Making a difference in practice: how we can help

Examples of how we make a difference in practice.

An architectural sketch of green space in a town centre with people sitting and walking in the area.
Published: 31/03/2021

We launched our corporate strategy and plan in 2021. These are our plans and ambitions for where we are heading towards. To help you imagine our goals we have collected examples of our work to show you how we make a difference in practice. 

Two elderly women sitting on a trishaw and smiling. A third woman is driving the trishaw on a path with cherry trees in full bloom.

Forging a common purpose

We know that no project succeeds in isolation. Our work supports the collaborative development of strategies linking planning, services, and investment. This enables the right development in the right place to support the needs of the community.

We collaborated with partners in Alloa using a range of tools to help bring about a lasting transformation. We explored the wider changes needed so that older people could live well in the town centre and helped develop the design of new supported-living flats to improve the experience of those who will live there.

Image credit: Cycling Without Age

Through this project, we have found that the crux has been in true partnership working and wider community engagement. When considering multigenerational housing in a town centre, it is good to engage with those who are already working with local older people, those with dementia and with disabilities.

Louise Orr, Team Leader, Volunteering and routes to work, Clackmannanshire Third Sector Interface
A computer render of a proposed housing development showing a wide car-free street surrounded by brick buildings and people walking down the street

At home in any situation

Ensuring everyone has access to housing that is warm, safe and affordable is one of the key challenges we want to help tackle. In the summer of 2019, we worked with partners to promote Scottish Government’s plans for Housing to 2040. We explored and showcased lessons from a range of housing projects across Scotland and engaged the public through an exhibition and a series of workshops.

Our work with housing associations, local authorities and NatureScot has also shown that green solutions to rainwater drainage can save money and free up space for more homes. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how valuable greenspace is to mental health and wellbeing, and that we can afford it.

Image credit: 7N Architects


When I got my keys, I felt the weight and burden had lifted... Now, health-wise, my kids are kids. They’re not limited with illness or GP visits or hospital admissions. In our old house [my daughter] was coughing, had headaches and wouldn’t go out. Now she’s never in!

Tenant of Fraser Avenue regeneration, featured in our Housing to 2040 consultation
A large group of people sit in deckchairs in an enclosed garden space at night time watching a film

From Scotland to the world

Our work also promotes Scotland’s collaborative, people-centred approach on an international stage. The Place Standard tool, which helps bring different interests and groups together to discuss and develop their place, is now world renowned and has been used in 14 countries. The Happenstance, Scotland’s contribution to the 2018 Architecture Biennale in Venice, co-ordinated by us and led by WAVEparticle, started with work in communities around Scotland.

The installation, with a structure by Baxendale Studios, presented their hopes and creative thinking about place in a way that welcomed local people and provided an inclusive space for them to gather and explore. A space with a positive legacy long after we left.

Image credit: Graham Ross

What the Scottish have achieved here in Venice is close to extraordinary: with hearts as generous as their brains they’re pointing at the many voids created by mass tourism and filling them with creativity, debates and spontaneous social connections. Wonderful job!

Leonard Davich, Visitor
A woman giving a talk to an audience. The audience is sitting on large round tables.

Growing networks and connections

We connect people who deliver projects on the ground, enabling them to share their learning with each other. Through our Public Sector Client Forum and Local Authority Urban Design Forum (LAUDF), we have supported the exchange of good practice and examples of how to create great places in Scotland. 90% of those involved in these events say it changes how they approach their work.

Many young professionals who are part of these networks develop to positions of leadership. Through supporting our professionals, even at the earliest stages of their career, we grow the skills needed for the future.

Image credit: Allan Devlin on behalf of the Crichton Trust

It is invaluable to have an opportunity to hear about what counterparts in other local authorities are doing and how they are approaching their work.

Participant at a LAUDF workshop
Workshop participants sitting at round tables. There is a presentation projected on the wall.

Leading new thinking

Growing out of our work on design advice, we undertook a one-year pilot study with local authorities during 2019-20, testing a place-based approach to tackling the climate emergency. The work was funded by the Scottish Government’s Energy and Climate Change Directorate and contributes to the delivery of Scotland’s Climate Change Plan.

Working with communities in places as diverse as Shetland, Strathard, Elgin and Glasgow, we captured and shared the learning from this. Our eight principles of Carbon Conscious Places made national TV, raising public awareness of the importance of place and its central role in tackling the climate emergency. This has informed our work with seven Scottish towns in our Climate Actions Towns project launched in 2021.

We can develop, we can build, and we can encourage people to be living in a carbon conscious way and we can make it easier.

Ian McDiarmid, Shetland Islands Council, speaking on STV news in October 2020
A hospital's two-storey high interior space, with a social area on the right, floor-to-ceiling windows and a large staircase.

With you all the way

Over the last decade, we have helped the NHS embed the voice of patients, staff and the wider community in briefs for new and altered facilities. Communities from Glasgow’s East End to the Outer Hebrides are now creating nurturing places of their own, and that other countries look towards for inspiration.

As we enter the next decade, the emphasis is on bringing all streams of public investment together to reimagine what diverse communities need to stay well. Learning, landscape, care, community, physical and digital connectivity – ensuring people’s needs are met within their local area.

Image credit: Hoskins Architecture

Best designed health centre I’ve ever seen. A real pleasure to be here. Congratulations to the architects and all who assisted them in getting it right.

Note left by a patient at Eastwood Health and Care Centre, by Hoskins Architects
Three primary school pupils dressed in uniforms smile at the camera. They are holding pieces of custom made wooden furniture for their school, that they helped design.

From small acorns

Adapting a public building such as a school – rather than replacing it – keeps it at the heart of the community, with local people able to walk there and use local businesses en route. This is healthier for people, the environment, and the economy. It also helps tackle climate change by reducing the need to travel and the demand for new raw materials.

Since 2017 we have helped schools, from the Borders to the Highlands, to adapt their existing spaces for new ways of learning. We ran ‘space hacks’ with teachers and pupils to test and build a shared vision of how the spaces could be adapted.

In some, the young people then became involved in making the changes happen in their school. Taking part in the process helped them grow in confidence and form a wider view of their future careers.

Image credit: Lenny Warren

We have some spectacular new schools around the country. However, I wonder if the learning spaces are as inventive and creative as the spaces we have created in conjunction with our pupils? We have some spaces that are unique to our school, that you couldn’t necessarily take anywhere else, and I think that’s the point... we were able to use some of the strategies and approaches alongside the expertise... so that we have a building that suits us, that suits our school and suits our needs.

Headteacher Catherine Dillon-Ruddy at the Learner Journey exhibition, 2019

Header image credit: Richard Carman

How can we help you?

Are you inspired by our vision for Scotland's places? Do you have a project where we can help? Maybe you have an example of how people have come together to make a difference to their area? Let us know how we can help. 

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