Our aim is to help people in Scotland to conduct respectful and dignified conversations about our future – locally, nationally and internationally.

Collaborative Scotland is a not for profit wholly unaligned joint venture of Core Solutions with partner organisations and others in Scotland who wish to see more effective, thoughtful and constructive consideration of issues which matter to people in Scotland.

Funding and resources for infrastructure is provided by Core and other private donors. Funding and resources for individual projects and initiatives comes from our partners in these. The initiative is led by John Sturrock QC, Senior Mediator and Founder at Core Solutions, along with a group of informal advisers.

Collaborative Scotland was launched in 2013 in the run up to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. It held a number of events before and after the referendum, with a focus on respectful dialogue and co-existence, while seeking to transcend a binary, adversarial approach to the issues. After a period in abeyance, there have been a number of events in 2017 to encourage open discussion of the implications of Brexit and the prospect of a second independence referendum.

The Commitment to Respectful Dialogue:

Collaborative Scotland has promoted the Commitment to Respectful Dialogue as the primary articulation of what it stands for. This gained support and publicity in 2014 and remains a touchstone for the work in 2017. Its current expression is found here.

Our Purpose:

Our main purpose is to help people to acquire the skills to engage with civility and dignity in discourse about difficult topics on which they hold diverse views. Through acquisition of skills comes competence and thus confidence. Thus, our objective is to encourage better conversations through respectful dialogue in the expectation that out of this will come better solutions to some of the most difficult problems we face nationally and locally, corporately and individually.

Specifically, we will focus on how to build better relationships and more effective communication among people who hold different views and on how to gain much better understanding of underlying issues and multiple perspectives. This should enable participants to seek to identify more common ground and shared interests, enhancing exploration of innovative and constructive options for progress and encouraging clarity about criteria for decision-making and bench marking success.

Empowering others to become more effective handlers of differences, disputes and other problems is a worthy aim in itself. Enabling communities and other groups to work more effectively together as they face challenges is as important as any outcome which may emanate. Wide participation will be encouraged, regardless of regardless of perceived position, status or location.

Better Conversations:

None of this is designed to stifle expression of differences of view. Indeed, our main purpose is to help people to acquire the skills to engage with civility and dignity in discourse about difficult topics on which they hold diverse views. Through acquisition of skills comes competence and thus confidence. Thus, our objective is to encourage better conversations through respectful dialogue in the expectation that out of this will come better solutions to some of the most difficult problems we face nationally and locally, corporately and individually.

Specifically, we will focus on how to build better relationships and more effective communication among people who hold different views and on how to gain much better understanding of underlying issues and multiple perspectives. This should enable participants to seek to identify more common ground and shared interests, enhancing exploration of innovative and constructive options for progress and encouraging clarity about criteria for decision-making and bench marking success.

Empowering others to become more effective handlers of differences, disputes and other problems is a worthy aim in itself. Enabling communities and other groups to work more effectively together as they face challenges is as important as any outcome which may emanate. Wide participation will be encouraged, regardless of regardless of perceived position, status or location.

However, given the inevitable limitations of resources, we must necessarily be selective in what we do.

Primary Activities:

One focus of activity will be seeking to work with those engaged in the political process in Scotland as elected representatives and their support structure. We will seek to encourage aspiration and to enhance excellent performance with an emphasis on reflection rather than criticism or holding to account. Another focus will be to work with identifiable local areas where we can plant seeds for better and more sustainable conversations on matters of local and national importance. A third role is to encourage the young generation to acquire the skills to undertake this work going forward, as potential and actual leaders.

Our experience is that, paradoxically, solutions are likely to be of better quality and more sustainable if more attention is given to the process. This necessarily implies letting go of an ability to control outcomes in a transactional sense while empowering others to flourish and experiment. Enabling and encouraging respect and courtesy does not lead inevitably to softness in addressing the difficult issues. Again, paradoxically, if done well, this encourages robustness and rigour about the issues, as people and personalities are separated from the problems themselves.

The role is a catalytic one. Peacemaking is a journey. Measuring success involves consideration of the quality and value of participation in the process rather than any policy changes which may emanate.

So, our primary role will focus on questions of process such as:

  • How can we improve the quality of discussions about political matters in this country?
  • How can we ensure that we have respectful conversations?
  • Why does this matter?
  • How can we involve as many people as possible?
  • How do we ensure that different views are expressed and acknowledged?
  • Why is that important?
  • How can we get below the surface to identify the real concerns, needs, hopes, fears and aspirations of those involved?
  • How do we break away from dualistic, binary and polarising approaches when considering important issues?
  • How can we encourage and enable people to discuss ambiguity, complexity, nuance and uncertainty with confidence?
  • How can we overcome fear of the other?
  • How do we explore the nature of, and deepen, relationships between people who are different?
  • What sort of behaviour change would we like to see?
  • What skills do we need to learn to achieve these aims?
  • How do we enable and encourage others?

The conversations cannot be devoid of substance and we envisage questions like these which will begin a process of engagement on substantive matters:

  • What vision do we have for our community?
  • What vision do we have for our country?
  • What are our underlying values as a community? As a country?
  • What are our opportunities?
  • What kind of community or society do we wish to be?
  • What kind of Scotland would we like to see?
  • What matters most to us as a community?
  • What changes would we like to make here?
  • What one change would make a big difference to our community?
  • How could we take forward these ideas?
  • What specific steps do we now need to take?
  • How can we make this sustainable going forward?