The Connecting People study is in the midst of its final phase of data collection and is on schedule to complete later in 2012.
The outcome of the Connecting People study will be an intervention model and manual to support health and social care workers in their practice. Developed from observations of good practice in six different agencies, and informed by social capital theory, it will provide workers with an intervention framework to help people to connect with others.
Just before Christmas we published a draft of the intervention model on the study’s blog. We would like to engage people providing or receiving social care in discussion about the model. Please see below for a static view of the model, or click here to view an animated version.
The model assumes a worker-individual partnership dyad. This is not a rigid prescription, merely a way of representing how the model may function. It is conceivable that the model may encompass peer-support models of practice, for example, with peer supporters undertaking both functions simultaneously. It also permits a ‘service user’ (denoted as ‘individual’ in our model) to become a ‘worker’ as roles evolve over time, possibly bringing the green and blue circles into alignment with one another.
The model is based upon the principles of co-production. Rather than a traditional model of workers ‘doing’ and individuals ‘receiving’, workers and individuals co-create the objectives and actions within the model together. The model represents a shared journey of discovery with inputs being invested and outcomes being produced for both the worker and the individual. The New Economics Foundation manifesto for co-production provides an excellent and accessible introduction to the concept and what it means for public services.
At the top of the model are some pre-requisites which need to be in place before the wheels of the intervention cycle can begin to spin. The worker needs to have empathy, a ‘can do’ attitude and be a natural networker, while the individual they are working with needs to have some enthusiasm for engaging in this process and ownership over it. Together, the worker and individual work in partnership which includes the shared attributes of confidence, flexibility, lived experience (ideally), openness and trust. These individual and shared attributes are based on our observations of practice and are certainly not exhaustive. We are interested in your thoughts about whether or not you think they are necessary. Will the model work without them? If they are necessary, what might be missing from these suggestions?
The intervention model is not a traditional linear process of a worker doing something for or with the individual and an outcome occurring as a result of this. We have used two interlocking circles to represent the fluidity of the process and the uncertainty about when, or if, social network development will occur. The components of the model are as follows:
Shared development of objectives and activities (represented by the square in the middle). This is the heart of the model because it represents the co-produced activities. When the worker and individual meet for the first time in the context of this model, they discuss the life goals of the individual and they develop a realistic strategy together to help him or her achieve this. The activities may be in the context of what the agency provides or it may be additional to that. Some underpinning elements of these activities may include network (and asset) assessment; objective development; inspiration; facilitation; meeting expectations; orientation; sign-posting; skill recognition and feedback.
An individual’s journey (represented by the blue circle on the right). This is the focus of the intervention process as it is where the social network development is expected to occur. Although we are in the processing of finessing the process, we expect it to involve the individual being exposed to new ideas; being introduced to new people and activities; the development of skills and interests; development of social confidence; and building currency (both personal and social). We have deliberately omitted any details about what the individual and worker might do within this process as it is up to them to co-produce the activities. However, we hypothesise that social network development may occur at any point in this process. If you click here for the animated version, and click on the graphic, the circles will rotate and illustrate that social network development may occur at any point as a bi-product of the process.
Barriers to social network development (represented by the circle within the blue circle) work in the opposite direction to the intervention cycle and can pose considerable challenges for some individuals. These may include stigma; physical health problems; complicated external lives; countervailing attitudes of self and the organisation providing the context for the intervention; ‘bad’ social capital (I’ll write more on this in another post another day…); lack of information; or poor access to services. These barriers will present the worker with a number of challenges, and are likely to be the most time-consuming element of their work.
The worker’s journey (represented by the green circle on the left) is equally as important in the intervention process as the individual’s. This assumes that the worker will need to develop their own social network knowledge in order to support the individual on their journey. Workers will need to build relationships; foster trust; identify opportunities; engage with the local community of the individual; develop their own networks and resources; adapt to new ideas; and utlise their contacts in the process of supporting the individual they are working with. At any point, they may need to provide extra support or reassess their involvement, while the individual they are working with may need to seek advice from them and develop their own self-awareness of their journey.
The agency context (represented by the orange square in the top left hand corner) is also fundamental as without a supportive organisation the process is unlikely to occur. There are a number of features of a supportive agency context including modelling of good practice; skill sharing; community engagement and good local knowledge. The agency can provide a physical environment which facilitates social connections and can provide useful connections with community resources which individual workers may not have. Shared knowledge of the local community and the intervention model held by the agency can prevent interventions failing when workers leave. This can also help to reduce reliance on individual workers who may be the only ones to hold connections within the local community.
As I said at the start of this post, this model is very much a work in progress. It is being refined as new observations are made in the course of the field work and as people comment on it. It will be further refined in a Delphi consultation involving numerous stakeholders next year. However, we are keen to receive comments on it now to move our thinking forward and help us to ensure that this will be feasible in practice. Please use the comment facility on this blog or email me your thoughts.