year area-based initiative Thriving Places in Glasgow.

By Richard Brunner, Peter Craig and Nick Watson

Rationales for Place-based Approaches in Scotland

Claire Bynner

Practising Collaborative Leadership: Reflection and Learning from the Enabling Collaborative Leadership Pioneer Programme

Nick Bland and Cathy Sharp

Evidence to Action in public service delivery: an overview of What Works Scotland knowledge partners

Karen Seditas

29th International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSE) – State of the Art Briefings

Steve Allen, Chris Chapman, Ken Gibb Sayantan Goshal, Lorna Kelly

Operation Modulus: putting Christie into practice in Gorbals

Richard Brunner and Nick Watson

Reimagining Community Planning in Scotland: A Vision from the Third Sector

Oliver Escobar

Guidelines on Supporting CAR Approach

Christopher Chapman and Mark Hadfield

Evaluability Assessment: a systematic approach to deciding whether and how to evaluate programmes and policies

Peter Craig and Mhairi Campbell

Timeline for development of Scottish Government’s ‘National Performance Framework’ and outcomes

Allan Campbell, Scottish Parliament Information Centre

Timeline for development of Community Planning in Scotland

Allan Campbell, Scottish Parliament Information Centre

Getting evidence into action to improve Scotland’s public services

Sarah Morton and Alex Wright

Synthetic controls: a new approach to evaluating interventions

Peter Craig

What can the capabilities approach add to policy analysis in high-income countries?

Richard Brunner and Nick Watson

Practitioner publications

Participatory Budgeting Evaluation Group 

Glasgow’s Participatory Budgeting Evaluation Toolkit

Graphic illustrating the Participatory Budgeting evaluation process. Four arrows point from one to the next starting with one labelled Aim, then Planning, then Process, then Impact. Underneath are pieces of text that relate to each arrow, as follows: Aim: What to do we want to achieve?, Planning: How good is our leadership?, Process: How good is our delivery of key processes? Impact: What key outcomes have we achieved? All four sections have smaller arrows in both directions up up to each individual section and down to a piece of text that underlies all four sections which asks ''What is out our capacity for improvement?'

A toolkit produced by practitioners in Glasgow’s Participatory Budgeting Evaluation Group to assess the impact of PB activities and develop an improvement plan.

Glasgow’s Participatory Budgeting Evaluation Toolkit

Published June 2017


Thriving Places – Glasgow Community Planning Partnership

Thriving Places case studies

Two case studies have been produced by practitioners in Glasgow Community Planning Partnership’s Thriving Places.

  • The case study by Alistair Mitchell, Community Connector in Ruchill and Possilpark Thriving Place, is on asset mapping
  • The case study by Anthony Morrow, Community Development Officer in Priesthill and Househillwood Thriving Place, is on community consultation.

Thriving Places case studies

Published April 2017

Publications by What Works Scotland partners

NHS Health Scotland

Health Inequalities Briefing Paper 1 Published 30 July 2015

Evaluation of Police and Fire Reform

Commissioned by Scottish Government from What Works Scotland, the Scottish Institute for Policing Research and ScotCen.