“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

Leveraging the right “kind” of positive deviance?

Awareness of the term “positive deviance” is rising, as a way of solving tough problems by finding what already works.  It’s been the topic of seminars for health leaders.  It’s been frequently mentioned by Helen Bevan, Chief Transformation Officer, NHS England, as part of a repertoire of approaches to front-line change, and by Jo Bibby in her Health Foundation Blog.  It is the subject of a slide show by Bob Sutton, and gets a brief mention as a possible new option in a recent article about the limitations of quality improvement projects in the NHS by Prof Mary Dixon Woods and Graham P Martin.

There is, however, no available comparison of the various interpretations and applications of “positive deviance,” and some authors mix up the various conceptual frameworks.  This article aims to put this right, and offer tips to leaders for implementation. Continue reading

Positive deviants and heroes – two versions of the same thing?

Everyday heroes in a hostile world

There has been a lively twitter conversation about a fascinating interview with Philip Zimbardo, Stanford professor emeritus and author of “the Lucifer Effect“.  He explains that society may condition good people to do bad things, such as join gangs and participate in violence.  This has been demonstrated in his “prison” experiment, and in the famous “electric shock” experiments of Stanley Milgram.  If you put good people in a bad environment, they will do bad things.  Philip helps people learn to be ordinary heroes.

Heroes as positive deviants?

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Ownership not buy-in – Hidden Insight of the season

People will take personal responsibility for solving a problem,  completing an action and performing better if they own the solution – a key Hidden Insights principle is “ownership not buy-in”.

Hidden Insights® achieves this through its group coaching approach.  Coaching works with anyone, in organisations, families, or communities.  Coaching is reported by the 2015 CIPD employer survey to be the second most effective learning after learning on the job (which is also a part of Hidden Insights). 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

Behaviour change around troubled families – building relationships and resilience

The Department of Communities and Local Government’s Troubled  Families Initiative (TFI) was set up to reduce the significant costs to the taxpayer of a minority of deeply complex families.  The DCLG has calculated that one family can cost between £40,000 to £400,000 a year in reactive interventions. There have been some great achievements in turning families round.  The Initiative is now being extended into phase 2. Continue reading

Unusual suspects do extraordinary things – presentation at the Social Policing Unconference

Audrey Asamoah and Jane Lewis’s TEDx-style presentation at the Greater Manchester Police and Fire Services’ Social Policing Unconference showed how Hidden Insights® community facilitation delivers big behaviour change in unlikely places  – most recently in a deprived part of North London.  We  shared some of stories and techniques – which enable both community members and professionals to move past “baggage” and  suspicion and share hope, skills, leadership and aspiration in a very different relationship, learning life and work skills in the process.

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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.

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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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