complex social issues human learning systems

Dealing with Complex Social Challenges

This year we have been supported massively by the Tudor Trust, and back in June I attended a stimulating day devoted to complex social challenges that was hosted by the Tudor Trust and led by Toby Lowe from Northumbria University.

The main premise of the day is in essence very simple and obvious: complex social challenges are beyond the control of any one organisation.

However, as simple and obvious as it may be, how organisations operate can sometimes overlook this. Organisations set or are required to set targets or KPIs assuming that they are achievable unilaterally. This can be quite counterproductive, often preventing collaboration and stopping people telling the truth.

An alternative approach was suggested that draws on ‘human learning systems’, which you can read more about in the full ‘Exploring the New World’ paper, but essentially focuses on:

  • Human – responding to the variety of human needs, understanding the life of others, their strengths and trusting people with decision making. This requires long term funding without KPIs.
  • Learning – as a continuous process, because what works can change and organisations need to keep adapting.
  • Systems – complex challenges need a collaborative approach; we need systems stewards who will help create healthy systems. A healthy system is one where people see themselves as part of an interconnected whole, each bringing their resources and strengths, sharing a common vision. Power is shared and decision making is devolved. Open trusting relationships enable effective dialogue and good feedback which results in adaptation and leadership which can be collaborative.

I realise that intuitively FACES has been operating in this way. We are aware that child abuse is a complex challenge and that organisations need to work together to bring solutions. FACES is itself a coming together of many trusting, collaborative relationships. We also seek to work collaboratively with others working in this area, where appropriate being a systems steward, enabling this co-operation.

It is encouraging to realise we are doing this part right.

If you want to know more about the work of Northumbria University in this area, you can read this online paper: Exploring the new world: Practical insights for funding, commissioning and managing in complexity

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