In this article, Siobhan explains the role that coaching plays in supporting practitioners and leaders as they adopt and adapt innovations in Strengthening Families.
Coaching is a core part of the support offered to local authorities adopting and adapting an innovation. In Strengthening Families, we use a model of coaching developed by the Innovation Unit who, along with Mutual Ventures and SCIE, are support partners to the Programme.
Innovation coaches provide:
- One-to-one coaching support to ambitious senior leaders to help them lead the work.
- Challenge and support around the discipline of innovation, including the complex task of adapting a successful model to a new context.
- Mentoring change teams to support the culture change required to make innovation sustainable.
Fundamental to this approach, as it is for all coaching, is a focus on asking questions, listening and providing a supportive space for reflection and for problem-solving through challenge and accountability.
Coaching is different from other approaches, such as teaching, training or managing in that it assumes resourcefulness and capability, and works to bring these into play.
Innovation coaching for adopters: Deep dives and theories of change
In the context of No Wrong Door, North Yorkshire’s SFPC innovation, we have been coaching five local authorities over the last year and a half: Middlesbrough, Rochdale, Warrington, Norfolk and Redcar & Cleveland. Taking our innovation coaching model as the basis for our work, we devised a programme of support that built on all the expert input from North Yorkshire. Our work started with disciplining innovation and mentoring change teams, and is now focused more on growing and supporting leaders.
So what does this look like?
After North Yorkshire’s intensive ‘Discovery’ process with each local authority – through which the adopter authority team learn all about the No Wrong Door model and create a detailed budget and plan – coaching begins to help the process of adapting the model in the local context.
To do this, we run Deep Dive sessions, which explore the stories and voices of real young people. This process helps teams to engage with the experience of being ‘looked after’ from the perspective of adolescents and their families and to think about how the service could be improved to better meet their needs.
The Deep Dives are a great process for reflection, which staff members found useful. They were really a child-centred approach, highlighting the importance of relationships and particularly looking at the long term aspirations of young people, which is crucial to No Wrong Door.
After the Deep Dives, comes Theory of Change, a group process for exploring ‘the change we want to see’, where we are starting from and the outcomes we want to achieve over a specified period. This session involves Children’s Social Care staff and partners from health, the police and the voluntary sector, as well as elected members and other key decision-makers.
What I remember from those sessions was that we tended to jump to the endpoint. (The coaches) were very good at bringing it back. Several times at the start they asked us ‘What were the young person’s formative years like?’ and at each stage they made us think: ‘What would the young person be feeling? ‘What would be their concerns at that point?’ We probably spent more time really thinking about that than we would have done if we’d done that ourselves.
Coaching for design
Following on from the demanding, disciplined work of Theory of Change, we re-group with the core team leading the change process in each authority to work through a design process. This session brings together all the learning and thinking from the Deep Dives and Theory of Change, and focuses on creating each authority’s own version of No Wrong Door, supporting each team to ask:
- What will the service be called?
- What will the NWD Hub look like, as a physical space, but also in terms of staffing?
- What will the practice model be, that is, what is going to underpin our work? Will we use Signs of Safety or Restorative Practice, Motivational Interviewing, a trauma-informed approach?
- And last but not least, what will be our provocations – the questions that make us all stop and think, and hold us to account?
Adopter authorities come up with many creative design solutions for their No Wrong Door service, but all of them hold on to North Yorkshire’s provocation: ‘Would this be good enough for my child?’
After this process, as coaches, we step back and let the North Yorkshire team get on with the in-depth work of helping the adopter authority recruit and train their Hub team and launch their service. Once this milestone has been achieved, we step back in to offer one to one coaching support to the Hub Manager.
The journey of adopting and adapting an innovation is never over; as coaches, we provide support and challenge along the way, walking side by side with the teams who are making change happen for young people and their families.