This collaborative action research (CAR) report highlights some of the learning from the CAR programme in Fife. The content covers 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. The report was co-produced by practitioners in Fife and What Works Scotland.


This report highlights some of the learning from the collaborative action research (CAR) programme in Fife. It is one of a variety of outputs from the Fife CAR programme, and focuses predominately on initiating and managing a collaborative research process.

Reflecting the co-produced, collaborative approach to this work, the report has three sections, each written by a different participant involved in the Fife CAR programme.

In section one, drawing from a range of practitioner reflections and the CAR experience, the What Works Scotland researcher briefly highlights some of the positive learning regarding bringing together a diverse range of practitioners to undertake an inquiry. However, as the policy and research team in Fife Council note in section two, such collaborative ways of working can be difficult and require time and investment in processes and systems to encourage commitment and learning. In section three, a Fife council research colleague reflects on her learning on being an inside researcher and suggests how to progress through the complexities and challenges of undertaking CAR in this working context.

Collectively, the authors highlight key learning points about operationalising a CAR approach in the community planning context and share these insights to those who also participated and contributed to the Fife CAR programme, to those involved in the ongoing work in Fife on improving collaboration and tackling ‘wicked issues’, and also to other interested researchers and policymakers. It is the authors’ intention that the learning report it will continue to stimulate dialogue and discussion about how to undertake collaborative working and inquiries to improve public service reform, research, and evidence based policy-making.

The learning suggests that the process of translating CAR into a workable and beneficial approach within this context requires a consideration of the pre-conditions, skills, and resources to undertake CAR.

These include:

  • a familiarity with inquiry processes and an inquiring stance in the workplace
  • creating time to learn and share language and ideas
  • developing new types of facilitation and leadership within small groups
  • engaging in complex relationship-building
  • emphasising reflective practice

The report also demonstrates the different roles and issues to consider for those who are undertaking collaborative action research within their own organisation and working context, and those who are professional or academic researchers seeking to undertake collaborative action research outside of traditional academic research spaces.

Download the publication

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

More details

Authors: Hayley Bennett and Tamara Mulherin (What Works Scotland); Sharon Murphy and Laura Thomson (Fife Council Policy Team); and Cat Maclean and Coryn Barclay (Fife Council Research Team).

Date of publication: June 2017

Publication type: Collaborative action research report

Related resources

Fife case site page
See all the collaborative action research projects by practitioners in Fife and What Works Scotland.