Overview and outputs of our collaborative action research and inquiry work with Aberdeenshire community planning partnership. 

Our collaborative inquiry work in Aberdeenshire developed over time to focus on three broad and ongoing lines of inquiry:

  1. community capacity-building for health and wellbeing
  2. multi-layered preventative partnership working
  3. exploring the potential of collaborative learning and action

The activity took place mainly between May 2015 and December 2016 with later reflective working in 2017 and 2018.

The additional section below – Events, training and other research – highlights other work undertaken by What Works Scotland with or with Aberdeenshire CPP.

Getting started

Early discussions between Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership and What Works Scotland in 2014 identified three areas of potential development of collaborative action research (CAR).

What Works Scotland Research Associate James Henderson (University of Edinburgh) and What Works Scotland co-director Nick Bland (Visiting Professor at University of Edinburgh) worked with Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership, Health and Social Care Partnership and the third sector to develop collaborative inquiring approaches around these initial areas.

Two of these areas were developed at the What Works Scotland National CAR Retreat in June 2015 into more focused areas of inquiries: community capacity-building for health and wellbeing, and evidence use/working across local and central community planning.

These broad themes have continued to provide a certain direction of travel for the work although the action inquiry work has continued to evolve as the context of the work has continue to change – with for instance local and central community planning becoming focused on multi-layered preventative partnership working; and collaborative learning and action becoming a focus in itself.

Reflective work alongside the research

The sense of an evolving research process is captured in the following reflective work by the practitioners and researchers:

Stories from the coalface – Exploring what it means to work together in Aberdeenshire

Here, we ask participants in the Aberdeenshire collaborative action research group about what they learned (and continue to learn) from different projects. What do ‘we’ the participants think about putting the Christie Commission’s recommendations for how public services are delivered in future into action?

1. Community capacity-building for health and wellbeing

Inquiry into Community Links Worker pilot in Insch

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

The group brought together those with knowledge relevant to policy and strategy; improvement and learning; third sector roles; community development; public health; and action research.

Following a year of inquiry work the group published a report that explores good practice in community capacity-building for health and wellbeing, and what supports the development of that good practice.

A new brief was drafted in 2017 for further potential inquiry work in relation to community linking and inequality.

Deepening discussions of Aberdeenshire HSCP’s community capacity-building strategy

Building from the Community Links Worker inquiry, What Works Scotland has undertaken related participatory and co-production activities with the HSCP and CPP. In particular a participatory workshop to map local activity and practice issues. The workshop and related work  is recorded  in a case study in the Multi-layered Preventative Partnership Working report.

2. Exploring multi-layered collaborative partnership working

Collaborative Learning Days to explore ‘Putting Christie into Action’ and scoping report

The CPP and What Works Scotland organised two collaborative learning days which  built from early scoping discussions with central and local CPP staff. These brought together staff and organisations across the CPP to

  • consider local and national evidence
  • explore common issues, opportunities and good policy and practice
  • build networks and opportunities for collaboration

The first Learning Day in December 2015 explored ‘Partnership and Participation’ and a Scoping Report was produced that established ‘preventing inequalities’, ‘managing change’ and ‘partnership working’ as relevant and rich areas for further inquiry.

The second Learning Day in May 2016 explored ‘Prevention and Preventative Spend’ – including national and local contributions and evidence and led to work to co-produce a report on exploring preventative partnership working.

A diagram consisting of the image of four figures linking arms with the text “examples of co-production” alongside them. Surrounding this image are fourteen pink boxes containing the following text: 1. Community kitchens, in partnership with NHS and Council, in Inverurie, Huntly and Insch. 2. Community sector bodies (anchors) e.g. Friends of Insch that supports local groups. 3. Community Action Plans: facilitated through Rural Area Partnerships, local community planning groups (LCPG), community learning and development and Aberdeen Voluntary Action. 4. Role of business and private sector: Coop + resources and money: Tescos + community room in Inverurie: BIDS – Business Improvement Districts Scotland. 5. Council: asset transfer and planning gains monies. 6. Huntly Recovery Care – staff attend: set up by CAIR Scotland and run by volunteers. 7. Participatory Budgeting work with: ADP Forums; Aberdeenshire (HSCP) – larger initiatives in Fraserburgh and Peterhead; piloting in Kincardine and Mearns through Rural Partnerships. 8. Aberdeenshire Youth Forum, facilitated and support by CLD, working on bullying. 9. Over 50s Network – training days, guidelines, supportive role (Grampian-wide), now being run by the Committee itself. 10. ADP North Forum/All Forums: organisations, professionals and community members coming together to deliver, develop services and to give folk a voice. 11. Aberdeenshire CPP Regeneration Strategies. 12. Migrant integration in Peterhead – Swansea University research about experiences of Easter European migrants. 13. Mens’ Sheds in Aberdeenshire, Inverurie, Westhill, Portlethen, Stonehaven, Turriff. 14. Aberdeenshire Salute initiative – Aberdeenshire-wide – with Armed Services, aimed at ex-Services people, including support with employment and mental health issues.

Exploring preventative partnership working report

Building from the Collaborative Learning Days through Participatory Discussion Groups and individual discussions this work has mapped some of the developing collaborative practices, discussions and emerging issues across Aberdeenshire CPP.

Related blog posts:

Development work to support implementation of the Community Empowerment Act

The CPP and What Works Scotland organised two development workshops – one with CPP Board members (January 2016) and the other with Board and CPP Executive members (May 2016) – to support collaborative discussions of how partners could seek to work together in taking reform forward. Alongside the workshops, informal discussions and presentations with the Board and Executive members built a picture of the challenges currently faced by the CPP which was used by the CPP in conducting its own review. . The outcomes from these workshops are recorded in the Interim Report (Dec 2016) that forms Appendix 2 of the final reflective learning report:

This final reflective learning report continues to work and explore each of the three themes.

We asked participants in the Aberdeenshire collaborative action research about what they learned from different projects and what they continue to learn from the experience.

3. Exploring collaborative learning and action

Beyond Action Learning Report on empowering multi-disciplinary staff teams

10 Key Questions - Beyond Action LearningThe two facilitators of the (then) Aberdeenshire Community Health Partnership’s collaborative learning initiative worked with What Works Scotland to reflect on their own learning and practice in this spin-off from the Community Links Worker inquiry. The Beyond Action Learning project used an action learning set approach and improvement tools. The report illustrates 10 key issues for the practice of collaborative and inquiring approaches to partnership working for health and social care integration.

The facilitators – Fiona Soutar from NHS Grampian and Jane Warrander from Aberdeenshire Council – also wrote a blog post about the project and their reflective experience.

4. Events and training

Section on What have we learnt by using CAR from Aberdeenshire's CPP presentation to the February 2016 National Retreat.

‘What have we learnt by using CAR’ – Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership

As part of the joint working, members of the Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership participated in several national events with representatives from the other three What Works Scotland case sites.

These included the What Works Scotland National Retreats held in December 2014, June 2015 and February 2016.

National Retreat – June 2015

See the What Works Scotland report about the June 2015 National Retreat  

National Retreat – February 2016

Facilitative Leadership training

Four staff from the CPP attended the Facilitative Leadership Training for Trainers course run by What Works Scotland in April 2017. You can read more about the aims of the course on the What Works Scotland blog.

Citizens’ jury

What Works Scotland worked with police, fire and council services in the North East of Scotland to use a citizens’ jury  to consider the issue of a community bonfire which, due to its popularity and size, was raising safety concerns for the local police and fire service.

Read and download a summary of the process: Local solutions to local problems: innovation in public participation – SIPR Annual Report 2016.

Related resources

More than 10 differently shaped cogwheels in different colours connected with grey linesThe What Works Scotland approach to collaborative action research

Discover more about our approach to collaborative action research and the learning that is emerging from our work in multi-agency, multi-practitioner public service environments including Aberdeenshire.


Collaborative Action Research and public services – insights into methods, findings and implications for public service reform

A working paper sharing the findings from the What Works Scotland programme of collaborative action research (CAR). The paper highlights learnings and insights that the researchers gained from facilitating CAR over three years (2015-2017) in the four community planning partnerships. The findings demonstrate that CAR has the potential to contribute to developing the practices of collaborative governance – partnership, participation, performance and prevention – by constructively and critically engaging with current policy and practice expectations.