Teach a man to fish...Sustainable whole system transformation in Thurrock

Featured article - 21 December 2017
Les Billingham, head of adult services at Thurrock Council

Head-shot of the author, Les Billingham, head of adult services at Thurrock Council

‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.’ That pharase has become synonymous with the idea of sustainability. Furthermore, the old model of community development, ‘doing to’, is now recognised as largely ineffective, whereas, asset-based models that seek to ‘do with’, which harness the passion, interest and strengths of people and communities, are very much seen as the way forward.

Having a sustainable food source with which to feed your family is an important end in itself, imbuing someone with a sense of purpose and engaging them in meaningful social activities, is arguably as important for their well-being.

Whole system re-design of health and well-being services in Thurrock is predicated on these strengths-based principles and the importance of co-production in all aspects of community development and service transformation. Partnership sits at the heart of this endeavor along with a willingness to learn from a whole range of pre-existing approaches from around the world.

For the last few years Thurrock has identified pioneering approaches from around the globe and used them to build a strategic approach to re-imagining the whole system. Starting with Local Area Coordination and asset-based community development, Thurrock has implemented, or is in the process of introducing, a wide range of innovations that share a common, strengths based, philosophy. These innovations include:

  • Introducing well-being teams to deliver care and support at home
  • Supporting the development of Micro-Enterprises
  • Shared Lives
  • Piloting a new way of delivering assessment and care management using the People2People model.

Local relationships

Thurrock has only been able to introduce such a complex range of innovations because of the quality of the partnerships that exist locally - and across the country – from those who share our vision and ideals. Chief amongst these is the relationship we have established with our local third sector organisations and our communities, a relationship expressed within the local Stronger Together partnership. We are also fortunate in having strong relationships with our CCG, other health partners and other key council departments, the latter being sometimes the most difficult to establish. These relationships are based upon trust and a shared passion for change. As such they mirror the relationships we have established with individuals and communities which remain at the heart of our vision.

Finally, nothing is possible without committed system leaders that are prepared to take risks and give permission to be creative and we are fortunate in Thurrock to have such local leaders working here. Having such leaders provides hope and assurance that we will achieve the changes necessary to build a resilient and sustainable local system; one that will deliver excellent outcomes despite the significant challenges we all face.

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