9. Theory of Change
Throughout the design and implementation of the research, Myers et al.'s Theory of Change (2017) (Figure 1) was used as a reference point. This section reports on the final stage of the evaluation: the development of a revised Theory of Change. The revised model draws from primary and secondary data collected during the evaluation (presented in Sections Four to Seven). Based on the data, and research findings, we have proposed some revisions to the original Theory of Change. These are indicated by dashed lines in Figure 6.
In addition to the activities of Myers et al.'s (2017) Theory of Change, 'public service authorities ensure community participation bodies are aware of all available community engagement/participation processes' has been added to the model. Given that participation requests are complementary to, rather than a replacement of, existing participation and engagement processes (for example, community-led action plan steering groups; action plans to ensure resilience in the face of emergencies; community participation in the development of healthcare strategies or redesign of services; and participatory budgeting), an awareness of all available pathways to participation enables community participation bodies to identify and utilise the most appropriate approach to achieve community aspirations.
A second proposed additional activity is: 'public service authorities promote value of participation internally'. This addition relates to the existing activity, 'public service authorities promote awareness and use of participation requests', and the outcome, 'public service authority culture change'. The evaluation has highlighted that some public service authorities may not consistently view participation positively, thus undermining the potential for participation requests to generate intermediate and longer-term outcomes. Promoting the value of participation within public service authorities may enable a culture change, mitigating against the potential of an adversarial culture and support wider principles of the Act.
We propose 'community participation bodies pursue alternative route to participation' as an additional output that adds to Myers et al.'s (2017) Theory of Change. This output is a potential consequence of community participation bodies gaining an awareness of all available community engagement and participation processes (for example, through pre-application processes). Pursuing alternative routes to participation represents an exit pathway from the participation request Theory of Change and, as such, this output is not linked to intermediate or longer-term outcomes, although it is possible that by engaging with public service authorities to explore all available routes to participation, this can enable communities to gain greater understanding of public service authority decision-making. Importantly, other pathways enabling participation between community participation bodies and public service authorities can also lead to specific intermediate and longer-term outcomes; these, however, were beyond the scope of this evaluation.
Findings from the evaluation highlighted an additional potential intermediate outcome of participation request: 'Improved communication and trust between public service authorities and community participation bodies'. As discussed at Section 6.4, by entering into a dialogue between community participation bodies and public service authorities, participation requests may enable improved communication and a process of trust building. This may be a particularly significant outcome in circumstances where, historically, the relationships between public service authorities and community groups have been somewhat strained. Again, the achievement of this outcome relies on key stakeholders, including community participation bodies and public service authorities, placing value on transparency and participation. This outcome may be enabled by public service authorities; the revised Theory of Change therefore includes an additional activity: 'public service authorities promote value of participation internally'.
Given that participation requests are still in the early stages of development in Scotland, we have not revised the longer-term outcomes presented in the Theory of Change. Over time, as participation requests become embedded across Scotland, additional longer-term outcomes may emerge.