Practice development: collaborative working in social care
Why use collaborative methodology?
This is just good social work practice and a way of embedding evidence-based changes.(Quote from participant)
Collaborative methodology is valuable in a number of ways, at different organisational levels.
- Develop a culture of continuous improvement.
- Listen to, value and empower the workforce.
- Encourage practitioners to focus on the evidence base for their practice.
- Develop a clear focus on the organisation’s purpose and outcomes for people using the service.
- Improve organisational structures and processes.
- Improve the quality of service provision.
- Improve the transparency of decision making.
- Benefit from the knowledge and experience of front-line practitioners.
- Focus on roles and responsibilities for ensuring that systems and structures are in place to support workers.
- Establish a feedback loop.
- Motivate the workforce by empowering them to lead on change management.
- Develop an environment that respects the time required for reflective practice.
- Incorporate change management into day-to-day processes.
- Develop a team approach to the identification of common barriers and solutions.
- Improve levels of consistency in practice.
- Facilitate a focus on a particular problem.
- Reduce change into ‘bite-size’ pieces that seem more achievable.
- Replace anecdotal evidence with concrete data.
- Reveal areas of unwritten practice.
- Validate people’s work and ideas.
- Develop an evidence base on areas of service/resource deficit.
- Develop reflective practice and a solution-focused approach.
- Share concerns and experiences with others – do not struggle in isolation.
- Share ideas and good practice.
- Identify learning and development needs.
- Contribute to continuous professional development required for registration.
- Take a key role, not only in using evidence, but in creating it, thus producing management information.
- Influence change at different levels within the organisation and with external partners – see and benefit from practitioner-led changes.
- Increased levels of involvement.
- Improvements to service delivery.
Challenges and opportunities
- Compatibility between organisations – whether or not it is advantageous to work with similar or dissimilar organisations on a given issue needs to be considered at the outset.
- A whole-systems approach is needed – the method focuses on one section of an organisation when real change needs to involve all sections of the chain. The practice-based evidence, therefore, needs to be taken seriously and to be used to influence change at different levels, thus creating a ripple effect.
- Senior managers can only be expected to agree to listen to the findings and be open to considering change – they cannot agree to act on findings at the outset when they do not know what they might be. There is benefit in senior management participation even if only at the project start and end meetings.
- The coordinator’s approach/ability/commitment is key to the success of the project.
- Good preparation is vital to ensure that all participants are clear about the process and recording methods from the outset.
- In some cases, change may be political and elected members may be required to support change. This may be difficult to influence.
- Practitioners faced with questions about their practice may respond defensively –this issue emphasises the importance of the role of practitioners as creators of knowledge and influencers of change. The absence of external facilitators may be an advantage in this regard.
- It is possible that unacceptable practice is discovered during the project – a protocol for reporting and dealing with this should be prepared in advance.
- There should be consideration of a longer-term approach – changes and practice improvements could end with the project.
- Crisis management often prevails and it is difficult to develop and maintain a culture of reflective practice in this environment.