Nesta celebrates The Good Help finalists to explore what the challenges and solutions are to delivering ‘Good Help’
We ran the Good Help Award to identify great examples of ‘good help’ and to celebrate the work that they do while growing our own understanding of what ‘good help’ really looks like.
To facilitate this learning we invited representatives from the 19 finalists to join us for a full day of work-shopping at Nesta. Here are some take away points from our session on challenges and solution to delivering ‘good help’
As someone who is currently working on the Good Help project I found this day extremely worthwhile and interesting for supporting me to understand the core ingredients of ‘good help’ and how/if our definition fits with the work currently happening around us. But as someone who has previously worked frontline delivering both good and bad help, I got something slightly different from the day. I felt hopeful for the sense of community that seems to be forming, the sharing of practice and learning and the development of a narrative that can finally give a consistent voice to the work that many of us are doing. I know all too well that this work can be challenging, especially considering restricted job descriptions, service processes and an unsupportive environment and the opportunity to share and connect with peers can seem like a ‘nice to have’ not a ‘must have’ when in the throes of delivery.
So, in the spirit of sharing - which I believe is what will help us take this approach forward - here are some of the solutions (provided by some of the 19 finalists) to common challenges faced when trying to deliver ‘good help’.
Red Tape - “Having to follow procedures that get in the way of ‘good help’.”
The group discussed the unhelpful clash between the ‘good help’ way of working and the ‘let's fix this’ style of working; how due to a lack of understanding of ‘good help’ delivery, they are expected to follow a particular process, or else be seen as ‘failing’ or ‘messing up’ the system. One organisation told the story of how they invited ‘fix it’ style stakeholders to taster sessions to experience their model and theory of change. By giving others the opportunity to experience first hand what they were all about, they enabled them to set realistic expectations and remove some of the restrictive red tape.
Performance measures - “It’s hard to measure what we do.”
Measurement tools can have a bad reputation due to the fact that often the tools organisations are expected to use are impersonal; they measure what is important to the system and not the person, and can get in the way of what really matters. The group shared some examples of how they have changed this and are now using performance measures as a tool to boost motivation, support behaviour change and add credibility and accountability to their work. They are achieving this by opening up the conversation on performance measurement to include the people they support and those who set the criteria. By having these 3 way conversations about why they have to measure things, and working together to see what is most useful, many found that their assumption that the people they support don’t want performance measures was challenged, and they learnt that measurements can be good if they feel genuine, like an asset, and rooted in what they do.
Skills - “What are the skills needed to deliver ‘good help’ and how do we find them and support them?”
The group spoke about the challenges around finding the right team to deliver ‘good help’. Many organisations spoke of wanting to deliver ‘good help’, but that their existing recruitment processes may not be designed to surface the skills of a ‘good help’ worker. Therefore they placed value on taking the time to ensure that recruitment processes are focused on finding those people and skills that are needed. The key take-away from this conversation was that organisations found it important to ask for help and co-create recruitment and training programmes with the people they want to support.
Funding - “The way services are commissioned can make it hard for ‘good help’.”
There were lots of conversations about funders’ lack of understanding of what organisations do, making them jump through hoops for small pots of money, and uncertainty about where the next round of funding is coming from. Some advice from the group was to really understand and be clear on what is mission critical to their work, and what things they can compromise on. They recommended flexibility where possible, and exploring other funding options - perhaps ones that in the past they’d had little experience of - as well as encouraging a different relationship with funders e.g. involving them in research/development, ensuring they have an interest and want what the organisation wants.
I’m extremely conscious of overly trivialising these challenges and solutions into an ‘Easy Top Tips’ or ‘How To’ style message where the so called top tips are so far removed from real practice. I know that these challenges run deep, are becoming ever more difficult and cannot always be solved by one person or organisation alone. I know that these organisations we’ve spoken with have worked tirelessly to continue to work in the way that they do and will have to continue to do so. It’s really not easy. I know from my own experience that I would not have always been able to take any of these steps mentioned above.
Putting all of this aside, what I hoped to achieve by writing this was to highlight that people are working hard against the odds to continue to help each other in meaningful ways. It’s clear from these solutions that people are challenging the barriers they face; they are looking to others for support and involving the people they support in their search for alternative solutions.
I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who came along to this workshop and for being so open and willing to share - you are all fantastic! Please continue to share the great work you are doing using #sharegoodhelp - it really is important.