How can we humanise services and build communities?

How can we humanise services and build communities?

Posted on April 26, 2017

We are accustomed to reading reports on the unprecedented challenges facing the NHS and social services, along with the ever present caveat, ‘the increasing ageing population’. Framed in this way the future of health and social care is grim – conjuring images of a dystopia where many of the most vulnerable are forgotten and neglected.

Yet we can absolutely change this. I have had an incredible personal experience of working alongside a community which collaborated with organisations to effectively combat crime, improve the local environment and support each other to learn and build education, careers, health and wellbeing. If this is possible in one disadvantaged community over a few years, surely a healthier, more socially just society with vibrant, caring communities can be built?

The research project I developed as part of my Clore Social Leadership Fellowship has provided me with a golden opportunity to delve more into this question. The main findings were as follows:

Projects carried out in isolation will have limited impact

Firstly the paper explores the concept of wellbeing and how wellbeing is achieved. It then goes on to explore some of the practical ways in which individuals, families and communities can be supported. It argues that projects carried out in isolation will always have limited impact and will not lead to systemic change nor the building of resilience in individuals, families or communities. In other words, doing sophisticated, cutting edge person centred planning with individuals will have limited impact if the family and community with which they live are not able to be inclusive, supportive and enabling. Equally, great community projects are not enough if very vulnerable individuals are not supported. This diagram aims to demonstrate the interdependence of individuals, families, communities and services as well as local and national government.

Jenny O'Hara Jakeway Research - Clore Social Fellow 2015

Bespoke solutions with individuals, families and communities mean getting it right first time thereby reducing waste and costs

Systemic change is rarely achieved because working in silos can be perceived to be easier to comprehend, organise and deliver. This paper aims to show how systemic change can be implemented and shows that it is not a daunting utopian ideal. It also emphasises that rolling out large scale programmes with no regard to local context is an expensive mistake.

We need a greater focus on coproducing social outcomes, based on what matters to people rather than coproducing services

Organisations and institutions focus time and energy on consulting about their strategies and services; in more recent years they have been looking at way to coproduce services. However, this paper argues that more systemic change will be achieved if the focus is on the wellbeing of people and communities rather than services. Services can then be shaped around people and communities in a way that is supportive rather than undermining.

Distributive leadership

Aneurin Bevan said that the ‘purpose of getting power is giving it away’. Supporting people to take a lead in their own lives, their own families and communities is our biggest challenge as we have built a culture of centralised leadership. We have to consciously learn to give power away as leaders of organisations as well as to take more control of our own lives, as citizens.

Taking more placed-based, relational approaches are of fundamental importance if we are to achieve sustainable wellbeing

Finally, the paper sets out the challenge to both the public and voluntary sectors to invest in people and communities whilst reducing unnecessary costs.  The recommendations show how:

  • The voluntary sector, local and national government can move towards empowering individuals, families and communities simultaneously in a more skilful and adaptable way than ever before.
  • Governments can develop a new approach to accountability that enables leadership and innovation at all levels rather than stifling it.

Download Jenny’s full research report here. Please share your comments below about this blog and research, or you can join the conversation with Jenny on Twitter. 

View / hide 8 comments

Excellent.Not everything that fits in a box is a box. 0.001% on a spreadsheet could be 100% a person's life.Approach needs to include education path to improve personal, family and public business.

> Posted by Hilton Mayston on 26 Apr 2017 at 19:51

Excellent blog. Spot on as always Jenny! 

> Posted by Paul Stepczak on 26 Apr 2017 at 23:40

Just read this overview but will make time later to read your paper.  Already thinking about how easy it is for service providers and organisations to make that subtle but devestating shift of focusing on what they're doing rather and their personal and organisational outcomes rather than whether their services are truly making a difference on the individual wellbeing of the users.  I love your reference to Bevan....giving power away is the only transformative solution.  Looking forward to reading your paper!

> Posted by Joy Watson on 27 Apr 2017 at 08:25

Great points and well made Jenny. Tying together many aspects of what is a very wide picture! A holistic, multi-level, cross-sector approach is definitely needed. Great report, congrats, will be sharing! :)

> Posted by Noreen Blanluet on 27 Apr 2017 at 23:33

Nice one Jenny - and essential reading. Will share with the world! Rx

> Posted by Ruth Dineen on 28 Apr 2017 at 00:04

I would love to see this rolled out into more complex areas of safeguarding and supporting the welfare needs of children in society , that includes the needs of our vulnerable 14 to 18 groups as well. I envisage a way in which the local authority governance can enable elements of meeting need to be more effectively met in the community . Take the example of cse and adolescent mental health needs, these are definitely a whole society issue., as are younger parents struggling with adversity and poverty . They are not and should not be the preserve of local authority paid officials to address. 

> Posted by frenchie on 28 Apr 2017 at 14:25

Thanks Jenny for forwarding this report - on those bad lonely days I will go back to this report to remind myself there are other people who think like me not least of all you! Well done,  even as I say that - it sounds a bit patronising - it is a mature and well thought out piece of work and unfortuanley in this mad world the themes you raise can not be evidenced as much as it should be :-) Dominique

> Posted by Dominique on 2 May 2017 at 07:56

I need to read the whole report but this summary makes inspiring reading in its own right. I share the feeling above that it is always good to know that there others out there that think like me and want to empower individuals to create and be part of stronger communities. 

> Posted by Caroline Billington - Coffee Companions on 11 May 2017 at 14:39

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Jenny Ruth O'Hara-Jakeway

Jenny Ruth O'Hara-Jakeway

Community development leader

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