What really drives system change: the value of values
I'm the Director of Grapevine in Coventry and Warwickshire.
Together with Coventry Law Centre we've formed IGNITE. It's an
ambitious programme to change the way public services are
delivered, away from crisis and towards acting earlier on people's
problems. IGNITE's public sector partner, Coventry City Council,
will use the programme to learn how it can turn lives around and
save money in the long run. We were glad to be funded by the Early
Action Funder's Alliance which the Taskforce helped to create.
That means we're very curious about how you really make deep
change happen in big complex systems dealing with big intractable
So is Collaborate - an independent CIC focusing on the thinking,
culture and practice of cross-sector collaboration in order to
improve services to the public
Collaborate launched a new report on place-based systems change
at the end of last year. Behaving like a System? showcases their
findings from a piece of action research carried out in
They produced a set of preconditions for systems change from
their time spent in Coventry and many of these make sense - the
rare attempt to look at systems change through the eyes of the
citizen is welcome. But the report raises an important question for
Does change best happen when we push our values to one side? On
a simple level I get that tub thumping about 'my values' gets in
the ways of collaborations. But values are critical drivers
of system-busting change too.
Here's a few words of caution:
Values and systems change
It's not clear how the 'public good' can be delivered in the
future. There's no obvious path to follow and not much
Systems Leadership teaches us that in uncertain and complex
times like these it's your abilitytogrow and sustain action by
connecting to others through values that's critical.
Radical change in the face of uncertainty and complexity needs
resilience, determination and creativity. Connecting to people's
values and inner motivations enables them to find what they need.
It's not formal structures or top down strategies that drive the
kind of change we need now - it's initiative, energy, relationships
and commitment. All of them motivated and fed by our values.
Values at front line
Values and beliefs drive positive and effective support and they
do it much more powerfully than sanctions and performance
management. Who wants staff who hit the target but miss the point?
We can't afford to do that anymore. For truly transformative work
at the 'front line' we have to trust staff to do the right thing.
That means we have to trust that they will look beyond the
presenting problem and get beyond thinking 'that's not my job.' But
it's discretionary right? - no one will really know whether
you turned a blind eye or not. Only your beliefs and values will
drive you to do what is right and worthwhile for the people you
Values are what people value
Lankelly Chase's Promoting Change Network has been fantastic at
unearthing what effective support for people with multiple and
complex needs is like. At the heart of that is what people
themselves say works. And it's all about who you (the workers) are
and what you value - Will you build an equal and trusting
relationship with me? Will you make space for my priorities over
your service targets? Will you get me 'stable' or will you go
further, helping me get a rewarding life with purpose and
relationships? Will you be energetic and resourceful in building
with me a broad support network or will you 'close my
So let's get clearer about the value of values and not assume
they are only or mainly an inhibitor of change.
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