Update: Please note that the CLFS work is currently under review and the team will currently not be offering its full range of development offers. You can read the full November team update here.

Place-Based Collective Leadership


Recognising an enthusiasm and interest to bring a focus around place-based, system leadership development and the central role of this approach in the COVID Recovery Strategy, Collective Leadership for Scotland have been working together with a wide range of colleagues and partners to convene a series of exploratory conversations around Place-Based Systems Leadership.  We have been interested in particular in:  

Who holds which pieces in the place-based jigsaw? 

Where are the areas of potential synergy?

and ultimately:    

How best can we work together to raise each other up? 

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

Prominent themes have emerged so far around people and communities, working in complexity and the relational and leadership dimensions of place. Further multi-partner workshops will take place in the beginning of 2022, creating an opportunity to be part of this wider, systems convening conversation on Place-Based Systems Leadership, enabling connection with colleagues involved in similar work and exploration together of emerging themes.  

The outcomes from the workshops will directly inform the next phase of place-based systems leadership development, with the ultimate aim of raising each other up around this work. 

The Place-Based Approach

We are working increasingly closely with colleagues who lead work on the Place Principle, recognising the close connections in our work and the significant potential to achieve more sustainable change by working closely together.

Place is significant in our lives. It has shaped who we are, frames what we have become, and nurtures our aspirations.  Having a real say in what happens to our place empowers who we are and who we can be.

Someone’s life in a place can be changed by the way in which small but significant interventions come together.  Our ambition is to nurture places across Scotland where more authentic narratives form the basis for more coordinated programmes of actions with more collaborative oversight.  The impact on people’s lives will be to shape changes that are relevant to the places they live in and that benefit all the people in those places.

Place based approaches engage with lived experiences and help to develop a shared purpose and a will to act – challenging the basis of the assumptions made for, rather than with, those communities. Realising ambitions across this complex landscape will demand sustainable collective leadership to pull together scattered resources for shared outcomes, and the organisational scaffolding needed to make things happen.

Emerging Themes

People and Communities

  • Real potential for people to drive change for themselves and their families and communities
  • Long-standing work with communities amongst many partners, but appetite now to collectively raise our game around this work, working together to give additional collective power to this work
  • How can local people stand as equal partners?
  • The need for a focus on human and community development and active citizenship
  • The importance of the spaces in between that service providers don’t have control of
  • The practical issues people are dealing with in places – loss of economy, hope, work, pay. Need to consider issues like community wealth building
  • Shaping places for wellbeing
  • The gap between what communities have on the ground and the policy rhetoric

Working in Complexity

  • How can we support systems thinking and an understanding of complexity in a local setting?
  • There tends to be a fear in our system around the risks attached to doing things differently, but it may be helpful to focus on the risks of continuing to do things the same
  • Recognise that this is difficult and long-term work, so need sustainable funding models and support from one another
  • A feeling that there can be a gap between place and national policy
  • A sense that place is the ideal space between national and person-centred policies- a good scale to work at
  • Far too many issues that we continue to tackle in isolation and working in place has the potential to really support join-up around the people who live there
  • This work is complex, but have we made it more so than it needs to be?

Relational and Leadership Dimensions of Place

  • Fundamental importance of the relational dimensions of this and need to pay exquisite attention to this as we develop our plans
  • Interest in the leadership dimensions of this and how to work with leadership practices around place
  • Recognise that there may be some shared development work that could help us all with this
  • When we get into the depths of working with the messiness of place, Collective Leadership has real potential to offer support, drawing in particular upon the role of facilitation to sustain focus. Collective approaches have become even more important in recent times
  • An expressed appreciation of the value and potential that Collective Leadership for Scotland can bring to this work