Making Systems Change Stick   

What are the ingredients that can generate the momentum to make systems change possible?


First Steps

What made the local Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) managers agents of change? Are the DWP managers that Fulfilling Lives South East work with systems superheroes? The answer, unfortunately, is ‘no’ they are not. Sorry! But they are the type of people that are in short supply.

As systems changers there are signs, we should be on the lookout for so we can recognise when we’ve landed upon the ingredients required for successful and positive systems change. We need people who are willing to take a risk, people who can sit comfortably with having critical friends, where objective reflection of practice is understood as vital to the process. We wouldn’t call it a leap of faith, but we do need people who are open to the concept of change; people who understand the value that lays in the journey as well as the outcome.

Until people like this encounter an opportunity to exercise this instinctive attitude to give it a go, organisations all too often are on a set course. These are the people who act like hinges shining light into dark corners and forgotten corridors, enabling organisations to pivot and develop new paths and ways of looking at service provision.  

When we do find these people (they’re out there!), it leads to the types of relationships that encourage and motivate others to jump aboard. And ultimately, ushers in positive change of the nature achieved through the Fulfilling Lives South East and the DWP partnership.

The first stages of working with the DWP

Once we have realised that we have identified the necessary ingredients, how do we as systems changers seize the moment and start to cultivate the ground?

Creating Partnerships

Fulfilling Lives’ job is to help key stakeholders and potential new partners engage with service and systems challenges that have an adverse impact on clients with multiple complex needs accessing or participating with their service. In doing so, we can create a space where honesty and trust can be established. Working collaboratively in this way can shape a new vison of what the future could look like.

Simply put, we want to define the problem together and from this set out ways to solve challenges. In the case of the FLSE and DWP partnership we wanted to answer two questions:

  • How do we successfully and meaningfully promote and embed Trauma Informed Practice and, for the organisation to understand more coherently the support needs of customers with a range of complex health and social issues?
  • How do we provide staff teams with the right support, tools and, education to build confidence and resilience to safeguard staff wellbeing?   

Now that we’ve created a space where traditional thinking can be re-evaluated, it’s important that conversation does not get stuck discussing and thinking about theoretical frameworks of systems change. A fundamental component of Fulfilling Lives’ approach to supporting partners to understand the challenges faced by people with multiple complex needs, is through working within a co-production model and supporting Fulfilling Lives’ lived experience volunteers and staff to be involved at the heart of the systems change work we embark on.

The FLSE co-production model afforded the DWP a level of access to customers with multiple complex needs that they had not experienced before. It’s this approach that can profoundly alter perceptions, rooting the need for and direction of change in humanity and care. Feedback, at times critical feedback, can be difficult to handle. But with the right ingredients, in spaces where honesty and trust are reciprocal, and shared vision making is valued, the most candid of feedback is used as the next steppingstone to understand the problem more clearly and how to address it.

Changing Culture and Outlooks

In collaborating with DWP managers to understand the challenges through the eyes of customers with multiple complex needs, Fulfilling Lives provided a foundation for DWP managers to open up internal conversations on the most difficult aim of systems change, but likely the most influential and compelling: culture change. Alongside Fulfilling Lives, the DWP managers effectively communicated to the wider workforce how the organisation should be thinking about and supporting customers with multiple complex needs. This created momentum and professional curiosity that was evident through the positive engagement from the over 350 DWP workers that Fulfilling Lives facilitated online workshops and webinars for.

This learning and momentum created the platform to communicate in a way to DWP senior leaders that painted a clear picture of what was possible in supporting this group of customers.

Changes

The partnership and its foundations have enabled important activities that have supported a journey of change that is still evolving and developing as contexts change. We have compiled the key activities to illustrate the possibilities of close partnership working and to set out how we have approached putting systems change into practice together. This partnership journey can be viewed in detail here: Partnership Timeline.

Coming Up

In the next two instalments of this blog series, we will hear more from both the FLSE’s Service User Engagement Team on how they leveraged co-production practices to support systems change, as well as from the DWP managers at the heart of this partnership on how they leveraged the learning from this collaboration to drive the change internally.


Author: Alan Wallace

Should you wish to find out more about our partnership work or our systems change efforts, please contact:

Alan Wallace, Systems Change Officer: alan.wallace@sefulfillinglives.org.uk

Or

Rebecca Rieley, Systems Change Lead: rebecca.rieley@sefulfillinglives.org.uk

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