Quiet but busy

Although there haven’t been updates here for a while.. we’ve been working away!

We’ve been working within the Falkirk area alongside Maddiston Community Council, Falkirk Council, Falkirk CVS, Community Learning and Development, Falkirk Trust as well as a range of local partners. A project plan has been collaboratively created with our partners in Falkirk which has four phases:

  1. To facilitate evidence gathering and action to support local improvements

We’re supporting the group to undertake a range of activities to gather evidence on what is important to local people including conducting a survey, qualitative interviews, engaging with school children and using social media

  1. To generate learning on processes that foster greater collaboration

We’re continuing to document our learning on collaborative decision making and are beginning to gather evidence from local partners of their experiences of collaborating with each other

  1. To engage successfully with local people, encouraging inclusivity and enabling all voices to be heard

Our engagement activities (see point 1) as well as the broad representation from relevant agencies on our project group enables useful links with local people.

  1. To move towards action/ co-design of solutions using creative engagement methods

Plans are in place to use the Detroit Soup model locally. This is a crowd-funding initiative where local groups pitch for the money raised by the entry price (including soup) that night – the idea is to support community-based projects to become real.

Here are a few comments from our partners:

Over the past three months we’ve….

“put together a plan of action. In the last few months we have worked hard to promote the project in the local area both at a community level but also by looking to inform and bring in agencies that work in the area that could benefit from knowing more about the local community. We have successfully reached out to wide range of groups in the community from members of the old folks association to pupils from the local High School. I think we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the willingness of people to go on camera to tell us what they think.”

In the next three months we’re….

“looking forward to seeing the analysis of the survey data and seeing what it shows about our community, including putting the video interviews together. I’m also looking forward to the Soup event and hope it’s successful. It would be great if it starts to get people thinking about coming together to be more involved in the community.”

Reflecting on progress thus far… and deciding

On 21st June, we invited partners from both the Glasgow and Falkirk sites to meet us to celebrate our work together so far, but also to discuss the potential for collaboration in the future. In advance we asked each partner to provide some thoughts in writing. Here are some of the thoughts and reflections that were presented:

Reflecting on the role of Iriss:

As alluded to throughout this report, working with Iriss has been a rewarding and positive experience for everyone involved. From the initial development of the project ideas, to identification of methods and development of questions Iriss have proven to be professional, driven and experienced. They have enabled the progress of the project from day one, providing a strategic overview which has perfectly matched with the local knowledge and outlooks of the working group (Falkirk).

Without the input from IRISS the process will be much slower due to the historical divisions and problems encountered by this community. Independent facilitation will bring a neutral approach and encourage people to speak their views more comfortably. Our experience of working with IRISS has been very positive indeed. It has supported us: (1) By guiding discussions and giving us the space to talk openly and honestly (2) By supporting us to believe in our vision for the future of Milton (Glasgow).

Reflecting on changes in relationships with each other:

The working group has drawn together a wealth of specialist knowledge from the public, private, third sectors alongside people in the community, with the members and their key partners having experience in connecting and effecting transformational collaboration between people, organisations and systems….We would seek to combine their local knowledge with external knowledge of the systems that affect their areas, sharing the constraints, whether they are technical, financial or otherwise, that could affect the plans whilst working together to find the best solutions to the identified issues. By drawing together the working group, we feel we have already taken a big step towards achieving transformational change. Despite the issues that have emerged through different stages of the project to date, there has continued to be a commitment from those involved to work together and try and help Maddiston and Rumford. Through these connections, we feel transformational change is more than possible (Falkirk).

There is now a stronger connection between local residents and service providers in terms of better understanding local issues and concerns, and an increased opportunity to share ideas and opinions and discuss how problems might be addressed…. This process has changed the way that organisations respond to the needs and issues being faced by local residents. There is now perhaps an increased awareness and a greater level of trust established (Glasgow).

We had a great chat on the day and we were impressed by the strength of each partnership. It was a difficult decision to make, but we used the written submissions, the discussion on the day as well as our experience of partnership working thus far to come to an agreement about which area afforded the greatest potential for us to meet both local outcomes and our organisational outcomes together.

We’re delighted to say that we will be working with the Falkirk site until March 2017. We’ve also agreed to provide light touch support to the partnership in Glasgow.

More updates soon.

Connecting Milton… development day

On 25th May, over a day-long session, Iriss supported a group of people representing a broad range of organisations who support the people of Milton to come together, share the ambitions of their work and to identify opportunities for collaborative working. The aims were to:

  • feel better connected to one another
  • understand each others service aims and objectives
  • better understand the needs of people in Milton
  • explain how their organisations are responding to those needs, and will need to change to respond to those needs
  • are able to make connections with other services to meet the needs of the community

Over the course of the session, the group was encouraged to relate to each other as individuals (not roles or organisations), by completing and discussing little proformas. This exercise uncovered many hidden talents!

Roland Playle from the North Glasgow Community Food Initiative provided an engaging presentation highlighting the key findings from the Milton Talks survey. This generated a wealth of discussion and a whole wall of community identified ‘needs’:


Following this presentation,  plans were made in cross-organisational groups to respond to some of the key issues and the group were then asked to consider how to promote increased participation and community-led approaches in the next stages of collaborating together. The purpose of this was to devise collaborative plans for how they could responds to unmet needs or support other to meet needs that are not well resourced.

We also took some little video clips of people talking about their work, and their wishes for the people of Milton – coming soon!

The day was very positively evaluated. Here are some comments from the group:

What worked well?

  1. All of it
  2. Great ideas
  3. Community needs wall
  4. Variety of ideas and methods
  5. Good participation from all present
  6. It was very valuable to have a bit of time to listen, learn and share between groups
  7. Iriss facilitation (thank you!)
  8. Good to hear Milton Talks stuff and responses of people
  9. Making contact with local church
  10. Finding out the info from Milton Talks. Well done in all the hard work (door-door / Collate stats)
  11. Shared information and ideas

What could have worked better?

  1. Put deadlines to actions
  2. Pin people down to their actions
  3. More commitment from absent organisations
  4. Perhaps more focus on specific outcomes
  5. Me to have been here all day (action phase)
  6. Would have been really useful to have a vision and activities summary from each group

Practising Collaborative Leadership

Written by Nick Bland (Co-Director, What Works Scotland) and Cathy Sharp (Director, Research for Real), this report provides an overview of the collaborative approach taken to designing the Enabling Pioneer Programme. It uses a ‘learning history’ approach to document the experiences of those who’ve been involved in the development of the work.

Read the report here

Team reflections on collaboration and decision making

It’s near impossible to write a blog individually that sums up the feelings of those involved in a collaborative project. It would also take a dramatically long time to collaboratively write a blog that could even attempt to make sense between a range of different perspectives!

The policy context at the moment is sympathetic to collaborative approaches, which are heralded as one of the key solutions to the complex difficulties facing social services and the public sector. That said, it is difficult to evidence the impact of collaboration due to a number of factors including: how collaboration is conceptualised and difficulties of measurement, and of course the range of perspectives that have to be included (to name a few).

We know that on a good day, collaboration is supported by (adapted from Community Toolbox, 2015):

  • working together to develop a shared vision and mission that can reflect a range of outcomes at different levels
  • identifying specific actions that will be undertaken by each collaborator
  • collaborative leadership – encouraging people to have generative conversations and to look at issues holistically
  • employing or providing some resources to support a move towards action
  • routinely monitoring and documenting change
  • gaining external support e.g. facilitation

So, commonly held (and simplified) outcomes from collaboration include:

  • increased learning and knowledge sharing between diverse perspectives
  • reduced cost by avoiding duplication
  • releasing common resources
  • greater innovation as there opportunities to share and build on ideas are enabled

On a bad day, the practice of bringing together individuals from a range of diverse backgrounds together can be difficult. In this project we aimed to not only stimulate collaboration locally, but to collaborate internally too, to model the change we hoped to seek. At times, this felt even more difficult and it would be fair to say that the makings of this project have fallen into some of the same traps as other collaborative endeavors have.

Mulgan (2016) highlights that the common pitfalls of collaboration include:

  • inaction – circular conversations, difficulties in moving towards implementation
  • slower pace of change – taking time to surface and understand disparate views can reduce the speed of the work
  • consensus – a focus on consensus can reduce the likelihood of exploring underlying issues and as such they do not become resolved

In this project so far, did collaboration add more than it subtracts?

Here are some of the thoughts from the team:

On collaborating internally….

…For me, there was an identified tension between deliberation and action and a colleague suggested that perhaps we could have been doing with some tools/support to support us to say when we just need to ‘move on’ and when things need to be more fully discussed.  One thing is for sure, Iriss now has an increased understanding of its own experience of collaborative processes – so it may be easier for us to understand others’ ‘reactions’ and enable/develop mechanisms for others in similar processes going forward.

…My favourite thing about collaboration is when my starting position is changed and shifted by the conversation and contributions of others. But what I really struggled with internally was when this didn’t happen; when I still felt ‘right’, but my view wasn’t reflected in consensus decision making. I think in finding the middle ground, we may have all felt some level of dissatisfaction which can be really demotivating. At times, the process felt draining and time consuming, without much action being achieved. This was definitely a learning opportunity and I think in the future we would approach this process differently, as well as speak about collaboration with a lot more experience and honesty.

On collaborating to choose a partner….

…I felt really confident about sharing the decision making process with the group. However, I’m not entirely clear on how the criteria was used by each of the teams, nor how they answered the question of ‘which area provides the greatest opportunity for learning around collaboration’. As I was facilitating this part of the event, I also didn’t get to add my voice to any of the groups. So, to me, the decision wasn’t really shared. The idea was that the Iriss team would actively join in the discussions (rather than facilitating), but I’m not sure if this was enabled effectively. I think it would have been more fruitful if Iriss were also given a vote, as a team.

…Because Iriss was committing a potentially huge resource (of staff time) to this project, I felt that we were responsible for making the right choice of partner, but there wasn’t a mechanism for our choice to be expressed. I feel that we did our own experience as an organisation a disservice by not participating as a partner in decision making in the earlier stages of these events. We also limited our scope of partners to those who could attend these full day events rather than hosting open applications.

Collective decision making and voting

We didn’t set out to use specific voting methods to reach consensus but on reflection we broadly used the following models:

Internally –
Consensus decision-making
“Consensus requires that a majority approve a given course of action, but that the minority agree to go along with the course of action. In other words, if the minority opposes the course of action, consensus requires that the course of action should be modified, as far as possible, to remove objectionable features.”

…We tried to stick to these principles but, as some of the other reflections outline, there was only so much scope for a majority decision to be made and consensus/modifications taken into account from others. I think this process often left much of the Iriss team involved feeling not quite comfortable with the final decision – whether they had been on the side of the majority or minority!

…We spent a lot of time in internal meetings often culminating in some sort of voting: hands, dots etc. Often our opinions were distributed over a wide spectrum meaning that once a decision was made each of us would have to work with something that was a distance away from our own ideal outcome. Such is life. However, other consequences were that individual enthusiasm were often significantly affected by the process.

Voting-based method – Range voting
“This lets each member {groups in our case} score one or more of the available options. The option with the highest vote number is chosen as the winner. This method has experimentally been shown to produce the lowest Bayesian regret (wasted votes/unhappiness) among common voting methods, even when voters are strategic.”

…We asked each group to score the other presentations, then the top two scores were the ‘winners’. I think if it hadn’t been the confrontational nature of this being so open, and the winners revealed while the so-called ‘losers’ were in the room, we may have avoided some of the uneasiness that was felt.

…An element of the voting I found challenging was that on the day, groups were voting as a collective. But many of these groups had just met – and members represented radically different interests and voices. Would people have voted differently if given an individual vote? We were relying on consensus not just across a broader cohort but in individual groups – an experience we know isn’t easy! However, it was fascinating to understand my group’s own journey of voting and I think witnessing that decision making really opened my eyes to some of the priorities and values of the group which I would not have understood otherwise.

Place-based Approaches to Joint Planning, Resourcing and Delivery

This report from the Improvement Service provides an overview of the current practice of place-based approaches in Scotland across 27 local authority areas and also details the general literature on place-based approaches. The document includes a practical tool to enable partnerships to shape their thinking and approach before undertaking a new, or re-developing an existing place-based approach.


Link Up

Link Up, a programme of work from Inspiring Scotland,  increases opportunities for people in communities to come together, get to know different people, participate and help each other.

Link Up focuses on people as contributors.  Evaluation and economic analysis found Link Up creates new social networks, improves health and wellbeing of local people and gives them the confidence, motivation and skills to effect positive change.

Find out more here

11 principles for creating health

A new report from the Creating Health Collaborative draws together the learning from those working ‘beyond the lens of health care’ to distill 11 key principles for creating health. These include:

  1. Embrace an inclusive definition of community
  2. Acknowledge power imbalances
  3. Share power
  4. Let the community define what matters
  5. Measure what matters
  6. Operate at individual and community levels
  7. Embrace complexity
  8. Acknowledge that no one can do it alone
  9. Accept that it’s going to take time
  10. Build the right team
  11. Search for sustainability

Read the full report.

Enabling Collaborative Leadership

Enabling Collaborative Leadership is a programme of work delivered by Workforce Scotland.

The focus of the work is “on core knowledge, skills, behaviours and approaches which support the development of collaborative leadership. Participants will experience tangible benefits of working collaboratively and will have an explicit role to demonstrate and support the development of collaborative working in their own organisations“.

The work is underpinned by an action research approach, which is believed to provide a deeper way of understanding the complexities of the challenges facing public services, and supporting people to move forward.

Find out more about the Pioneer Programme here.