The Scottish Government commissioned this research on behalf of the CAMERAS partners, with the involvement of Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The research was commissioned in order to build on the ‘National Standards for Community Engagement’. It also aimed to inform developments relating to the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and the review of the Land Use Strategy. The research was undertaken by Dialogue Matters between September 2015 and March 2016.
The research explored the specific challenges and opportunities for the use of community engagement/empowerment tools and approaches in a rural setting, and in relation to land use and land management. The research was qualitative in nature and involved interviews and online surveys with managers and project officers in environmental public bodies with a land use focus (SNH, FCS, SEPA) and partnership projects.
The research found little evidence of deliberate design and choice of methods within engagement projects, and only two named specific techniques. This suggests that engagement activities are generally ad hoc and disconnected. The study found that in order to be able to design and facilitate (or commission) best practice community engagement and community empowerment processes, organisations need to develop relevant skills and capacity. This should include building understanding about key engagement concepts. The research developed an Empowerment Framework which can be used as a tool to assess current work, to explore different levels of empowerment, and to plan future action.