'We have already achieved better outcomes for some of our young people, and we think this could save us around £4.2m a year.' Martin Gray, Director of Children's Services at Stockton Council.
In my current project with a local authority, I have the privilege of working with professionals across Children’s Services, applying our Valuing Care approach on three areas: keeping children safe at home; identifying opportunities for young people in care to experience family life; and understanding the skills and experience of foster carers.
Valuing Care projects bring together stakeholders from across the system, all of whom have different priorities for their part of their service, and bring different methods for achieving their aims. To ensure that we establish the right vision and ambition, we always hold a session on ‘setting inclusive ambition’ at the very beginning. In this session, we are able to surface challenges, share everyone’s different perspectives and understand each other’s motivations for being involved in the project.
We ask three simple questions, why, who and how?
By asking individuals to reflect on why they are participating in the project and then share with the wider group, we generate open discussion covering why everyone in the room is committed to doing the project. In my current project, this led to a co-written mission statement which captured everyone’s own professional motivations.
By asking people to verbalise their motivation for being involved in the project, we also begin to understand how we can communicate the project to other stakeholders. When a project begins which challenges the status quo, people are often suspicious. The first thing you hear is ‘is this just another cost cutting exercise?’. Setting Inclusive Ambition is a way to challenge that resistance and unite everyone in the room around their vision for the service.
Who needs to be involved? Are they currently in the room? Have we really thought about people in the influenceable system whose decisions, actions and behaviours will have an impact on children’s life chances? Do we need to expand our scope? Before moving ahead, we try to make sure that the right voices and views were represented.
How are we going to make the change we want to achieve? Is it following the proposed plans or is there anything missing? By asking how, we can co-produce project plans, ensuring that proposals are sensible, achievable but still ambitious. Asking ‘how’ can raise obstacles to the existing plans, so by discussing them openly and together, group participants can make a mutual commitment to tackle or resolve any issues.
Setting Inclusive Ambition is a central part of EDGEWORK, IMPOWER’s approach to sustainable change in complex systems. I have seen first-hand how important it is before embarking on a programme of change, and I encourage all project teams to ask themselves these questions at the start!