Just over a year ago Frontline fellow Michaela was one of a number of fellows who, as part of a Fellowship retreat, went to the Netherlands to learn more about a revolutionary nursing model called Buurtzorg first hand. The reason Buurtzorg is so different is because it has created a new team working model- self-managing teams who use professional freedom and responsibility to create a culture of trust and support. Since then, Michaela has been working with the Fellowship team at Frontline, other fellows and the Centre for Public Impact to implement some of her learnings from the trip. In this blog, Michaela shares details on her project, called Small Changes, along with the Small Changes workshops which have taken place in the last few months.
The true power of the Buurtzorg retreat for me was that it highlighted how a variety of small changes, small and simple enough that we could implement straight away, would make a difference. System wide changes within social work can take a long time, so exploring a different approach to making an impact and bring about change in the short term was pretty pivotal. When I got back from the retreat, I reflected on what small changes I could make which would benefit social workers, and give them more time and better support to focus on relationships with children and families. I wanted to make sure these changes could be implemented by myself and my team from the get go, without having to navigate the complex and often bureaucratic systems local authorities follow.
With my team on board with and really open to the principles laid out in the Buurtzorg model, I took my idea to the Fellowship Innovation Lab*. The project, which we’ve called Small Changes, focuses on experimenting in the space between no change and full system change. For example, a social worker could want to change something as small as running their team meeting in a different way to save time – this is something they have the power to do and could have a more significant impact than they think.
We set up Small Changes (online) workshops which were designed to create space for social workers to create and build on these kinds of ideas. With the support of the Fellowship team we were able to open this opportunity up to Frontline’s network of fellows and those they work with. We invited everyone interested to attend in pairs, one Frontline fellow and one of their local authority colleagues. This pair would act as a support network for each other, both working towards implementing a small changes project. Being able to draw on the Fellowship team’s knowledge and connections was hugely beneficial – without them it would have been much harder to connect with likeminded colleagues who wanted to implement change in their local authorities.
“(The small changes workshops have) given me more confidence than I had before to make changes”
Fellow who attended workshop.
Small Changes Workshops
Workshop 1: Inspiring small changes
In this workshop, the group decide on a set of core principles that will continue to inspire them and that will sit at the heart of all small changes they want to make. They also identified what barriers are currently getting in the way of them implementing any changes.
Workshop 2: Sparking small changes
The group look at how they can overcome the challenges they identified in the first workshop, and identify what small changes they want to make in their local authority.
Workshop 3: Living small changes
In their last workshop fellows and their colleagues plan out how they will start their small changes project in their local authority, the steps they’ll take to put them in place, and most importantly how they can make them sustainable so they bring about lasting change.
Everyone who took part in the first Small Changes workshop series will support each other as a network. Pushing each other to implement their small changes and holding each other to account. This first group will continue to meet every few months, creating a space to discuss any barriers to change they are facing and to share new ideas and successes. The group can also continue to gain support from myself and the Fellowship team.
By introducing the Small Changes workshops, we were able to inspire and empower fellows and their colleagues with new ideas of how they could create change within local authorities. The workshops give those involved the space and confidence to be creative and expand their thinking, and gave them support to generate a plan to implement change. These small changes will have many benefits for the fellows and their teams, and ultimately will mean they can do their best work and achieve better outcomes for children and families.
*The Fellowship Innovation Lab is a space to create new ideas and to put a spotlight on and scale existing examples of great work in the community. The thing that links all of the ideas together is that they all positively impact the lives of vulnerable children and families.