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Clare Harding

3 ways to tell if your strengths-based approach is delivering improved outcomes

Last year I wrote an article for the MJ (‘Is your council getting the most from using a strengths-based approach?’) which talked about taking a system-wide approach that goes beyond a process or practice framework. Embedding a strengths-based approach sits squarely within IMPOWER’s use of applied behavioural science, as it involves actively thinking about the behaviours we want people to demonstrate and how we can influence them. Evidencing and measuring the impact of behavioural science is challenging, but it is vital in setting priorities and maximising the effectiveness of delivery. So, how can it be done?

1. Map out the impact and benefits you would expect to see from embedding a strengths-based approach. Doing this before you start sets a baseline against which to measure the change. We use the following questions to map this out:

Benefits should be measurable and fact-based. Staff surveys are a valuable source of information; however, it is difficult to recognise our own behaviours and any changes in those behaviours, so asking people to self-evaluate as a sole measure often isn’t very accurate.

2. Decide how you will measure these impacts and benefits before setting out on your change journey. For example, to evidence the impact of Cambridgeshire’s ‘Changing the Conversation’ strengths-based approach we used a mix of measures, including:

  • Activity-based measures – to monitor the difference in number of assessments and reviews carried out. We would expect the number of assessments to decrease, and the number of reviews to be static or increase.
  • Case audits – to review the quality of support planning and range of options used. These were updated to reflect the Changing the Conversation approach.
  • Commitments – to identify if we are seeing an overall reduction and a move from bed-based to community-based support options.
  • Impact logs – for teams to record the assessments and reviews they undertake, how they had applied the approach, the outcomes achieved and what options they had used to achieve this.
  • Case studies – to bring the change to life and demonstrate the impact on people’s lives. These can be collected from the case audits and impact logs as well as directly from staff.

Ongoing monitoring of these measures enables you to set a target trajectory, measure progress against it and adapt your priorities as needed.

3. Share this information to celebrate the successes and identify areas for further improvement. For example, this could be done through formal governance arrangements, team meetings or staff newsletters. You will need to adapt the channels depending on the message, always being clear about next steps.

Some key insights from applying this approach in Cambridgeshire include:

  • There has been an increase in the number of people accessing information via the website and a decreasing number of contacts to the front door, demonstrating the value of informative and effective public-facing information.
  • When Changing the Conversation approaches were used, it was up to 7.5 times more likely that the review would result in a care package ending, reducing or avoiding an increase in the individual’s costed care package.
  • Changing the Conversation has diversified the range of options offered to individuals. After six months of analysis, teams are now able to identify and share their strengths, and set up training and initiatives to meet any gaps.

Whilst I have used embedding a strengths-based approach as an example, this process is applicable to any change delivery. Establishing the anticipated impact, being able to measure the change, and communicating the results are key to setting the right priorities and evidencing how these changes have delivered better outcomes. To find out more about how IMPOWER successfully delivers sustainable change, do get in touch.

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