It became clear from a number of earlier conversations, that we could do a lot more to involve the community in developing the way the Hub works. This issue became apparent during the 1:1 interview stages, as well as during our stakeholder event. Although there had been some experience of customer surveys and feedback, it was clear that we could develop a deeper and richer sense of what people thought, and that we could feed this information into shaping the Hub.
Many of the people we talked to discussed the difficulties of people being ‘hard to reach’, and ‘hard to involve’. It struck us that as the Hub has a lot of ‘walk-in’ and ‘walk by’ traffic, we were well placed to develop some tools to help staff interact more with people working and coming into the hub.
We began by introducing a Talking Wall at the front of the Hub. It was important to get something up and running, rather than hone something to perfection before releasing it into the ‘wild’. Our early prototype was simply a wall sized piece of paper containing probing questions we hoped would prompt a variety of customer and staff responses. Pens and sticky pads of paper were provided. This was a decent start; it became a bit of a talking point, not to mention an informal method of gathering feedback from people as they passed through the Hub. And you couldn’t help but notice it as soon as you walked through the door.
It was important to us to ensure that this was not just a ‘tokenstic’ engagement tool, and that people would know that what they shared, would be read, and thought about, and where possible their thoughts could help to shape the future direction of the hub.
We therefore, developed a feedback board, that sits alongside the talking wall. On this, we group and highlight what people say under the ‘YOU SAID’ side. We then use that information to share with all members of the Hub (including the Dunfermline Poverty Action Group, partners, the council, other charities, and community members). Collaboratively, we come up with suggestions and solutions, and a plan to address the issue. The board reflects the actions and progress taken: what’s being done, who’s responsible and a timescale.
We recognise that it is often difficult to make changes, might be due to a lack of resources, conflicting suggestions, or not having control over certain areas of work. And so, where we can’t do something, we list the reasons for this, openly and transparently.
It is our hope that this also helps to motivate different types of conversations, highlight where things are difficult to change, and helps all of us to see where we might be able to contribute to helping to make things easier for the people we work with.
On Wednesday 29th June 2016 we held a stakeholder event for existing and potential Hub members. Not every service will use the Hub on the same day, so this was a rare opportunity to gather everyone together in the one venue and get to know each other a little bit better. It was also a perfect chance to focus our combined energies onto the Hub to consider how we can collectively develop the Hub.
To kick things off, we hit the pause button to reflect on the story so far. How the Hub came into existence, what is the wider context that drives the agenda for greater collaboration, how can we bring people who use the Hub right into the heart of service design and delivery. We considered the wide range of services and issues that the Hub currently addresses and could build on in the future such as:
We then shared some insights into what people thought of the Hub (completely anonymously, of course) by playing a number of pre-recorded quotes; snippets of personal testimony and moments of reflection. The volume in the room dropped as we let these moments of perception wash over us. This was our bridge into the first group exercise of the day in which we asked:
What exactly are we all trying to achieve through the Hub?
We split ourselves into five mixed groups to come up with a couple of sentences per table to best express this sentiment. Each vision statement was then hung up on the wall and every participant received three stickers to vote for their favourite option. The vision with the most votes was the one we opted to work with, which was:
This gave us a shared aim for us to bear in mind over the course of the day and a starting point for us to explore and refine over the course of the coming weeks. It also provided a great topic of conversation to consider over lunch whilst listening to the excellent vocals and guitar playing of Amy Louise Rogers, half-time entertainment par excellence!
Following lunch, we collectively explored the benefits the Hub can bring. This generated a great deal of discussion but was critical to developing a deeper understanding of the many reasons the Hub exists. The following merely gives a flavour of the breadth of conversation:
- Benefits to community members: peer to peer support; shared learning; feeling part of the community; central location; positive atmosphere; friendly face and a cuppa; holistic; one-stop-shop.
- Benefits to services: sharing resources, knowledge and best practice; central base; networking; signposting and better communication with other organisations; partnership working.
- Benefits to policy: direct link to people to involve in decision making; central point for information in & out; highlight issues as they develop; using expert (i.e. service users) knowledge and feedback; actions not words.
- Benefits to our perception: open and welcoming environment; familiar place within the community; multi-agency centre; public sharing of responsibility creates understanding and reduces stigma; anonymity for reason people are coming in.
This helped us get under the skin of the Why question – why do we need to do things differently? Why should we involve communities? Why should we focus on strengths? We shared a quote from the Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services by Dr Campbell Christie – often referred to as the Christie Commission – which was published five years to the day of our Stakeholders’ Event:
“Unless Scotland embraces a radical, new, collaborative culture throughout our public services, both budgets and provision will buckle under the strain. As a whole, the system can be ‘top down’ and unresponsive to the needs of individuals and communities. It lacks accountability and is often characterised by a short-termism that makes it difficult to prioritise preventative approaches.”
Over the past few years, there has been a shift in understanding how public services should be delivered; not about doing things to people, nor for people, but ultimately with people. To properly understand co-production, organisations need to let go and stop setting the agenda. Co-production isn’t simply about involving communities ad-hoc, bringing in people when it suits the public services that are taking the lead. Instead it brings about a fundamental shift in co-producing a shared agenda, establishing the direction, way before we get close to any implementation stage. Community members need to be at the centre of developing how services are designed and delivered if we are to ultimately change the way we work. Harnessing the skills, passion and knowledge that already exists in our communities will ensure we are all empowered to contribute to improvements in our lives.
For our final group exercise of the day, we wrote down the top two or three actions people felt would help take work forward to develop the Hub. We then grouped these actions into themes and asked people to sign up to an area of work they felt they could actively contribute to. These themes were refined over the subsequent days, but essentially we ended up with: (or these themes broadly broke down into the following five areas)
- Community engagement & capacity building
- Partnership working, collaboration, vision & values
- Marketing & layout
- Service delivery
- Hub programme development
with performance and measurement being at the core of all five. These groups now gave us a solid foundation to build on and collaboratively develop the next stage of the Hub’s story.
We’re shutting for the day for our Dunfermline Advice Hub Stakeholder’s Meeting, on Wednesday 29th June We’ll be back again on Thursday, from 10am!
Over the course of a few weeks this month, we spoke to a number of different stakeholders and partners who have had some involvement with the Hub. These Stakeholders may have been instrumental in getting the Hub up and running; they may be involved in delivering a service out of the Hub, or volunteering for or from the Hub; or perhaps they were just keen to link into the Hub to explore deeper partnership working. We used a fixed set of questions to ensure we explored the same subjects with everyone we spoke to, and made a point of keeping the discussions conversational.
Amongst many things, we asked:
- How people became involved in the Hub;
- What people’s vision for the Hub was;
- How we could make the Hub more effective;
- What could we do to improve the customer journey.
What we discovered was a lot of passion and enthusiasm to work together. Talking to people one to one, informally, gave people a chance to speak honestly and openly, not just about how they felt as workers and volunteers, but how they felt personally about living and working in their communities. At times these conversations were deeply personal and passionate:
“communities need places where people can come together and learn and share with each other, people shouldn’t have to feel so isolated”
“we de-skilled communities when we were cash rich”
“it would be great to know what the customers of the hub think about the hub”
“It’s not about the services, it’s about the person walking through the door”
Each conversation lasted between an hour to an hour-and-a-half. A surprising side-effect of creating this head space and asking these questions ‘outside’ of work, was that people quite often told us they were experiencing light bulb moments – an insight into something they’ve done or could do differently.
It struck us was that to allow this to happen was simply creating the space and stimulating the conversation. Many of us are so busy on a daily basis, that we just have time to get through our ‘to do’ lists, and don’t often have the chance to reflect on other ways doing things. So many of the people we spoke to came up with creative, kind, interesting and clever ideas and all said they welcomed the opportunity to talk and further opportunities to get involved. The potential to tap into this latent creativity could be substantial, if only we can create the conditions to make it happen more regularly.
Before we began we asked ourselves these questions, ‘what is the problem we are trying to solve’? What is it we want to achieve? What is it we are trying to do so that the Dunfermline Advice Hub has maximum impact in the community? After plenty of discussion, we settled on this:
How can we support Dunfermline’s services hub to do the following:
- Engage and involve the local community and the general public?
- Improve person-centred service design and delivery?
- Be as flexible as we can to meet the different needs that people have?
- Improve access for people who most need it?
- Make it as easy as possible for people to get help and support when they need it?
The overriding ambition is to ensure that the Hub becomes more than the sum of its parts. In other words, the whole point of co-locating (or having lots of services working together under one roof) a range of different services and partners together isn’t just to have them based in one physical location (although this undoubtedly helps), but to realise other benefits that working together should bring. How can we change the way we work, to ways that are more person-centred and helps people to get help with whatever they need before a crisis occurs in the first place?
Our first step on this road was to ask what people thought about the Hub. Is there a shared vision that everyone is working to? What were people’s perspectives about what the Hub currently does, but more importantly, could do in the future?
Welcome to the Dunfermline Advice Hub blog. We’re going on a journey and we want you to be part of it. The Dunfermline Advice Hub is a great community asset where lots of different organisations and partners work from. The benefit of bringing different people and services together under the one roof, in the town centre, means an improved coordination of services; one place for people to go, get early advice and stop things from getting worse. We’re also a resource in the centre of Dunfermline for you, your community and for local organisations.
Talk to us. We’re open to new ideas. Let’s see what’s possible! Even if you just want a quick chat and a cuppa, pop in. Our doors are open to you.
But we know we can do more. Preventing a crisis is easier said than done and every situation is different. Our services have to be adapted and redesigned to make them more responsive to what you need. That’s why we’ve created this blog. We want to improve how we do things, and we want to work openly as we go. And we want you to be involved. If you haven’t already, come along and join in – we really want you to be part of our journey too.
Its finally happened! We’re please to announce that we will be open again from Monday 28th March.
Some of our specialist advice sessions may take a couple of weeks to get back into the swing of things. Keep up to date by checking our Calendar!
Thank you all for your patience – we’ll be back to normal soon!
The joiners are finished, the carpets due to be fitted on Thursday and the furniture delivered Friday! We’re so excited to be back in our own place again!
We’re so grateful for the support from Dunfermline Delivers, who have allowed us use of the upstairs office at 1 Douglas Street, its been invaluable to be nearby to help those in need, and let in all the contractors who needed to fix the floor.
Keep an eye out for updates on when our advice sessions are restarting!
We’re pleased to say that building work as started at our Douglas Street Premises! The floor has been removed and soon, our contractors will start laying the concrete for our new floor.
We appreciate all your patience with us – keep up to date with our progress by signing up for our newsletter or checking our social media pages!
It is with a heavy heart that we have to temporarily close our Douglas Street premises due to ongoing building repair works.
It is a devastating blow – our Advice Hub project has been going now for 7 months, and we’ve made significant progress in getting people the right support and help to get them out of crisis. We appreciate everyone’s patience at this time, and we’ll keep you all up to date with any progress. We hope to get the site fixed and up and running soon, but until then, our partner organisations have made alternative arrangements for the planned advice sessions: