“Ownership not buy in” key to long-term success of local project

Hidden Insights, and its “parent”, Positive Deviance, is all about helping people to help themselves by sharing what works. We have been surprised how difficult professionals find it to facilitate communities to do this, and let go of the “fixing” or “rescuing” mindset.  Kerrie Tonks  added the skills learned from her Hidden Insights training to a career in youth work.  By finding helpers and asking what really worked, she was able to nurture the development of a community-based project that has proved highly successful and very resilient, the Huntingdon Grub Hub.

Community members mobilised themselves to solve the problem of fracturing families.  Recently Huntingdon Town Council noted its success, particularly how it has grown, offering new activities, impacting the whole estate of 4,000 people.  They recognised the enthusiasm, commitment and the dedication of its volunteers.
(photo courtesy of Kerrie Tonks)

Because the Grub Hub was designed to mirror what worked locally by the community members, it’s survived changes of local authority sponsors, and austerity.  Each session has been full from its launch five years ago –  because it’s the community’s.  It has thrived, and grown offshoots and collaborations, including Catch a Cuppa and Book Nook.  These now reach over 100 people a week, parents, carers and children, and have “made a significant positive impact” on the deprived estate, according to the local Council minutes.

Kerrie ensured that she had “ownership not buy-in”.  She used the facilitation techniques she had learned so that the community group:

  • Defined the problem they wanted to tackle and framed it in their own terms
  • Named the initiative (and its offshoots), set their own rules and guidelines
  • Negotiated a mutually supportive relationships with agencies and other community and faith groups, so they weren’t “sold fixes and solutions”
  • They focused on growing what already worked, then and there – the families that ate together and talked stayed together and were more likely to be better community members
  • They designed how they helped people and the communications with the community
  • They listened and continued to harvest and grow good ideas and things that work
Kerrie helped to set up Huntingdon Community Action Projects, which is now the official governing body.  The initiative is low cost, and self-funding, with help from local businesses and the town council.  They continue to support the community in a community-centred way.  The solutions may well be what community developers and volunteer organisations already know.  What is different is:
  • the community discovery and definition process to recognise, get consensus and ownership of an issue
  • the chance to build personal connections and create something based on what is known to work on that particular estate
  • starting smaller, focusing on the “how to” – finding existing, practical solutions to one aspect of a wider problem
  • renegotiating relationships with authority and local support agencies
  • “acting their way into a new way of thinking”

Tracey Holliday, the Cambridgeshire Community Development Officer who now looks after HCAP, says that there is nothing else like it in Cambridgeshire.  People feel safe there to discuss difficult issues, and services do not dominate the activities, but are there to help when asked.  Five autistic children feel comfortable to attend.  HCAP enables the community and agencies to work together as equals, and so what happens there meets exactly the needs of the community.

The training that supported its development focused on:

  • Not making assumptions, and learning to listen to what people wanted and needed, challenging where necessary, using evidence and stories
  • Seeing things through others’s eyes
  • Asking the right questions and observing, to find what really worked in that particular context, with those particular people – finding the hidden solutions and wisdom already in the community

Improving health and social care systems – are we forgetting something?

I’m writing this as a patient, parent, potential service user and change professional.  I  wonder anxiously what impact the latest round of NHS and social care reform will deliver, against the current political background.

My biggest anxiety is, will I and my friends and family be understood and actually helped, when we interact with the health and social care system?  Can professionals change their behaviour, and win time with patients, to understand and help them help themselves? Continue reading

A checklist for engaging people

Many change models, Hidden Insights included, stress the need for engaging people in change early on.  To do this, we need their active co-operation, and involvement, often in focus groups, large-scale events such as Open Space or World Cafe or just in conversations.  But you’ve got to get them to turn up in a positive frame of mind, ideally ready to volunteer to get involved….

Here’s a checklist, based on experience of implementing successful employee and community projects.  Its parent comes from the successful MRSA reduction project in the USA, recorded in the book, Inviting Everyone, Healing Healthcare Through Positive Deviance, by Arvind Singhal, Prucia Bruscell and Curt Lindberg.  We’ve added some learning of our own. Continue reading

Engagement and culture change in Cambridgeshire

We are delighted with the feedback from the learning-by-doing we did over the last year in Cambridgeshire.  People have taken the Hidden Insights concepts of “don’t decide about me, without me” and “acting their way into a new way of thinking” to heart.  They have grown in confidence and created amazing engagement and community action.

You can read more about the Grub Hub in Huntingdon here. Continue reading

News from Cambridge

We’ve just had a pilot project extended.  Initial funding from the Cambridgeshire Together for Families programme has brought eleven organisations into a learning programme, to use the Hidden Insights approach to reduce “revolving door” tenancies.  The early stages have created a lot of enthusiasm and support has been extended into the autumn.

Projects are now running in Cambridge City and in Wisbech, bringing together a range of housing associations and charities, including Accent, City Homes Cambridge, Making Money Count (Circle Roddans), Luminus, JobCentre Plus, Abbey People and the YMCA. Continue reading

Haringey extends Hidden Insights work to build community resilience

Woodward Lewis have been training Haringey Council and partnership agency staff in using Hidden Insights to tackle problems and to build better, more collaborative relationships, within existing resources.  The contract has just been extended into three new areas:

  • Helping the community to collaborate to address anti-social behaviour in Northumberland Park, N17
  • Helping vulnerable families to adjust to being more self-sufficient when leaving intensive support in N15 and
  • Helping young people leaving care to take responsibility and adapt to being more independent, with the support of personal advisers.

Continue reading

PD user group endorses social value of positive deviance!

For the first time, representatives of nearly all the UK users of positive deviance met together in Westminster for a round-table debate on the value of positive deviance, and learning points from the exercises so far to carry forward into future projects.

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Indonesian positive deviance link to Woodward Lewis!

Whilst doing some research on what is going on in the world of Positive Deviance, we were really delighted to find that some of our blog posts have been reproduced on the website of the Positive Deviance Resource Centre, Faculty of  Public Health of the University of Indonesia.

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Positive feedback about Positively Deviant

The webinar with Involve and Sue Ritchie of MutualGain received a warm welcome from participants – “great, really inspiring webinar” was one comment in the “chat” box.

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Webinar with Involve – Friday 2nd March 12.00 – 1.30

We’re delighted to be working with Sue Ritchie of MutualGain again, this time on a webinar for Involve, the community engagement specialists.  Called “Positively Deviant”, it explains what positive deviance is and how it has delivered exceptional results in solving intractable community problems.  We will be talking about why it is different from other community engagement and empowerment models and how it works, using UK examples.

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