Behaving like a system?

2nd December 2015, words by

We have been working in partnership with Collaborate and Coventry City Council, to look at preconditions for systems change in ‘place’ – i.e. a defined geographical area.  Exploring, what are the behaviours that will make systematic change likely, more deliverable and more sustainable?  Throughout, I was reminded of the quote “No man is an island, entire of itself”, as the importance of connection and collaboration was implicit and explicit during the work.

Individuals and families, communities, the voluntary, private and public sector agencies all co-exist with each other. Yet too often they operate as separate entities, driven by their own language, culture, funding, measurements and accountability structures – and this in turn means that they are often working against each other or in parallel rather than to a collective vision. When viewed from the standpoint of the individual experiencing multiple needs these systems can seem bewildering and overwhelming (you only need to see the stories emerging through Hard Edges: The Lives Behind the Numbers).

To create an environment in which individuals experiencing multiple needs can flourish we have to work together. The wider challenges such as budget also demand this collaboration.

But many times we launch into a change process without understanding what factors need to be in place to make it successful; leaving us all rather bruised and less open to change in the future. We think about change as a linear time-limited process with a neat start and end point. But the reality is far messier and more complex than that.

We wanted to support Collaborate working closely with partners in Coventry to understand what the pre-conditions are for collaboration to happen across organisational boundaries rather than be limited to individual service areas.  Their work shows that, in order for change to flourish, these pre-conditions should permit a learning process that supports systems to adapt and evolve and focuses as much on behaviours as the end goal. These are easy to write, hard to implement, something that we recognise in our journey here at Lankelly Chase as we evolve the way we seek to work with others.

Collaborate have collated their learning into a report and La Toyah McAllister-Jones shares their experience of working in Coventry here.

Whilst this report has evolved from work with partners in Coventry, through our funding and wider discussions we believe that it has relevance to wider areas, both geographically and for different services.

Click here to read the summary report.

Click here to read the full report.

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