This research report shares learning about ‘putting Christie into action’ from reflective interviews and action research with Aberdeenshire CPP partners and practitioners. It aims to build understanding of the realities at the current frontier of Scottish public service reform, especially in relation to the aspirations to develop complex combinations of partnership and participation seen as key to engaging effectively with ‘wicked’ social issues like health inequalities.

The report provides a space for public service partnerships to deepen their discussions of the opportunities, challenges and dilemmas of engaging with a preventative agenda and how action research can be supportive of this demanding work.

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This research report draws from the collaborative learning and action processes (action research) and related work undertaken between Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership (CPP) partners and What Works Scotland.

“… it's like setting little fires, and you have to keep on stoking those fires, for them to keep going. … Culture change is hugely difficult and takes a huge resource. …Because the only other thing that changes culture is disaster”.The report shares learning about ‘putting Christie into action’ from reflective interviews and action research with Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership (CPP)  partners and practitioners.

It outlines and shares some of the learning about putting Christie into action. That is, the policy and practice narrative generated by the 2011 Christie Commission which continues to provide the key narrative as to the direction-of-travel of public service reform in Scotland.

This report argues for the value of seeking to understand the current frontier of developing collaborative and participatory governance so that we can better understand where we are currently and where the opportunities may lie to make further progress in putting Christie into action.

Working at this frontier will be demanding, challenging and uncertain given austerity. It would seem to require time, commitment and a certain stability to build effective collaborations for service reform and related social change. Given this complexity and degree of challenge, the report assumes such a governance will need to draw from a rich and complex picture of thinking and practice in order to sustain progress.

The report develops eight key discussions drawn from the experiences of a range of local practitioners and policymakers with Aberdeenshire CPP via 23 reflective interviews in summer 2017. It builds from various action research projects and activities between the CPP and What Works Scotland between 2015-16. These discussions can be used to support ongoing dialogue and research on emerging policy and practice in relation to public service reform.

They aim to be both practical and reflexive – and so offer material that can to continue to sustain an active engagement with wicked, dynamic policy social problems e.g. inequality.

“People who are in the midst of this process need a bit of bolstering themselves.  …folk need to have some sort of mutual support while they’re trying to do this. So that you can speak to others and don’t feel on your own or the only one that’s trying to do this … “

The report offers two final reflections as to potential next steps:

Firstly, the report can be understood as a first shot at a rich picture of theory and practice at this frontier.  It seeks to outline the necessary and emerging complexity of language through which to deepen ongoing dialogue and research. And so, to build and legitimise safe places to explore what happens as we seek to pursue pragmatic preventative partnership and participation concerned with a social vision for a more equitable society and sustainable state finances.

Further, in seeking to understand this work as theory and practice – what are we doing, why and for whom – it seeks to build the case for investing in ongoing dialogue and research. And diverse forms of knowledge to support and inform its development, for instance through people, their stories and networks, rather than, than solely more abstract reporting of recipes for success.

Secondly, in exploring the potential role of collaborative learning and action in developing a public service learning culture, it points toward one potential focus for further dialogue and research, namely the opportunity to construct and explore a more particular approach to a public service learning culture informed through systems-focused action research.

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This summary is a short introduction to the context and focus of the research report:

Get the executive summary and full report:

This summary provides an overview of the eight discussions. It focuses each discussion on a key question and so can be used to support group discussions and dialogue aimed at seeking to develop collaborative and participative public service policy and practice:


Tackling health inequalities means more than service reform and design

Chris Littlejohn, Deputy Director of Public Health with NHS Grampian, responds to this report in a post for the the What Works Scotland blog. He considers some of the challenges the report raises for a public health agenda committed to tackling inequalities.

More details

  • Author: James Henderson, What Works Scotland, University of Edinburgh
  • Date of publication: March 2019
  • Type of publication: Research report