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Shaping our thinking, sharing our learning: Current and Future Ambitions

Shaping our thinking... discovering what our towns ambitions are, by looking at what the plans and strategies in place are telling us.

Sharing our learning... on developing a simplified process to initiate capturing current ambitions.

We often talk about taking a whole systems approach to our places and about collaborative working. At national level, there is a growing list of national policy ambitions that involve local authority action. Each local authority department will have its own plans, strategies and policies, but how do we reflect on whether we want all our plans to align? Each local authority does this differently and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

One of our aims in starting work in our Local Project Towns is to determine ‘what is the ambition of the town?’. Doing so enables reflection on the desirability of everyone working towards the same goal. This is a complex question to answer and involves scoping out what is happening nationally, regionally and locally that is influencing the town. This blog sets out the approach we have taken so far. We have progressed the furthest in Ayr, it is an ongoing learning process, and we are keen to see how other places are approaching this. This is something we plan to discuss in our Local Learning Cohort, and we hope this series of blog posts will start a conversation. We are calling this first step the ‘current and future ambitions’ of our Local Project Towns.

Current and future ambitions analysis

Firstly, we identified a set of key national policies as key influencers. To date these are:

  • The Sustainable Development Goals
  • National Outcomes Framework
  • Covid Recovery Strategy
  • Public Health Priorities
  • Net zero emission targets
  • A New Future for Scotland’s Towns
  • 20 minute neighbourhoods

As well as this, three place-based approaches were also identified: the Christie Commission, Place Principle and Place and Wellbeing Outcomes. As our key focus is on the role of ‘place’, and this was kept in mind when reviewing the documents. The national level will be consistent across all four of our towns.

At a regional level a similar approach was taken, and for example, the plans identified in Ayrshire included the indicative Regional Spatial Strategy, Ayrshire Growth Deals, Caring for Ayrshire.

Next, we looked at council level plans. After a few Steering Group meetings, we had a clearer picture of what’s happening in the local authority. We identified six plans for further analysis, these were high level and viewed as having the greatest influence on place, and they are:

  • Council Plan
  • Local Outcomes Improvement Plan
  • Local Development Plan
  • Economic Strategy
  • Health and Social Care Partnership Plan
  • Climate Change Plan

Other plans that feed up into these were also recorded for reference, but the main analysis looked at whether these six aligned as they were felt to have most influence. A content analysis of the plans allowed for the following information to be pulled out and this was tracked in a spreadsheet:

  • Name of document
  • Date
  • Theme (e.g., planning, community, and health)
  • Vision (the overarching vision of the plan)
  • Key priorities/themes/outcomes (these were called different things in each plan)
  • Any issues/ challenges identified
  • Opportunities identified
  • Link to document

At first, we felt the visions stated would be a useful way to compare plans, but on reflection these can often be very high level and didn’t give us enough information. As a result, we looked to establish how the ‘key priorities/themes/outcomes’ in the plans and strategies align. A ‘Google Jamboard’ was created, this is an online interactive whiteboard. This allowed the priorities to be placed on sticky notes and colour coordinated by what plan they are from. The priorities could then be moved about and grouped together. This then helped to collate the recurring themes.

From this any ‘overlapping priorities’ could be highlighted. These are priorities that came up in more than one of the plans. For example, if creating opportunities for young people featured in the council plan, economic plan and the Local Outcomes Improvement Plan it was considered an overlapping priority. Whereas if priorities around reducing emissions only featured in the climate change plan, this wasn’t then considered as an ‘overlapping priority’. The same exercise was conducted when looking at any challenges and opportunities the plans.

The next step was to look at what plans there were for the town itself. This resulted in a few place plans and action plans for different parts of the town being identified.

The findings of this exercise were presented back to the Steering Group and shared on our Microsoft Teams Group for discussion. This allows those working in the area to reflect and examine whether the overlapping priorities are what they expected, if they felt anything was missing and where there are opportunities to review priorities of future plans. This exercise provided a starting point for discussion and helped create a clearer picture of the ambitions of the town. This is an ongoing process, and we consider this to be our first step in our Local Project Town work.

Our next steps will be:

  • Reflect on the process to date with the steering group and continue this as a collaborative process with them.
  • Link this with the work of our Local Intelligence Support Team colleagues who are researching what the key demographic experiencing the most inequality in the towns are.
  • Consider how the overlapping priorities link with key funding opportunities.
  • Conduct a similar process around what third sector work is taking place in our towns.
  • Repeat this process with our other towns and share our learning.
About this blog series

As part of the Shaping Places for Wellbeing Programme we aim to evaluate our work and share our learning across different key stages of the programme. One way we will share this is through the ‘Shaping our thinking, sharing our learning’ blog series.

Some key information about the programme:

  • We are working to improve Scotland’s wellbeing by reducing the significant inequality in the health of its people while addressing the health of our planet.
  • The action is anchored in the Place and Wellbeing Outcomes.
  • The programme is coordinated and managed by a Programme Team from the Improvement Service and Public Health Scotland
  • The programme runs until March 2024
  • Programme has 3 key activities to support local activity:
Irene Beautyman - Planning for Place Programme Manager
Susan Rintoul - Project Officer, Planning for Place