Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland


Image courtesy of Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland

In recent weeks, IEN has featured sessions at the American Educational Research Association that discussed the development of educational networks in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Chile as well as work on collective impact in New York City. This week’s post brings that work together by describing the work and impact of the Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS). CNS is an organization working in two neighborhoods in Glasgow to help bring “together people, resources and organisations in a neighbourhood area, so that all of those things can work together towards better lives for the children living there.” The post is drawn from an overview of CNS and a related commentary from Christopher Chapman of the University of Glasgow and his colleagues Carol Tannahill of Glasgow Centre for Population Health and Nicholas Watson of the University of Glasgow.  It’s a follow-up to Chapman’s IEN post from 2016 describing What Works: The Scottish Attainment Challenge, Learning Partnerships, and “Policy Borrowing” on Both Sides of the Atlantic

We know that children who grow up in areas of high social deprivation face challenges and that, unless well supported, they are less likely than their more advantaged peers to be successful in later life.  We also know that many of these communities are working with organisations and agencies to try and tackle the many challenges these children face, but that they often don’t have sufficient resources to produce the outcomes they want to achieve.

If we want to create a new future, the evidence from Europe, America and elsewhere tells us that we are going to have to have to work in different, more creative and more joined-up ways.  We need to develop new approaches that reshape roles and responsibilities and will bring together the many different agencies and organisations that are currently involved in delivering services to and helping children in these areas.

The Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS) provides one example of such a joined-up initiative. CNS is a collaborative approach between the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), Policy Scotland and What Works Scotland (WWS) within the University of Glasgow. The approach is supported by key partners including Glasgow City Council (GCC), Bailie Gifford, Clyde Gateway, Children in Scotland, Save the Children, Virgin Money and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde who are committed to building on current investments.

CNS brings together, builds on and develops ideas generated across a range of area- based initiatives including the Strive Partnership, Harlem Children’s Zone in the United States and Children’s Communities in a number of sites across the UK. Our aim is to take the lessons from these sites, develop evidence-based approaches and apply them within the Scottish context.

children neighborhood

Key to our approach is a locality based strategic focus on joining up efforts across services and sectors to ensure better coordination, integration of local support systems and a coherent set of networks for children and families and the communities in which they live. This approach moves from traditional ways of working that move from disorder and confusion and delivering individual and coordinated impact to deliver collective impact for all


The CNS approach to collective impact is based on a shared vision for children and a shared analysis of children’s needs. Through promoting partnership and developing synergy, this place- based approach will tackle the poor outcomes associated with disadvantaged settings and provide an interconnected pipeline of support from pre-birth to employment.

The approach is underpinned by five key evidence-based principles:


  1. Common agenda: All members of the collaborative need a shared understanding of the issue and an agreed approach to tacking it.
  2. Shared data and accountability systems: For alignment and accountability purposes, those involved need to have common indicators of success.
  3. Mutually reinforcing agendas and activities: Action needs to co-ordinated to avoid overlap and gaps.
  4. Clear and consistent communication: In order to build relationships and trust, establish common objectives, and build shared purpose and a guiding.
  5. Backbone support organisation: A separate organization is required to provide the administrative, logistical, and coordinating support necessary to create and sustain a successful partnership


The Children’s Neighbourhood in Bridgeton and Dalmarnock is an example of a ‘backbone organisation’ (see figure below) that brings together different resources, brokers and facilitates connections and activity.  Dalmarnock and Bridgeton is in the East End of Glasgow and has one of the most concentrated levels of socio-economic disadvantage in Scotland. There is substantial investment and activity in this area by partners from across the City in an attempt to tackle generations of poverty and disadvantage and to improve a wide-range of outcomes for children and young people living in the area.

The Children’s Neighbourhood is now working with a range of these partners to generate a coherent response in services to ensure that all resources are pulling in the same direction. This is, of course, a slow task and so far we have invested our time in building trust and relationships to create the conditions that will promote authentic collaboration and partnership working across the neighbourhood.

As part of this work, we have already started some small projects in this area including breakfast clubs, holiday clubs and other activity beyond the school gate of Dalmarnock Primary School. All of these programmes aim to connect families and communities across the area and provide a coherent, holistic and sustained approach to tackling the attainment gap and reducing health inequalities. Through the development of a coordinated response we will be able to better utilise and unlock the assets, resources, knowledge and intelligence of public sector organisations, national and local third sector and the community.

Children’s Neighbourhoods is not a quick fix, rather a long-term investment in sustainable cultural change. We believe, and the emerging evidence suggests, this is a model that can make a difference to the lives of young people and their families locked in to poverty and can play a significant role in achieving the Scottish Government’s 2030 child poverty targets. CNS is also flexible enough to travel and therefore has the potential for roll-out to other areas, both urban and rural. In CNS we believe we have developed a uniquely Scottish approach to put poverty in its place!

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