Transcript: What does it mean to be a radical?

Angela Morgan, Chief Executive at Includem. Includem provides intensive support services for Scotland's most vulnerable young people.

Podcast Episode: What does it mean to be a radical?

Category: Young people 


What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

AM - Angela Morgan

On the 30th of October 2014, Iriss held its annual AGM, which featured guest speaker, Angela Morgan, Chief Executive at Includem. Includem is an organisation that provides intensive support services for Scotland’s most vulnerable young people. Her presentation was on the question, ‘what does it mean to be a radical?’

AM Good evening everybody, I am very pleased to be here and I appreciate the invitation from Iriss to address you and I would want to say that in terms of our relationship with Iriss, both in terms of the support that Includem receive through Alison being a member of our board and indeed our connection with your projects, we find it incredibly helpful in terms of our commitment to improvement, so you really do play a unique and very important role. I have been given this challenging title, ‘what it means to be a radical’ and I have to say it’s given me quite a lot of fun thinking about preparing for today, and so, just to reassure you, as it’s a dark rainy night, not everything I am going to talk about is entirely serious, although there’s a serious theme running throughout, but I am going to share some of the speculation I began to get into. And some of that is actually how we use evidence, and that may be some radical and challenging aspects to that, but it’s probably for you to decide. I think possibly this title came out of the fact that two years ago, Includem were one of the first projects to be selected under a UK wide initiative run by Nesta in The Observer, who looks for 50 emerging radical organisations or people. I have to be honest, we have no idea who nominated us, what they said or why we were selected, and despite repeated requests, we could never get that information.

So my very short presentation to you this evening is, I actually don’t know, but I think there are some aspects of this, if being radical is about being different and being challenging, possibly for good or for bad, then I think that’s something that my organisation probably thinks about quite a lot, and I am sure many of yours do as well, so really it’s just to share some of our experiences and perhaps to have a bit of fun at points as well, some thought provoking ideas.

I have to tell you that in terms of radical for me - this is a Prezi - if this works, it will be the first time … and the first time that I actually tried to use one of these, the photos of the conference show me standing at the plinth with an incredibly nervous technical chap standing behind me, because on the third time of crisis intervention I grabbed his arm and said ‘don’t leave me’. And he actually stood behind me like a minder, that was after it had started going backwards, so anyway, Michael is here to assist me and I am sure it will all work fine, so here we go.

What does it mean to be a radical? I am going to start off telling you about what Includem does and perhaps try and get behind some of the front words, some of the how as well as the why and the what’s. And I think it’s only appropriate that we start with why we exist, and this is because of the experiences of our young people. Now many of you are familiar in the field, this is almost like there’s no order to this, and in a way that’s purposeful, this is perhaps just to capture the overwhelm that the young people that we work with have experienced and are experiencing. Their past lives of disruption, of hurt, of bereavement, of loss, of deaths, of domestic violence, of abuse, that’s behind them, with no resolution, and then their life at the time of the moment that they are having to exist, which may be homelessness, it’s lack of care, lack of love, lack of security, not knowing where their next meal is coming from, where they are going to lay their head tonight. Those are the sort of young people that we usually are asked to work with, often, but not always under some sort of compulsory order. So our whole purpose is to work with the young people who are facing and have faced these challenges, and as you can imagine, if you live a life that’s characterised by that, your expectations and the hopes for the future are probably going to be fairly limited and not very positive.

This is just, you won’t be able to see the detail of this, but one of the tools that we use, and I will say more about this later, is to start, when building a relationship with young people, to help them in a very gentle way, help them recognise maybe what their past life has brought them to, and we are very careful, it’s not our job to prod behind defences, defences are there for good reasons. This is a young man called Brian, and this is his line and then his worker helped him write on it, and it is one of these whole histories of constant move, constant change of adults, falling out of school, beginning to be from a position of being known to the authorities, because of vulnerability, then becoming known because of offending and causing harm, you know that whole trajectory that we recognise. I haven’t got a pointy thing, I don’t think, but this face here, that is something awful happened there, we think it was sexual abuse by a grandfather, it’s like you don’t have to tell us, but just something, if something awful, just use a symbol, just so that we recognise that’s happened. In and out of school, alcohol, lots of alcohol, charged with attempted murder, charged with serious assault, started working with us, 16 ½, often the point where trajectory in and out of Polmont and serving whole life sentencing in chunks, so every young person is different but Brian’s story is not untypical of what young people have faced. And when you think about that time, then you have to think about, well what are the typical service responses that somebody like Brian often gets, and even the language, so young people like Brian, who are not compliant, who have no trust in services, who have had more services than we have had hot dinners, see these young people as hard to reach, and for these reasons. They are often aggressive in their connection with people who are trying to help them, they have got low self control, they don’t turn up, they’re disruptive, they’ll carry a weapon, they will continue to turn up, they are pissed, they have taken drugs, they swear, they are difficult to deal with. They’re involved in violence, they’re difficult for mainstream services often to deal with. And then, from the young peoples point of view, this is how they see the services, they see the services as hard to reach.

So services that are 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, often in bed most of Monday morning and the rest of the week. Services where out of hours, that means evening and weekends, and the staff you get to deal with are actually the least experienced staff who know nothing about you, they don’t know how to respond at the times that you are most in crisis, that you are in a group with young people with exactly the same problems as you, and you will begin to reinforce and go round in circles on that. If you have a drink or you have taken drugs, well that’s it, you can’t use the service any more. So at the time you most need the help, sorry, our service can’t cope with you, and if you don’t turn up, if you are not there regularly, for whatever reason, again you have breeched, you are out. And also services that don’t recognise that behind you, whatever it looks like, there is some sort of chaotic social network, they call it families, it doesn’t matter what the blood relationships are, what is going on behind you is obviously a huge part of what is happening in your life outwith your connection with the service, and is going to be there once you stop using it, and indeed, unless you continue an upward trajectory and continue to improve and get better, then you are not making the progress and you are out. So if you like, these are stereotypes, but these are, if you like, they are parallel, they mirror … so, we would say that if that is the presenting behaviour and that’s how services try to react, you are actually setting young people up to fail with the nature of Brian. So what we endeavour to do is set young people up to succeed. So this is what we know works in Includem, and that’s both from our practice experience and also from our research in evaluation, I will say a little about that later on. The starting point is, and I am not trying to be twee with this, but saying we like young people, it is our very first value, and it’s important in terms of the sort of culture and the response to young people, and at the root of, if you like, staff that we recruit, and again, I mean that’s not exceptional and unusual, but I think it’s important to state it. It’s all individually planned and delivered work and it happens, the work, the contact happens where the young people are, in their communities, the engagement, the contact, the interaction, in their homes, in cafes, in community centres, in the car, in the time that workers spend tracking them down and finding them, which is another key element of the work we do. It’s intensive and persistent, it’s flexible, it can be 12 hours one week, it can be 15 hours the next, it can be at any time between 8 in the morning and 10 at night, 7 days a week, depending on when they need us. Friday night, young persons at risk, gang of mates come around, we know that’s the time they are going to be vulnerable, starting to drink, take drugs, that’s when the contact will be planned. Or we know that there’s a problem for a parent with a younger child, boundary setting, threats of the child being chucked out of the house, bed times always a nightmare, the staff will plan to phone and also be available, if needs be, to go out. So the one to one relationships, building the trust, building the relationships, being responsive very quickly.

When young people are referred to us, it’s usually at a point where they need the help at that point or something much worse, they are going to have to be accommodated, you know if there’s a threat of a prison sentence, there’s a worse outcome for them in terms of a service outcome, so we need to be able to respond very quickly. We need to show that we are going to stick with them through thick and thin, and also when they don’t turn up and when they are abusive, it doesn’t mean we’re not setting boundaries, but we’re saying to them we are sticking with you, we are working alongside you and we will keep with you, and staff will have their own records of young people, ‘it took me 20 times turning up at his door night and day, but eventually he gave in And that time is useful, if there is Mum or if there is an adult, again it allows you to build that relationship and it shows that we are not going to be got rid of.

The no out of hours concept is very important, because for the young people, that’s completely meaningless, they’re living chaotic lives, the whole thing about night, day and what’s happening when, is something that as time progresses, we need to work with them on. The helpline is crucial, helpline is staffed, I mean it’s not really the right term for it, but the helpline is staffed by our frontline staff, it’s not different staff, it’s staffed by the staff who are the case holders through our system of data sharing, we have in time risk assessments updated and information about young people and the strategies for responding to their distress and their crisis. If needs be, and with all our risk assessments behind them, staff will go out and that does sometimes happen, for example if a young person is in a state, 3 o’clock in the middle of Glasgow, project staff will go out. The following morning there will be some very tough talking done about how that shouldn’t happen again, but that response will be there, and as I say, we work with the families, in whatever way what means, not family therapy, but particularly around supporting them through role modelling, through helping them to understand how to set boundaries. They are building their confidence and through trying to think about what’s sustainable for this young person when we walk away.

I have pulled this out … Dartington Social Research Unit are doing a particular piece of evaluation with us at the moment on our Impact project in Glasgow, which takes referrals primarily from the police, the young people who are causing the most harm through violence in their communities, it’s the same model, but it’s very much a focus on offending and reducing violence. They’ve been able to sort of pick behind some of these upfront concepts and I think this hasn’t surprised us but it’s good to have this affirmed, but in terms of what we would call joint working with the young person and the relationship, these are the aspects that make it work, and again it’s not surprising, but having the time with them, developing a relationship of respect, being honest, as I say, staff are very clear, we have got very clear responsibilities about reporting back on anything that breaks the law, on abuse, it’s not a soft touch, it’s very much an adult/young person relationship, the stickability, and also the brokerage that we do and we do a lot of I suppose what you would call, advocacy for young people with agents it’s, which, for understandable reasons, are very resistant to engaging with them, often health services, because of their presenting behaviour, their lack of skill in knowing how to get the help they need. Helping, sorting out tenancy problems, a lot of that sort of thing, and that’s important.

So in short, what we do is build a relationship of trust with young people and then use the influence that relationship gives us to help them think about a better life. And it’s not a perfect life, we spent a long time thinking about this terminology we use as the title for our cognitive toolkit, which is not a processing sort of intervention that we put young people in one end and out the other end are model citizens, it’s a toolkit to help staff think through how they are best going to help young people focus on the aspirations for their lives and the help they need to achieve those aspirations, and to help them work through, and to help them think in a timescale beyond ‘I am having to survive now’, which is a reality for many of them. And you will see here that actually staff members using wellbeing web, and we integrate all the Shanarian GIRFEC framework into everything we do, so that we can express it in that way. Particularly feeling safe is a key one.

So these are, you know, individual outcomes, to use that terminology, you know reducing behaviours which are negative and will not help young people live the lives they want, and helping to obviously increase skills and increase hope, and I think underneath all of that, for young people to have the experience of a relationship with an adult where they are allowed to be a child and a young person and they are able to trust the adult, and so that is a very important part of it. And it’s harder to capture in terms of outcomes, but it’s about the experience and that’s an absolutely key part, obviously. And I suppose looking overall at our strategic role, the whole prevention through early intervention agenda, those of you who are familiar with Getting It Right For Every Child, as I say, we focus ourselves right at the top of that, believing that even these young people who are often the ones who, you know, who are seen as we can’t do any more for them, or certainly that used to be the case, we do have the evidence that in fact there is an awful lot you can do if you do it in the right way. But recognising as well there’s a huge economic cost to society, short, medium and long term, if these young people with the most complex needs don’t get the help that they need even at this point as early as possible.

So our aspiration actually, in terms of transition, our aspiration is for young people to transition out of services, you know, none of us aspire to have our friends family, our young people transitioned between services, and I have to say some of it used to really distress me and you know, language is important. There was a time back when there was a lot of talk, and there may still be about effective transitions between young and adult justice services, and it was almost as if that was the expected … it’s the meaning of these things, it’s how people think about things and I think we just need to be really careful about our language when we are thinking, particularly about these young people where expectations are so low. What we want is to be able to walk away and leave them living ordinary lives. Now for many of them, because of the problems and difficulties they’ve had, that may not be the case, but certainly what we want to do is reduce the crisis, keep them in ordinary situations, the best situation for them and I think that means recognising the permanence, there’s a lot of talk about permanence for babies, very young children, absolutely right, permanence for these children, there’s not some golden foster family or whatever out there, so it’s about what is the best way for them to be resilient and to have the supports around them in the situation that they are in, which is the reality of their lives. And in fact in terms of foster care, we have started doing some, what we think, is some really positive work here in Glasgow, some of our contract is devoted to supporting the foster carers with the young people with the most challenging problems, which are on the verge of breaking down, and some of the kids have been with their carers for years, they have already lost their natural family and now, here’s another potential rejection, it’s absolutely tragic. 15 year olds with all the usual 15 year old behaviour with all that stuff coming out from their first experiences, and these carers need additional support, so we work alongside, we compliment the services that statutory agencies are able to provide, and I am really pleased that that seems to be developing. So it’s flexibility, its young person centred.

So, I am coming back to Brian’s story, because now I am going to whizz through that again, but from a slightly different level, and perhaps talk about some of the hard edged organisation features that allow this to happen. Brian’s story, you will see there’s all this stuff and then we come in here … so 16 ½, so all of that is behind, it’s all that mistrust, so how do we make the engagement happen, how do we convince Brian with his experience? I mean the first and obvious thing is staff selection, and that’s very much about values base and about ensuring that staff themselves are resilient, because they are out working in, often not the risk isn’t created because of the young people that they are working with, but the areas they are working in, so we need staff who have emotional resilience, that they have strong abilities in intellectual analysis and can really talk through and understand and be explicit in making sure that they make the best decisions on the spot, as they often are, having to using the guidance and toolkits that we give them. And I think really in terms of some of the things young people say that they need, you know, they need to feel staff care, they need to feel that staff will go through things, explain things, be focused, and they also need people who are going to roll their sleeves up and just get alongside them and help them do things, and that’s often the way that we can get alongside families, and it’s, you know, in terms of welfare reform and risks to housing, those are the areas in which relationships can be built and staff are very good at helping families who have got nothing, they have got no roof over their head, no furniture, nothing, all of a sudden people pull together and it’s amazing what manages to be created, and from that we can build some influence.

The issue about 7 day a week working, this is important for us in terms of, if you like, how we run as a business, and I use that terminology, I’m a social worker, but I have had to learn business skills, because if I hadn’t, we wouldn’t still be here. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because I think using that in the context of receiving public money and making sure that we are accountable for that and providing best value, there’s no contradiction. But what’s important is that staff who join Includem, frontline staff, their contract specifies they will work their hours across 7 days between those hours and there are no additional payments, we don’t have additional payments when staff work beyond 5 in the evening or at weekends, so it’s made it very clear at the start that there is no distinction between those. From our point of view, there’s then also no disincentive for us to restrict when staff work. If we made additional payments after 5 and at weekends, as a business we would be saying we need to control that, that’s costing too much, it doesn’t fit, we have only allowed for so much … that doesn’t apply, that would be the wrong driver. The driver has to be when do the young people need the service, and to continue with that, I think that’s been a very important feature of how we have done things.

Resourcing and deployment, this is about recognising that these are young people who are not going to turn up, that they’re not going to engage initially, so we could have a planning structure where we sit down on a Wednesday and we say, right, you are going to meet with so and so that day, that day, that day, you know and you have got a small team. And then two thirds of the time you make contact with the young person and the other third of the time they are not there, well we were there, the young person wasn’t there, we know they are not going to turn up a third of the time, so in effect, how we decide how many staff we need in a team incorporates that ratio into our planning. So we have a system whereby rota is done on a Wednesday and by Thursday morning it’s torn up, because there’s been some crisis overnight and through using a team approach, we restructure things to make sure that the commitments to the young people who have not had the crisis are maintained, we can put additional support in, you know, Jimmy wasn’t at home yesterday, he needs chasing, member of staff will be off, knowing his haunts, and we use, one of our key performance indicators at high level with our board, is the ratio of redeployed staff time against the amount of missed, cancelled and refused activity, and that’s the way we measure persistence and stickability. But how do we translate these positive and warm concepts, what does it mean in practice, what does it actually … how can you actually measure it? And that’s how we measure that one.

Management, Leadership and Learning. I think our middle managers actually have the hardest job in the organisation, I probably wouldn’t say that to them, but all of our team managers are people who have been frontline workers, they absolutely have to understand what we do, they have to understand the practice, they have got the lead role in supporting staff to do continuous risk assessment and making those decisions, particularly around the helpline. They need to understand that. They also have me at the other end and the board, with expecting them to be accountable for how we use staff time, for how we report in, so that we are transparent, and for how we monitor. So they are sort of straddling both horses, and I think it’s a very interesting challenge for any care organisation in the current climate, and it’s always about making sure that the first driver is the purpose and the people you are there to support, and understanding that all this other stuff must be done and it is positive, but it comes second. The day that we start having, you know I have my ear open for people saying we have to collect data for head office, that’s when you know you have got a problem, people should be collecting data that helps them in their own jobs to do their job better, and then, as a spin off from that, if it’s the right sort of data, then it actually tells you what you need to know. And I think Leadership, it’s more than manag … it’s leadership, and one of the things I … last year I had one of these slightly cheesy calendars, but it’s actually quite nice, it was a quote a day and most of it was a bit rubbish, but there was one, I have got it here somewhere … ‘setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it’s the only means’. I don’t know if anybody knows who said that? You might be surprised, it was Albert Einstein. I thought that was a really … A, it’s a really good quote, but I think it applies in terms of, well many leadership roles, but I think particularly for our team managers, who in our front … how do our frontline staff experience Includem? Not through their contact with me, it’s about their relationships with their practice managers, that’s why it’s so crucial.

Right, this is all the how do we know stuff, which I wont go into the detail of and I have asked Alison to help me, we need something almost multidimensional to show how things join up, but cogs is pretty good for the moment. We talked about accountability, I mean this is also partly about culture and about transparency and I suppose at all levels, making it clear that the way we can best meet our purpose of helping young people lead better lives is to be completely up front about what is happening, what the problems are, and that we are all responsible for that. And it’s interesting, you know, culture change has been something that’s happened and we went through a period and staff were saying, ‘well you don’t trust us any more’, and my response to that was, ’look, we trust you to go out there, I can’t see what you are doing, we trust you to go out there and work with the most vulnerable young people in Scotland and then we trust you to come back and tell us what you have done and to be absolutely up front about how well things have gone, if things haven’t gone so well, so that actually then we can identify how to make it better. And that’s the type of culture that we are really trying to develop. And the way to do that is we have to have information, we have to know, we have to be able to look at things, and I think it’s an interesting challenge for us, because as I say we can’t see it, I can’t walk the floor, and so how many different ways can we have a look at what we are doing and help people to do that in creative ways?

So, analysis and understanding and then improvement, so what ways can we make things better? And something that we are very pleased that we introduced, which has really helped us with that, is our Practice Champion, who has our quality assurance role, and his starting point is the views and experiences of young people and families, but also engagement with staff. And we started off with, it’s interesting was the first couple of reports he did, we got him going on aspects of the service, so we did a really in-depth study of the helpline, of our work with families, that was great and we got improvement out of it. And then the third one, we got him to start looking at the quality of our improvement planning with staff, when staff have not actually been performing to standard, how have we actually managed that, and are we as a consequence, helping them to improve, and what are we doing as an organisation if in fact people don’t improve? You know this is the sort of more threatening stuff, but it is again the reality of what we need to do, we need to have every member of staff in our organisation, at all levels, but particularly in contact with young people, you know good enough isn’t good enough, these young people have had a bit of good enough, this needs to be top level stuff, you know really excellence which we need to aim for in everything. It sounds like a cliche, but I think we do say to staff we expect to stretch you, but we will support you to get there. And research and evidence, we have always been an evidence informed organisation, we worked with Glasgow University for many years, in order just to sort of, I suppose, verify the original approach, were we on the right lines, the relationship base of 24/7. Now, as I say, we have got a good relationship building up with Dartington, who is doing a very rigorous analysis of particularly how we use the relationship developing a logic model, it’s all very exciting, and presenting us with some challenges, not least and I think very helpfully, you know making us think more, making me think more about how we place our work in the context of a society inequality and poverty and thinking about what is the strengths and assets based approach mean, when actually those young people, or whatever you do with their personal skills, whatever advocacy and brokerage we are able to achieve, are still living in communities of great depravation not caused by them. So if that’s radical, maybe I am becoming more radicalised in my old age but I think we do young people a disservice to suggest they can achieve outcomes which are not within their control, and I think one of the things that’s interesting from my sector, which I think has needed to improve in demonstrating what it does, demonstrating impact, that’s a good thing, and I would never go back to the old grant aided culture where people just chucked money at you and said you are doing a good job, that’s not appropriate. But I think we need to be really careful not to clued with the idea that for people with the most complex problems there is some magic bullet intervention to say you can process young people through and it does a great disservice and is disrespectful to all the hurt and the pain and rejection that they have lived through in their lives, and whatever we do now, that’s still part of their experience, so I am very resistant, it’s realistic, we should always have high aspirations but not pretend that there is some magic bullet, as I say.

On the theme of using evidence, we come back to this, I mean I have talked about Includem and I am moving away slightly from that, and if there’s time at the end, I am always happy to talk about it, but I hope that’s given you a bit of flavour of what we are doing. But, as I say, thinking about this, I thought well this is very interesting because we have all this evidence about working with people who use our services, but these are things that we can recognise from our own human interactions in terms of our own sense of safety and what works for us, so I think there’s a question about, actually, how much do we think about using what we know about working with people in something I haven’t talked about, which is another critical success factor in our work, which is effective partnership working, you know, which is one of those great buzz words, ‘partnership working’, and we all know it’s good and we all know we should do it, but we are all human beings. Let me go on just by showing you this. I am going to show you some feedback from a report we had done four years ago. The Impact project I talked about, that started off as a very small scale pilot, I met somebody senior from the police at a conference, he said how can we get access to your service, and after 2 or 3 years of badgering people to give us a bit of money, we got a pilot started from that, we’ve now got quite a large change fund project, well large for us anyway, working … so there’s been developments. We are very fortunate that at a very early stage, the Glasgow Centre population health did a bit of process evaluation, so they went round the partners, so that was us, the Police, Social Work, the independent funder, so we were all sitting in meetings together and nodding and behind the scenes people were beginning to sort of say these sorts of things, so I have just highlighted some of the key words because I think this is really interesting, stuff about ‘you have got to trust the other people, if you feel you don’t know them very well, you are not sure … I know this is my guys, you can just tell this, tension between us, working really closely … you know there would be a conflict of interest and that’s going to be … there’s grey areas, the relationships are being tested … hmm, you know you can see that coming through. And then this is, you know, a concern for me if we don’t stick with the early intervention, so this is something about what’s the focus of this project … anyway, all of this just reminded me and I don’t know if the younger folk here would have seen it, but it just reminded me of that wonderful scene from Annie Hall, which is when Alfie and Annie are just getting together, I have just got a bit of it here, and they are standing on the balcony and they are having one of those conversations, and it was quite radical at the time because the conversation was going on and there were thought bubbled popping up, so you know, they are talking about doing photographs and doing shoot photographs and she’s saying, oh, I sort of dabble around, and then the thought on the screen is, ‘I dabble, this seems to me what a jerk.’ And then Alfie is saying ‘oh they are wonderful and they have a great quality’, and Alfie is thinking, you are a great looking girl, and then he goes on, oh it’s a new art form and a set of aesthetic criteria … by which time the thought bubble is saying … ‘I wonder what she looks like naked.’ And then finally hers is, ‘you know, I just try and be instinctive and God I hope he doesn’t turn up to be a schmuck like the others.’ And I think looking at this, when I look at this, actually if you boil this down and look at the words, it’s polite, professional, but they are saying, so it’s like bunch of charlatans, they’ve said they can, you know, the Police … we know this one, because we laughed about it after when the police were like, ’those wee girlies, you know, they can’t go out and work with these young people, and what a load of rubbish, overclaiming … and Includem staff, well police are saying that it’s okay to share this information but they will be down with their tackety boots, you know it’s not going to work, it’s going to be risky and it’s going to destroy our relationships. And here’s the funder saying, ‘well they say they are going to work with the young people with the biggest challenges, but actually they are going to just take the young people who are the easiest to work with.’ So all of that, all of that was there and it was just interesting seeing it sort of exposed, even in that polite way. I think for this project, what really helped to make it work, I mean this academic speak and this is a follow up from the centre, but what we actually … are we able to overcome that, and there’s no substitute for just doing things, that’s the way you build relationships, this one particularly had the advantage that in doing the work, after a referral had been identified, the first action was our team leader and somebody senior from the police going out together, knocking on the door of the young persons house and having a conversation with them and usually their Mum, to say, ’look, we’ve got our eye on your lad, he’s known in the community, we know what he’s up to, we are going to come down hard on him and he’s heading in for Polmont, but if you work with Includem, we will see how it goes.’ And then it will be up to us to do the twenty time … and so of course the young person is saying, ‘yes, yes, get the police out the house.’ Then we would have to go back 20 times. But actually through doing that and as our team manager said, once she trained the person from the police not to knock on the door as if they were kicking it in, they got a better response, that actually meant that at that front line level, those staff got to know each other and then at the sort of team manager level, managing the work, this is very important in terms of the referral process, making sure that reviews were carried out, really understanding the best way to use us and when we needed to withdraw. Now the really important part of the judgement in the work we do in Includem, sometimes we do need to create a dependency to have an effect, but it needs to be very clearly understood by staff what the purpose of that is and when is the right time to begin to withdraw, it’s a difficult judgement, but it’s one that we expect staff to articulate and discuss very openly with their practice support people.

And then the benefit that the Public Social Partnership model has given us, and particularly for me, because you know, the traditional thing is, end of a funding period, I am sat in a room going ‘oh my God, how do we get more funding for this, that’s … ’ lots of us recognise that, but a sense of shared ownership around the table, because the recognition, that in terms of progress being made, we all have an interest, the Police, Social Work, Health … we have even got the DWP hooked in, which is quite remarkable and we are trying to see what the impacts are and the benefits for everybody, but at least a shared sense of responsibility, which has really built that partnership approach. However, I think we all know it’s not always the case that partnerships work successfully and sometimes they continue to be challenging. So I suppose the other thing I thought about was, in terms of the role of our cognitive toolkit, why we don’t actually do any work on ourselves sometimes, both on ourselves and maybe jointly with our partners. So, I share this with you in a tongue and cheek way, when I looked at some of our modules, and I think maybe if you each privately think of the partner you find most challenging to work with, you actually might recognise that some of these reflective processes could perhaps be quite helpful for them, or maybe even for yourselves. I certainly can recognise … ‘ability to recover from intense and distressing emotions’ … but I think really it’s strange in a way that given, as I say in our world, we have often such a sophisticated and thorough understanding of how to work with people who receive services, we are sometimes a bit blind about really what lies behind working with each other as partners, develop … how others feel. Again, from my calendar of last year, I have to say the quote that made me laugh the most was an American comedian called, I am not sure I am going to pronounce his name right, but Sid Caesar, who said ‘The guy who invented the wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented the other 3 was a genius.’ And for me, I think that’s about sometimes, we actually do miss the sort of blindingly obvious, and perhaps it just takes stepping outside, which in a way, being asked to do this presentation to you has sort of had me mulling this away in my sort of odd moments, so yes, so maybe there’s something about a toolkit of cognitive modules for partnership working.

I thought I’d put this up, because again just thinking about human, you know we are talking about, however we package it, whatever terminology we give it, implementation science, I don’t know, you know all these things bring new perspectives and if they help people think through, that’s all good, but ‘Viking Laws’, I mean we recognise this, lots of sensible things in there, there’s a bit of market research going on, understanding about supporting the team, it is a bit dictatorial but I suppose that was their reputation, you know, enjoyable activities, consult everybody, you can turn that into … translate that into an MBA text book and that will all be recognisable. And actually on that note, just to share with you, a shorthand version from a link to a ted talk that I found recently and so I make no apologies for the language, but … ‘so what makes an effective team or organisation? Firstly vision, secondly have fun, thirdly get shit done.’ So that’s the American take on what we need to do and again I think that’s recognisable in terms of our own experiences.

I am going to finish with this image, not least because Alison mentioned it when she asked me to do the talk, and I have used this a couple of times this year because, I suppose for two reasons, one is I was asked to speak to a community planning partnership conference, and it’s always a challenge of how do you say something that’s not … you always need to say the same things because the same things are still pertinent, but I suppose trying to say things in a different way. And I think firstly the image of a whirling dervish does capture the sense of it’s continuous momentum that we are all in and it continues to increase that sense of spin, the sense of change, but I think the valuable thing about this image is, and many of you may know this, is that the way that whirling dervishes manage to not fall over, is they concentrate on their thumb, and I think for me, you know, the important focus for me and for Includem is keeping focused on our purpose, keeping focused on the young people like Brian, who we exist for, who are still there, and are going to continue to be there. And I suppose in a way, always asking what is actually quite an easy question, which is ‘whatever we are doing, at whatever level and at whatever part of the organisation, how does this serve our purpose?’ And I think that’s the guidance which will keep us on track and again, in terms of our collective opportunities, do that in the same way. So I hope that despite the fact I have said very little about radicalism, you have found that of some interest and thank you again for inviting me.

Transcript Copyright:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License