Tackling Complex Problems


The significant, health, climate, fiscal, and socio-economic challenges that we face mean that more of the same won’t do. Tackling these complex issues means that we need to work together and maximise the impact of our combined resources.

Place-based approaches are by their nature collaborative.  They require collective action that brings knowledge, experience and creativity together to understand how to deliver multiple benefits.  Using place as a lens to look through can help us to understand the interconnections and relationships between issues, but what is then required is collaborative action. 

The Place Principle


The Place Principle is the overarching context for place-based working in Scotland.

The Scottish Government and COSLA adopted the Place Principle to help overcome organisational and sectoral boundaries, to encourage better collaboration and community involvement, and improve the impact of combined energy, resources and investment. 

Developed by partners in the public and private sectors, the third sector and communities, the Place Principle helps establish a clear vision for collaboration around place.  

It promotes a shared understanding of place, and the need to take a more collaborative approach to a place’s services and assets to achieve better outcomes for people and communities. The principle encourages and enables local flexibility to respond to issues and circumstances in different places.

It helps partners and local communities unlock the National Performance Framework and make it applicable to where and how they live and work.


What does the Place Principle say?

The Principle recognises that:

  • Place is where people, location and resources combine to create a sense of identity and purpose, and is at the heart of addressing the needs and realising the full potential of communities. Places are shaped by the way resources, services and assets are directed and used by the people who live in and invest in them
  • A more joined-up, collaborative, and participative approach to services, land and buildings, across all sectors within a place, enables better outcomes for everyone and increased opportunities for people and communities to shape their own lives.

The Principle requests that:

  • all those responsible for providing services and looking after assets in a place need to work and plan together, and with local communities, to improve the lives of people, support inclusive and sustainable economic growth and create more successful places.
  • there is a commitment to a collaborative, place-based approach with a shared purpose to support a clear way forward for all services, assets and investments which will maximise the impact of their combined resources.


What does it mean for organisations?

Implementation of the Place Principle requires a more integrated, collaborative and participative approach to decisions about services, land and buildings. The principle is a way of bringing ideas about services, investments, resources and assets together under one roof.  

It is an approach to change based upon a shared understanding of what that place is for and what it wants to become with partners and communities collaboratively agreeing the joint actions required to make that happen and doing them.

It provides communities and partners with a way to exercise local or regional accountability over decisions taken about the way resources, services and assets are directed and delivered.

Working in line with the Place Principle requires organisations to

  • consider the benefits of planning, investment and implementation activity at the regional level of place - where that focus could drive faster rates of sustainable and inclusive economic growth
  • ensure that place based work at the local or regional level  is taken forward in a way that is integrated between both levels of place and takes account of all complementary work being taken forward in related areas
  • exemplify the behaviours reflecting the core of the principle, working and planning together with our partners and local communities to improve the lives of people, support inclusive growth and create more successful places

The Improvement Service, Planning for Place programme supports local authorities to apply the place principle and collaborate on place based approaches.

Find out more About Place

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