StarTree action research

Diagram showing the Action Research process, taken from StarTree deliverable D1.5: Action Research reports

Diagram showing the Action Research process, taken from StarTree deliverable D1.5: Action Research reports

Action Research is a participatory, adaptive process whereby reflection from personal, group and external perspectives is employed to critically evaluate progress during project implementation and project goals and activities can be reformulated if required.” [StarTree deliverable D1.5: Action research reports]

Scotland was one of 5 European case study regions chosen for StarTree Action Research. This was the one part of RS’s StarTree work which was designed entirely by RS staff and directors, in consultation with the groups we worked with.


We started with an initial remit given by the StarTree consortium: “Design, undertake market research, launch and monitor reactions to regional branding for NWFPs.”

In response to this, we adopted three broad objectives:

  • To work with existing NWFP initiatives which included an element of branding to increase their existing capacity.
  • To raise awareness of the NWFP sector as a whole.
  • To establish actions which would continue to have benefits after the end of the StarTree project.


Initial research

We started with a piece of desk research. This report, NWFP initiatives in the UK and worldwide, investigated existing initiatives that involve, support and promote non-wood forest products (NWFPs) in the UK and in countries across the world, along with others which were related enough to provide potential models for NWFP support initiatives in Scotland.

Engaging with NWFP initiatives:

We worked with:

Infographic by Antonia Dickson, illustrating Reforesting Scotland's StarTree Action Research

Infographic by Antonia Dickson, illustrating Reforesting Scotland’s StarTree Action Research

These elements depended closely on each other. The SWW scheme is run by its member organisations. SWHA is a SWW member organisation through which NWFP businesses can apply to use the label. While the Action Research was being planned, a SWHA member asked to be able to use the SWW label for their coppice products, which gave us a reason for working with coppicers. Work to update the woodland product directories, envisaged simply as a route towards our aim of raising awareness of the NWFP sector, unexpectedly uncovered interest in the use of the label for other NWFPs.

We also found ways to link AR to other aspects of RS’s StarTree work, especially the Regional Stakeholder Group meetings and the in-depth case studies. This increased the number of people we were able to engage with and led to many synergies – and some great discussions.

StarTree deliverable D1.5 [available autumn 2016] includes detailed reports of all the StarTree Action Research work, in Scotland, Wales, Austria, Catalonia, and Castilla y León, setting each in the wider research context. The report’s conclusions and recommendations include some fascinating insights into how an Action Research approach can offer a different approach to design and delivery of research and of other funded projects.

Action Research outputs


Scottish Working Woods label

Scottish Wild Harvests Association

Foraging in the woods during the 2016 Scottish Wild Harvests Association gathering

Foraging in the woods during the 2016 Scottish Wild Harvests Association gathering


  • Raised awareness of the 2014 Coppice Network Study Report, by Donald McPhillimy Associates
  • Facilitated the creation and use of the Scottish Coppice Forum
  • Worked with 7 other organisations to create a proposal for Scotland’s first coppice festival
  • Strategy and reference group formed for drawing up SWW label criteria for hazel and willow coppice

Woodland product directories

  • willowscotland, treenurseryscotland and woodfuelscotland directories all updated
  • Contact with businesses listed in the directories led to increased awareness of StarTree research and of the SWW label, resulting in requests to use the label for baskets and for fruit and nut trees