Making Every Adult Matter: an overview of the Transforming Local Systems conference
The event brought together the 27 Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) Approach areas across the country, people with direct experience of multiple disadvantage, the partnership leads from the National Lottery Community Fund’s Fulfilling Lives network and MEAM staff. The focus of the day was on the leadership role that individuals and partnerships in local areas can play in transforming the systems that surround them. This is particularly relevant to the access to justice sector where small initiatives that start at local level can be extremely beneficial to the community they serve and later on expand nationally, if successful.
The MEAM Approach helps local areas design and deliver better coordinated services for people experiencing multiple disadvantage. It’s currently being used by partnerships of statutory and voluntary agencies in 27 local areas across England. The official overview of the conference can be found here.
The fist keynote speech of the day was given by Dr Toby Lowe of Northumbria University. The speech focused on the role that commissioners should play in a world of complex problems, and the key takeaway was that services don’t produce outcomes, but complex systems do. Commissioners ought to nurture systems that enable positive outcomes to emerge. Later on in the day, through a workshop, Dr Lowe helped delegates to think about what it really takes to be a commissioner in a complex environment and how nurturing and shaping the ‘purpose’ of the system is better than focusing on outcomes.
The second keynote speech was given by Anna Randle from Collaborate. Anna argued that public services and public servants have a key role to play in changing systems, and that to do so they need to ensure that ten building blocks are in place in local areas:
- strategies & plans
- outcomes & accountability
- funding & commissioning
- culture change & OD
- learning & relationship building platform & spaces
- communications & engagement
The emphasis on the importance of collaboration between the public sector and citizens can be mirrored in the advice sector, where HMCTS have been criticised for designing a Reform Programme without first seeing what service users actually needed - that seems to be changing now with multiple feedback sessions being organised.
The conference included a series of workshops:
- What is systems thinking and how can it help me and my area - a clarification of what ‘system thinking’ means, reflections on how and why something works the way it does and how it can be improved
- Everyone on Board: creating buy-in & a role for your strategic board - the importance of strategic leadership
The day ended with a panel session on the role of coproduction in transformational change, which aimed to clarify why systems change will not come about without involving people with experience of multiple disadvantage.