Written by Graeme Sinnott, Head of Insight and Learning, CSP Network (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On 11 July, 80 senior CSP staff, Board members and partners attended an action learning themed event to discuss placed-based challenges and opportunities, and how through developing collaborative leadership approaches and by thinking like a system we can seek to make sport and physical activity everyone’s business. Supported by Leeds Beckett University, Lankelly Chase, CSPs and the CSPN National Team, the day provided colleagues with an opportunity to reflect on and debate their local challenges and opportunities in addressing inactivity.
Aligning agendas and working towards mutual goals a common challenge for us all
An example CSP local challenge: Can we get the arrows moving in the same direction?
Colleagues started the day by sketching their own challenges. Local circumstances underpinned each one as you’d expect but there were themes across the drawings around trying to align the agendas of stakeholders and through a collaborative approach have everyone moving in the same direction towards mutual goals. Some CSPs are seeking to achieve this by facilitating a social movement in their area. There was also a clear acknowledgement of the need to be focused and prioritised in our action and many CSPs are seeking to integrate into the key challenges and strategies within their areas.
The problems we are trying to resolve are complex and both tame and wicked
The morning discussions debated the nature of the problems we are trying to solve. And there was no definitive conclusion. Some problems simply need fixing and likely can be fixed. And we should get on and do it. Other problems are so vast, multi-faceted and deep rooted that ultimately there is no fixed solution.A tame problem is one that can be solved by choosing and applying the correct algorithm. A wicked problem, however, is one for which there is no known algorithm to solve it.
We need to think differently about how we approach the challenges
We cannot solve wicked problems with tame solutions. Wicked problems require wicked solutions.Linked to discussions around prioritisation, colleagues considered the need to find the ‘vital few’ people locally, the 20% who can impact upon the 80%; the Pareto Principle.
If you have a list of ten items to accomplish, two of those items will turn out to be worth more than the other eight items put together.
The afternoon of the event focused on supporting individuals to consider how they can create the biggest impact locally with limited resources, often limited authority and within the context of tame solutions having more short term demonstrable impact but wicked problems highlighting the need for mutual accountability where evidence of impact may often be less tangible.
We can impact upon the challenges by thinking like a system
With challenges that feel so enormous it can often feel like where and how to start is itself a difficult enough question. Collaborative leadership, thinking like a system and other relevant terminology was discussed on how it could support individuals with their local challenges. There was a particular focus on the behaviours and skills required but also pragmatic ways of working we could adopt immediately.
- Don’t try to fix a ‘whole system’– start somewhere and go everywhere. Interfere within inter-related systems by developing individuals with action inquiry at their heart.
- Build behaviours – lead by example in developing and displaying the positive behaviours that we want all parts of systems to display.
- Start and end certain relationships – if an organisation is not developing what is needed to connect systems together then do something about it. Do not reward what is not working.
- Re-frame the way we think about solutions – sometimes a challenge or opportunity needs a mindset, not necessarily an intervention.
- Connect previously unconnected parts of systems – person centred services will only come from the relevant organisations connecting around mutual goals.
Continuing the journey
The event was a different format to the usual learning platforms we provide. More space for debate and reflection, and an increased focus on helping colleagues to develop and apply thinking and learning through their own local challenges is a structure that received positive feedback and one we will be exploring further moving forward.
The initial next steps we will be taking in response to colleagues requests will be;
i) Understanding how we support individual CSPs to develop and apply the required thinking, behaviours and ways of working to resolve local challenges and maximise opportunities
ii) Refine our action learning approach to help CSPs collaborate with similar CSPs in terms of characteristics, priorities and strategies
iii) Maximise the opportunities presented by the new Performance Management and Improvement Framework for CSPs to support shared learning and articulate our impact
iv) Develop and enhance tools and guidance that facilitate consistent, robust and pragmatic measurement at a local level of the 5 social outcomes within the Government Strategy
Please do continue to share with us your ideas on how you are seeking to make sport and physical activity everyone’s business locally.
Capturing the story
A graphic recorder captured throughout the day the themes emerging from the discussions. Click on the image to view a full size version (you will need to be logged in).
Recommended reading was provided for colleagues in advance of the event that outlined the concepts of collaborative leadership, thinking like a system and other such relevant concepts. The materials can be found in the links below.
- Behaving like a system, Collaborate and Lankelly Chase. This report examines the preconditions for systems change in a place: Link
- How to lead when you have no authority, Matt Russell. Four pillars to increase your influence: Link
- Collaborative Leadership - Results across organisational boundaries, Oxford leadership: Link
- Nine leadership dimensions, Leadership Academy NHS: Link
- Blog - The Power of Place, Power to Change: Link
- Encouraging evidence-informed practice through Action Learning, Alliance for Useful Evidence. As referenced in the principles above: Link
- Blog: Are we just talking about working effectively in a place, CSP Network