This action research report is an 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. 


This first cycle of this Inquiry took place from June 2015 to August 2016. The research was carried out and the report written by an Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership PIT (Partnership Innovation Team).

The Community Links project

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

Quotes from participants in the Insch Walking Group. Click on the image to see larger version

The PIT focused its action research on the work of the Community Links project in Insch, Rhynie and Rothienorman in rural Aberdeenshire (2013-15) – a project supported by Change Fund and Integrated Care Fund monies.

Activities developed during the Community Links project included: walking groups, lunch clubs and other social groups; support for volunteering; and informal partnership-working across the local community sector, health services, other public services and the wider third sector.

Some outcomes were:

  • Approximately 200 older people a month engaging in community activity initiated by the worker
  • Approximately 20 people undertaking volunteering roles related to these activities.
  • Wide ranging positive feedback from participants on the value of the activities to their physical, mental and community health.

The research

Infographic summarising the five areas of practice in community linking as identified from work with communities in Aberdeenshire

Summary of the five areas of practice in community linking. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The PIT, which includes the project’s Community Links worker, sought to understand:

  • what makes for good practice in relation to ‘community linking’
  • what supports development of ‘community linking’ and can help its wider use (‘spread’).

The team researched the Insch project in some depth through interviews and a study visit, desk research, and policy and practice discussions and reflections – using an action research further informed by some improvement tools and thinking.

The research illustrates that community linking is a complex area of policy and practice that needs dialogue across public services and the third/community sector(s) for successful development of good practice relevant to a particular place (context).

Next steps and learning more

The report includes these recommendations:

    1. Adopting the Community Links model developed in Insch as a ‘promising approach’ to building community capacity and asset development for improving health and wellbeing in Aberdeenshire.
    2. Further action research work to support exploration of:
      • the ‘spread’ of this model to different types of community of place – remote rural, accessible rural, ‘other urban’ and deprived;
      • its relevance to thematic areas: preventing poverty and inequality; reducing social isolation; and children, families and early years; and
      • its relevance to improving public service partnership-working and strengthening local third/community sector organisations.

It’s anticipated that there will be a further cycle or cycles of the Inquiry lead by the PIT that will aim to build on the learning from this initial research.

Download the publication

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

More details

Authors: Written collaboratively by the members of the Partnership Innovation Team (PIT), Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership.

Date of publication: 29 November 2016

Publication type: Action Research Report