14 December 2016

From the policy page to practice: Taking Community Planning and a Better and Fairer Fife to 'the next level'

In this blog What Works Scotland research assistant Cleo Davies outlines the recent Fife Community Planning event, Making the change: delivering a better and fairer Fife on 17 November 2016 at the Fife Renewables Innovation Centre.

Fife Community Planning Partnership (Fife CPP) is one of What Works Scotland's collaborative action research (CAR) partners. Fife Partnership and What Works Scotland co-produced the event Making the change: delivering a better and fairer Fife which brought together a wide range of over 75 people who are engaged in community planning and public service delivery in Fife.

At the What Works Scotland CAR national retreat in February 2015, Fife practitioners and What Works Scotland researchers discussed the wider changes taking place in community planning and local ways of working, and decided to hold a Fife-wide event.

Fife Council, alongside partners that include NHS Fife and Police Scotland, have also pledged to work together to deliver the Fairer Fife Commission's November 2015 report recommendations.

This event was, therefore, an opportunity to bring partners together to discuss and exchange on how to take community planning one step further and connect the Fairer Fife recommendations with the upcoming development of the Fife Local Outcome Improvement Plan and recent changes to community planning, such as an increasing role for citizens and communities in service planning and the development of Locality Plans for specific neighbourhoods.

The event was a space for dialogue in which all the people who are involved in public service delivery in Fife could talk and exchange about their work. Designed to foster discussions and learning, participants who are not regularly in contact with each other shared their views and understandings of the issues of the day. In a context of uncertainty and massive challenges to delivering community planning, two threads ran through the day’s discussions: partnership working and a focus on outcomes; and secondly how to put citizens at the heart of community planning.

Setting the scene, Dr Oliver Escobar, (University of Edinburgh and What Works Scotland) presented some of the key thinking of the Christie Report.

It outlines an approach to problem solving that focuses on outcomes, a shift from fire-fighting to prevention and partnership work to leverage the collective knowledge of different partners.

Following this, Oliver discussed putting citizens and communities at the heart of community planning. Against the backdrop of the Community Empowerment Act, participants then exchanged on how to reach those communities that are most deprived. Discussions highlighted issues of resources and the need to keep flexibility in how to engage with different communities across Fife.

Taking Fife's community planning further

Steve Grimmond, the Chief Executive of Fife Council, presented Fife's Community Plan 2011-2020, outlining initiatives such as the Fife Employability Pathway and the Family Nurture Approach.

Dr William Penrice, Fife Council Research Manager, presented the key findings from the Fife Strategic Assessment and the broader uncertain context in relation to Fife (welfare reform, climate change, austerity, health and social care costs, demographic change and the persistent inequality gaps). William warned against complacency and emphasised that it is one thing to know about the issues but another to think about whether enough is being done to tackle them.

Throughout the day, participants were invited to engage with some of the challenges of delivering community planning and addressing complex, 'wicked' issues which cannot simply be eliminated, but instead, involve continuously resolving dilemmas to find solutions. Amongst the feedback on the day,
participants strongly welcomed the opportunity for the conversation and to get to hear about what others are doing in Fife.

The consensus was also that taking partnership working to the next level entails thinking about how to join up different plans and how to make sure that other planning arrangements are incorporated with the new Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP).

Steven Grimmond wrapped up the day’s thinking and with a forward looking call, "there is a strong platform in Fife and today has been about exchanging on how we take that to the next level."

Against the backdrop of the review of the Community Plan and development of the Fife Local Outcome Improvement Plan over the next 12 months, the challenge is to keep the dialogue going. There is certainly agreement amongst participants and Fife will now consider how to put their aims into practice.
"To keep things moving and continue the conversation, a further workshop with members of the Fife Partnership Executive Group and current Community Planning Outcome leads will take place in January 2017. The purpose of this will be to consider the dilemmas posed as part of the strategic assessment and to challenge partners to critically reflect on current partnership arrangements. 
"How do we raise aspirations and encourage more community involvement, in particular at a neighbourhood level? How do we focus on the big strategic priorities while linking these to the areas of greatest need? How do we build on the work that has taken place to join things up further? 
"Early discussions have taken place to consider the idea of a single plan for Fife; it is therefore important to engage all partners at an early stage to make this happen. A number of work areas are starting to come together, which creates both opportunities and further questions. One of the focus areas for the Fife What Works Scotland case study has been how best to improve local and strategic links. I think that this is something we can explore further but we are already starting to work in a different way as a result of this involvement."
Sharon Murphy, Fife Council, Policy Co-ordinator (Community Planning)

Learn more

For further information on the Fife collaborative action research activities:

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