Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland has been 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 worked
Building on our learning from the development of CNS, and drawing on the experiences and lessons learned from children’s initiatives nationally and internationally, CNS developed a model of community- and place-based working tailored to the neighbourhoods CNS was working with, and to the wider Scottish context.
Working in urban, small town and rural communities enabled 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 allowed the programme to be as inclusive as possible, promoting engagement and participation across age groups, whilst maintaining a focus on the areas CNS worked in.
All CNS activity focussed on building relationships to support local, strategic and community engagement and action. The COVID-19 pandemic 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 focussed on promoting the priorities of children and young people; and supporting partnerships and collaboration between organisations. Priorities for action were distinctive to each area, responsive to existing local activity and demographics, and focused on developing context specific responses and local solutions.
This work was led by a CNS Local Coordinator, who was based in the neighbourhood and was the visible presence of the programme locally. In alignment with the Community Learning and Development Standards Council Competences Framework, CNS Local Coordinators brought a range of attributes and skills to the role.
Research & Evaluation Team
CNS had an embedded research and evaluation team. This distinctive operational aspect of CNS struck a balance between supporting the development of the programme and maintaining a critical distance as evaluators. A variety of research approaches were used in the programme, some of which ran throughout; some were repeated at different intervals; while others were short-term in nature.
CNS research and evaluation activity was organised into four areas, with distinct sets of research questions and methods.
The Capabilities approach
The CNS use of the Capabilities Approach was 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 enabled children and young people to identify and create a framework about what is important to them which then provided direction to CNS Local Coordinators in responding to these areas of action.
Research conducted by CNS further demonstrated that children and young people can and should be at the heart of setting their goals for wellbeing. The approach was 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 was digitalised and has been delivered using both. In West Dunbartonshire, the research identified that mental health and wellbeing was a priority for local children and young people.