Demystifying Liberating Structures

 

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I took part in the first Leeds Liberating Structures practice Group session on 9 November 2018. There are 35 liberating structures techniques in total. I wanted to get involved in something  practical. A friend Lisa recommended that I might find this useful.

What are Liberating Structures?

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Liberating Structures are interactive facilitation techniques that involve everybody in the group. From extroverted to introverted and from leaders to followers. In this blog I’ll share my experience of the Troika Consulting Liberating Structure.

Liberating Structures can also be run virtually making connections with people  across the world, from all walks of life.  You gain an interesting insight across the different time zones of what people are doing across the world at that moment in time.

“We change the culture by changing the nature of conversation. It’s about choosing conversations that have the power to create the future.”

Most people do not know where to start to make Engagement happen. To make it happen we need to change how people interact on a daily basis, be it at weekly team meetings, problem solving get togethers, team away days etc so it’s a part of daily working life.

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Troika Consulting liberating structure

The Troika consulting liberating structure is about giving and getting practical help from peers to a challenge one is faced with. Whether it be a personal or a professional challenge. In rapid rounds of “consultations”, individuals ask for help and get advice immediately from two others. The great thing about this is that it’s real life challenges that people are experiencing.

Peer-to-peer coaching helps the ‘client’ in refining their skills in asking for help. They learn to frame problems and challenges clearly. It enables the ‘consultants’ to improve their listening and consulting skills. Overall this structure builds trust within a group through mutual support, creating a safe environment in which to flourish. It was an interesting transformational experience.

One thing that struck me was that  the intensity and scale of a challenge one faced varied. For some it may feel like they have a mountain to climb and for others just extra effort . My experience of liberating structures is that its quite powerful, useful, an environment in which its safe to experiment and try out new experiences. It’s an opportunity to make connections, be yourself and it’s ok to ask for help from the community. Plus you also get to meet some awesome people.

So I walked out not only with some practical solutions, an action plan and support of those who can help me get there.  I recieved offers of help, that I wasn’t even aware existed. I’m looking forward to meeting with my new network. I’ve discovered they are in two different office blocks in the hub around the corner from me. We wouldn’t have connected if it wasn’t for liberating structures!

I’d recommend attendance at a future Liberating Structures session, even if it’s just for the experience.  Sharon has written a great blog post  on  her experience as a facilitator and attendees experiences.

Any one Liberating Structure can change a meeting. Together they can liberate and transform an entire organization.

The community waving to everyone. Thanks to Sharon for the photo
Community waving to everyone. Thanks Sharon for photo
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Health and Social Mobility

On Saturday 8th September 2018, I took part in my first UK Health Camp unconference which was open to the public in Manchester at the Federation, with approximately 80-90 attendees. I’d heard lots of positive feedback on Twitter about UK Health Camp and it was something I wanted to experience for myself!

An unconference is a free format session. Attendees set the agenda on what they want to talk about. Anyone who wants to take part can pitch for a time slot and space. Following voting, if there’s enough interest in the topic it will be taken forward on the grid for the session to run. During the session, if it’s not what you expected, your free to leave and join another. I collaborated with @alisonsmithMCMI from another Government Department.

Session Grid
Session Grid

I wanted to talk about:

  • When we think about social mobility, inclusion and health what kind of things come to mind?
  • Is the data on social mobility helpful ?
  • Is social mobility just a post code issue?

In addition, Alison wanted to talk about:

  • Issues around mental health, inclusion and young people?
  • What kind of barriers do young people face?
  • Types of community-based support, to help and support young people into work and stay in work?

This blog write up is a combination of findings from our networking discussions and my UK Health Camp unconference session.  The session works well if you stand in the middle of the circle and move round,  you are able to manage the  conversations better.

Findings

Post It notes - themes that people talked about
Post It notes – themes that people talked about

Lots of factors affect social mobility for example:

  • living in a deprived area
  • coming from a low-income family
  • unskilled and being out of work
  • with parents of a low educational background etc

Everyone found it difficult to come up with a single uniform definition as recognised it’s a complex subject as some factors are interlinked.

If the above factors can have an overall impact on health, then this will lead to an increase in health visits to GP and hospitals, costing billions of pounds to the UK NHS system.

Mental Health

There is still is a lot of stigma around mental health. Mental health should be treated in the same way as physical health. Young people may have difficulty expressing themselves and outbursts can often be seen as aggression which can ultimately lead to exclusion from education. Young people were seen as  less likely to engage and may not wish to see a counsellor on site.

Anxiety around applying for jobs, at what stage of the job application processes do you declare a mental health condition to employers? How do you approach these conversations? Engaging with youth groups was seen as a positive step to improve engagement to identify specific issues and potential solutions.

Increasing Engagement

It was felt that peer led research in the local community and sharing personal stories and narratives to connect with young people will have a positive impact on health overall by  boosting confidence, engagement and social interaction.  Access to online services that young people could contact in confidence for help, advice and support were seen as positive steps that could make a difference.

Neighbourhood mentoring schemes, community support networks, and business mentoring programmes with community role models by inviting young people into universities and work places to learn about different careers was seen as a positive step towards self-empowerment and engagement.  There was awareness that some groups e.g. ethnic minorites had differing needs and support.

Partnership Working 

The first early indicators of young people or their families struggling were often picked up and identified through their interactions with one or more agencies e.g. housing, education, police, local authorities or the criminal justice system. Information was shared between agencies. In some cases, there was possibly, duplication as dealing with the same groups of people. However, learning about each other’s work and roles was seen as beneficial. There were mixed views on whether introduction of an Act would completely fix any problems.

What does the data tell us?

There was a feeling that comprehensive data on both health and social mobility did exist and would potentially provide a holistic picture. However, no one knew who owned it and whether it was easily accessible or not, especially if with GDPR constraints. This applied either internally or within Departments or across other agencies. Lots of factors were involved and it wasn’t just a post code issue.

 Here’s a brief summary of the sessions  I attended:

  • Accessing and improving data quality in primary care. I learned from a medical student, that there is a lot of emphasis placed on data visualisation as part of their training. It helps with comprehension,  being able to see and identify gaps and inconsistencies, interpret trends, at a glance in a short period of time.  To be able to analyse the information to make quick, accurate and consistent decisions is vital.                                                                                                            Data quality is also linked to motivation. For example when dealing with providers and contract management.  If operating on a payment by results model then more likely to have robust data and validation processes in place,  before making any outcome based payments.
  • Matt Hancock’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care  tech agenda – one of the attendees put forward a suggestion on improving barriers to innovation.  How by creating an innovation culture and a code of practice, it would make it easier for frontline employees to make improvements  by being able to influence processes.
  • Designing for Trust  led by @Matt Edgar, Head of Design at NHS Digital in Leeds ran a variant of the 1-2-4-all liberating structure.  I interpreted designing for trust  as what the NHS as a service feels like, being empathetic, caring  and safe rather than what the NHS service on a digital platform looks like!  Liberating structures format worked well for a large group to keep everyone engaged and the session ran smoothly.  Looking  forward to reading Matt’s blog post!
Top 3 things important to me when designing for trust  linked to health
Top 3 things important to me when designing for trust linked to health

I really enjoyed UK Health Camp. I met so many  people from Manchester and beyond. I would recommend attendance at future UK Health Camp.  Many thanks to @Matt Stibbs , UK Health Camp volunteers and the event sponsors. Young people are our future so let’s design, inclusive holistic end to end services meeting 21st century user needs!

#ThisIsWhyWeJam

 

 

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I’d previously attended the Leeds Service Jam earlier in the year and blogged about it. I’m taking some practical action to become more Human focused in my work, trying to work more in the open (where possible), applying user centred techniques in a traditional policy role.  Increasing my knowledge of Service Design and helping to contribute towards creating more effective evidence based policies supported by user needs. Developing my knowledge and updating my professional skills.
Global Gov Jam Rocking the public sector
A Jam is a FUN high-energy event that brings diverse people across sectors together to work together towards a shared vision and goal. 48 hours to explore innovative ways to improve societal challenges in the open on community issues.  Through either creating a new futuristic service or improving an existing one using Human Centred Design principles and a playful mindset. This year 33 cities took part. The UK cities taking part included – Dundee GovJam, Leeds GovJam and Nottingham GovJam.
The opening secret theme video, was purely sound clips. You could not get any more ambiguous!
Mental Health and Social Isolation
Our team task was to tackle the issue of Mental health and social isolation within Leeds. Social isolation nationally is an increasing area of concern, which is on the increase due to an ageing population. In Leeds alone, 37,000 people (approx. 5%) are estimated to suffer from social isolation. With 1 in 4 people suffering from mental health issues. This affects cardiovascular health, contributes to cognitive decline, shortens life spans and costs the NHS UK billions of pounds per year. With every £1 spent on social prescribing and community projects could save £6 in healthcare costs over the long term (Telegraph, June 2018)
Socialising Prescriptions
Social prescribing can help improve patient’s wellbeing by prescribing social and leisure activities, volunteering opportunities or well-being activities, as well as dealing with medical needs. By connecting patients with support in their local community to help address their health issues holistically and give them greater control of their own health and wellbeing. GPs are prescribing Canal Trips to combat depression. A trip to the canal reduces stress and helps people deal with low mood and loneliness.
 Wouldn’t it be amazing if you, your employer, friends, charities or other professionals could socially prescribe, as an alternative to anti-depressants (under certain circumstances)?
Transformational Change
Through Jamming our paths crossed with Canal Connections . An amazing social enterprise, with a vision that canals can provide a unique learning environment.
 There is potential for work experience, apprenticeship or employment related opportunities particularly for those who benefit from practical or vocational experience.  What better way to learn skills than #LearningByDoing, out in the open. Being on a canal boat is a relaxing experience, enabling people to  engage with programmes of education, rehabilitation, reintegration or leisure with a fresh mindset.
We heard about the various ongoing initiatives such as working with retired older men, who miss being at work, to create the same environment on the boat. We heard stories about school children with learning difficulties and autism, who wouldn’t previously socialise. But once on the boat, the children started mixing with each other and talking. All these social activities can improve our mental health and wellbeing, reducing social isolation which are available on your doorstep benefiting the whole family and the community.
Talking to Service users
 We worked in the open, by showing the 4 open questions we were going to ask, explained who we were, our research purpose and next steps.

 

 

 

This helped to build public trust. The Leeds public were very open, talking to us about their experiences on an emotive and sensitive subject. We met volunteers at organisations in this area, social carers, a family where all 3 generations had experienced being isolated and a manager who was on a break from his works mental health awareness training.
The key findings  from User Research were its a problem across generations (even within families). There are multiple causes, from language barriers, the ageing population, through to simply being located away from family. User research identified 5 persona’s (Young, Elderly, Professionals, Charities/Social Enterprises and Employers). Most of the people we interviewed spoke about interests and hobbies as being important in making connections.
Employer views provided useful insights within the workplace. Team leaders often rely on each other for feedback about their employees. It takes time to get to know people. One can recognise mental health issues and isolation by observing change in moods. Men don’t like to admit or show emotions and openness about mental health depends on family types, whether old fashioned or modern.
Jamming the prototype

 

 

 

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Putting the service user at the heart of each stage of the service is important. By going out to speak to the end user, building empathy with the community was valuable to test our assumptions and validate user research findings. Listening to real stories of real people and their experiences, understanding where the gaps are in the current service, barriers and values, made a big difference in understanding user needs. A walkthrough  video of the prototype with one of our service end users.
 Our prototype, showing what our service would look or feel like went through several different versions and formats (Paper, sketch, Lego, whiteboard, video) to help capture the user experience and customer journey. The proof of concept included connecting people who are struggling, with charities and voluntary organisations across Leeds. A bit like a prescription for socialising, you could be referred by your doctor as an alternative to taking anti-depressants (dependent upon circumstances) or self-refer by finding groups based on your interest from art classes, fishing clubs to canal societies
One of the ideas that emerged following User Research was a Tinder like socialising activity matching service. Our 4 minute show not tell video.
If there is no human need for the service or initiative, then don’t do it! Better to fail fast at the beginning, saving time and resources. Than fail very slowly at the end, wasting resources and creating a costly service that no one will use.
 Beyond the Jam  #ThisIsWhyWeJam
We won a team award for showing the most Jam spirit!

 

 

 

 Wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could pitch our own projects, pick our own teams from across different sectors, Goverment, Academic,  Public, Private, Social Enterprises and Charities to solve a societal challenge. Well nothing in the Jam is off limits, and we have just done this!

The great thing about social media if used in the right way, its reach is far wide and the response instant. User research identified lack of digital skills as social enterprises and charities are often run by volunteers.  We wanted to help Canal Connections, so I reached out to my twitter connections for help, tweeting whilst on the boat. We have a meeting arranged to progress this.

 

 

 

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 We used 4G data and mobile phone hotspot to work on the boat, out in the open across the river.

Jamming took me on a amazing fast paced, journey across the river, outside of my comfort zone where awesome things happen!
Despite the fast paced environment, I managed to fit in a career conversation with Tanja Walsh and obtained advice from Beverley Smith, on the Digital Academy courses for enrolement (Research and Design in Government and Digital and Agile awareness for Policy Makers).
Keep a look out for a follow up blog and our team blog! I will be volunteering at the next Jam. Look out for a Jam coming  at a city near you! Or better still why don’t you start your own? Be the change you want to see….. #ThisIsWhyWeJam
Leeds Gov Jam team June 2018 photo
Leeds Gov Jam team June 2018

I learned a LOT in my first Jam !

 

 

 

Having enjoyed working in an Agile environment I decided to use my skills by joining like-minded people in looking for solutions to social issues by taking part in the Leeds  Service Jam. These three days proved to be one of the best learning experiences of my career so far and have utterly transformed the way I approach work in my Government policy role.

Leeds Service Jam is part of a Global Service Jam community which is held in over 80 cities around the world. Its human centred design aims to put Users right at the very heart of the services we look to create within the Service Jam. Our task was to work
together as a group to tackle the complex issue of homelessness within Leeds and beyond.

Homelessness and rough sleeping is an increasing area of concern and I wanted to bring everything I could to support quick and pragmatic potential solutions. After undertaking User Research within Leeds City Centre the solution the team I was part of came up with was to create an Web App that was able to notify relevant charities, social enterprises and local authorities that a homeless person in their area needed support. Going out to undertake research with the public was nerve wracking but was essential to gather first hand insights which informed our designs by for example highlighting social anxieties around the giving and receiving of help.

To make our app we used paper, card and free apps on a mobile. Our final  version was a Video showing our service. Thanks to @olaojo15 for putting the video together. Video helped to explain the customer journey better from the service users eyes, what the service would look or feel like. We all use and interact with services every day and jams are a great way to get a diverse group of people together with different skillsets and perspectives.

 

 

Making prototypes (above) was a great way to test scenarios and use early feedback and learning to see whether something was going to work or not. Sketch noting is a brilliant technique, when you have to take in a lot of connecting information.

Twin jamming with Singapore Service Jam on skype, and watching the demo of their service was intuitive, especially from a cultural perspective the different of societal challenges, the different countries face. It’s a modern and interactive way of collaborating and sharing.

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Collaborating with Service Jam Singapore by Skype

Jams are a hands on approach to learn the end to end service design principles and methods from a blank canvas. Jams are inclusive, even the animals joined us, with volunteer mentors on hand for coaching and advice. I would encourage everyone, whatever job you do, to take part . Nothing in the Jam, is off limits, we are encouraged to be bold and take risks.

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Leeds Gov Jammers – thanks to@mariecheungsays for the ace group photo