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Measurement and mission statement: what our new values mean to us

5 May 2022

Chris Small on why we decided to refresh our values and the thinking behind the updated wording

What’s the point of values? In our view, as an organisation with a remit to improve children’s lives, they are vital.

Here are a few quotes from a survey of our staff, explaining why:

“Values provide a set of core beliefs and principles that act as a guide to how we should approach our work, external and internal relationships and communications”

“They help define our personality and inspire staff to a greater sense of purpose and engagement.”

“Values give everyone a shared sense of belonging to a larger mission in order to motivate us and drive our work”

“They act as a  benchmark for how the organisation should behave.”

Values have been important to us as an organisation since we were founded 29 years ago. But over the past decade we’ve been more assertive about them, threading them through internal work and public-facing activities.

In interviews recruiting for new staff, we ask candidates to talk about their experience in the context of our values. In one to one supervision, line managers ask staff they support to use our values as a reference point for discussing their work.

Our 2017 rebrand was about bringing our values to the fore, telling people what we believed in and how we wanted to achieve a more equal society for children.

Many contributors to our 25 Calls campaign (2018-20) referenced the power of values – our own and those of the organisations and young people we work with.

Our 2021-26 Manifesto picks up on that concern. Call 32 says the children’s sector must achieve ‘a fully values-driven workforce through refreshing its commitment to the Common Core of Skills, Knowledge and Understanding and Values for the Children’s Workforce in Scotland’.

But we’re also aware that values can evolve alongside organisational and societal change. We’ve learnt a lot since our previous values wording was created in 2014: about how best to take a stand on issues young people care about, how to absorb learning from projects, how to be more accessible, and how to ensure staff, young people and members can participate in our decision-making.

We want our values to be built on that learning and to correspond to the sector and society we’re part of now. So last year we decided to refresh the values, initiating a six-month project that included consultation with our staff, our children and young people’s advisory group Changing our World, our members and our Board.

The update balances the voices of those core groups, and makes our values feel more human, relevant and in tune with 2022. So, what’s different?

Changing our World members were rightly insistent that a commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion was of overarching importance. That’s why it’s included in a new introduction which explains the purpose and meaning of our values.

The first of the four values is Brave, illustrating our determination to champion children’s rights and advocate for young people, even on issues that might attract hostility.

But we’re conscious that ‘bravery’ has wider meanings. It doesn’t have to be a synonym for ‘strong’. As our Head of Services Billy Anderson argues in the new edition of our members’ publication Insight, being vulnerable is often the foundation for courage.

Collaborative speaks to Children in Scotland’s character as a partnership organisation with democratic instincts. We felt our ability to bring voices together to achieve shared aims needed to be stated more explicitly in our values.

We now describe ourselves as Open and Fair, reflecting our aspiration to always be as transparent and accessible as possible and to share our learning and ideas.

Finally, we are Kind, a word that came up repeatedly in responses from our staff and Changing our World. I view it as reflecting a quality of the organisation that’s been evidenced forcefully over the past two difficult years, and which we will continue to live by.

There’s also some deliberate continuity with the values wording introduced eight years ago; our commitment to accountability, trust and respect isn’t something that’s going to go away.

Through the work of our designer Angus Doyle we’re able to bring this language together with energy, colour and visual impact, as you’ll see from the graphic on our new Vision, Priorities and Values page.

Thank you to our staff, young people’s advisory group, members and board for taking part in the project.

I hope that, on reading the new values, you recognise something of your experience of Children in Scotland. We believe they give us a description of who we are, a way of measuring how well we’re doing, and a mission statement for what we want to achieve.

Click here to read our refreshed values in full

Chris Small is Children in Scotland's Communications Manager

Introducing our refreshed values

We've updated how we describe our beliefs, qualities and ambitions

Click here to read

About the author

Chris Small is Children in Scotland's Communications Manager

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2021-26 Manifesto

Our Manifesto is supported by organisations from across the children's sector

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Changing our World

Our children and young people's advisory group helped to shape our values

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25 Calls

Our anniversary campaign shared ideas on how to enhance equality and rights

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An equal chance to flourish

As part of our 2017 rebrand, we rearticulated our work and ambitions for change

Click to watch a short film

Join us in membership

Become a member and be part of efforts for change to improve children's lives

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Our board

A committed board of directors guides and supports the work we do

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Why our Manifesto for 2021-26 must be more about renewal than recovery

Head of Policy, Projects & Participation Amy Woodhouse on how we're developing our Manifesto for the next Scottish Parliament and the challenges of representing the children’s sector in the face of an unknowable future.

It’s mid-May and we should be far on in the writing phase of Children in Scotland’s Manifesto for the Holyrood elections in 2021.

We started thinking ahead to our new Manifesto last summer. It should outline the changes Children in Scotland thinks are necessary for the Scottish Government to make over the timescale of the next parliament to improve outcomes for children and young people living in Scotland, and their families.

It should inform our strategic plan and our policy and influencing priorities over the next five-year period. It should also reflect the priorities of our members and be something they can align themselves to. To say it’s an important document for us is something of an understatement.

We agreed that we wanted to take a really thoughtful and inclusive approach to developing the Manifesto. Over the latter part of 2019 we facilitated discussions with members through our Voices Forum, held a (Lego!) workshop at our annual conference, ran a members’ survey and held a variety of discussions with our children and young people’s advisory group Changing our World, our staff team and our Board.

We analysed our report recommendations and consultation responses from across the last five years and reflected on evidence from other important sources, including what children and young people have said. As a researcher by trade, I’ve been proud of the approach we’ve taken, particularly considering the limited capacity we have had as a team and as an organisation to do this work.

But then COVID-19 hit and we found ourselves in a very different world from the one we started this work in.  It has forced me and colleagues to stop and think: Is our work on the Manifesto up to this point irrelevant now?

Has Scotland changed so irrevocably that we have to think about everything from this point onwards in response to the impact of the coronavirus?

This truth is that it’s very difficult to say at this point. We know many families have faced considerable hardship through the lockdown period, and that as a country, we’ll experience the financial impact of this crisis for many years to come.

We also know that other previous priorities, such as the climate crisis or Brexit are still pressing but have fallen down the agenda as we respond to the real and immediate needs directly in front of us.

This Manifesto needs to look forward to a future that feels unknowable.

But, to badly paraphrase Joe Strummer, if the future is unknowable, it is also unwritten, and therefore open to the potential for positive change.

In that respect, while the current crisis we find ourselves in is unprecedented, our approach to the Manifesto remains the same. We think about the future we want for children and young people, and agree the steps that are necessary to get us there, based on the evidence of what we know works and what children and young people say themselves.

Rights, poverty, health and wellbeing, learning, equalities – COVID 19 has shone a different light on all these issues, and in many cases has exacerbated existing problems further, by increasing inequalities and challenges we face as a society. But the big issues remain largely the same – it’s the level of the problem that has increased.

This is why many people are talking renewal and not recovery, when conceptualising a post-crisis Scotland.

We don’t want to go back to where we were before, because in many ways it really wasn’t good enough.

The important thing is how we build back better.

It’s mid-May, and yes, we are a bit behind schedule on our Manifesto writing. But we’re persevering and will be reaching out to members again soon to help us shape the final calls.

We’re able to continue like this because our work builds on what we and the wider children’s sector have long known and believed is necessary to improve the lives of children and young people. It will need to reflect our current times but it should be a Manifesto for an ambitious future and not simply a crisis response.

Our next Voices Forum is scheduled as a video meeting on the morning of Thursday 25 June. Please get in touch if you are a Children in Scotland member and would like to take part.

Contact Amy at



Policy, Projects & Participation (PPP)

Amy is head of Children in Scotland's PPP department

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Members' forums

Get connected, informed and inspired as part of our network dedicated to improving children’s lives.

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Strengthening the children's sector

Read a recent blog from Karin, who leads our Learning & Events team

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Manifesto for the new UK Government

In December 2019 we published calls alongside 19 partner organisations

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Confronting the crisis

Jacqueline Cassidy discusses the third sector response to Covid-19

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