Our Approach

Here at Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland, we’ve committed to ensuring that the voices of children and families inform and drive our actions, and to working in partnership with services and organisations to support local activity and action.

How CNS works

Building on our learning from the development of CNS to date, and drawing on the experiences and lessons learned from children’s initiatives nationally and internationally, CNS has developed a model of community- and place-based working tailored to the neighbourhoods CNS works with, and to the wider Scottish context.

Working in urban, small town and rural communities enables CNS to explore the transferability, sensitivity, and suitability of the approach in different geographical and socio-economic contexts and to make a contribution to the evidence base and literature on place-based approaches in practice.

Early in the programme it was also decided not to restrict the age of children and young people that might be involved, and to have geographical site boundaries that were fluid in nature. This allows the programme to be as inclusive as possible, promoting engagement and participation across age groups, whilst maintaining a focus on the areas CNS is working in.

Local Coordinators

In all CNS activity, the focus is on building relationships to support local, strategic and community engagement and action. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of this to the fore as local community-based and public sector organisations adapted and responded to the needs of local children, young people and families.

Working across a range of communities, CNS activity in each neighbourhood focuses on promoting the priorities of children and young people; and supporting partnerships and collaboration between organisations. Priorities for action are distinctive to each area, responsive to existing local activity and demographics, and focused on developing context specific responses and local solutions.

This work is led by a CNS Local Coordinator, who is based in the neighbourhood and is the visible presence of the programme locally. In alignment with the Community Learning and Development Standards Council Competences Framework, CNS Local Coordinators bring a range of attributes and skills to the role.

Research & Evaluation Team

CNS has an embedded research and evaluation team. This distinctive operational aspect of CNS strikes a balance between supporting the development of the programme and maintaining a critical distance as evaluators. A variety of research approaches are being used in the programme, some of which will run throughout; some will be repeated at different intervals; while others are short-term in nature.

CNS research and evaluation activity is organised into four areas, with distinct sets of research questions and methods.

The Capabilities approach

The CNS use of the Capabilities Approach is an underpinning feature of the programme, garnering interest and participation from partners, schools and children and young people respectively, even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The approach is a framework for understanding and measuring wellbeing, which prioritises the capabilities people need to live ‘a good life’. Using this approach enables children and young people to identify and create a framework about what is important to them which then provides direction to CNS Local Coordinators in responding to these areas of action.

Research conducted by CNS further demonstrates that children and young people can and should be at the heart of setting their goals for wellbeing. The approach has been designed to work across a range of different contexts and modes of delivery.

Initially undertaken as a face-to-face model with small groups, the approach has been digitalised and can be delivered using either medium. In West Dunbartonshire, the research identified that mental health and wellbeing was a priority for local children and young people.

Developing a capabilities wellbeing framework with children, young people and stakeholders: Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire (November 2020)

Wellbeing Survey Findings: Miller Primary School, Castlemilk (March 2021)

Wellbeing Survey Findings: Lanark Primary School, Lanark (July 2021)

Case Studies

Our case studies show how we work to put these all-important principles into practice.


The capabilities approach to growing children’s voices

Exploring service barriers and enablers to family support

A partnership approach to addressing anti-social and risky behaviours amongst teenagers