Holding a Mirror Up
Reflections on the project
This Learning Review describes three changes that occurred for participants during the ‘Discovering Your Communities Experiences’ stage of the project.
These changes included: changed mindset, changed relationships and learning. The reports also show ‘how’ the Relationships First enabled these changes, through: preparation, bringing together different kinds of knowledge and careful coordination.
Demonstration projects of this kind are not without their challenges, and participants gave honest feedback about the tensions they experienced. These challenges are shared in this Learning Review, so that others wishing to enable system change, can see tensions that needed to be balanced.
To help this project balance these tensions, the Learning Review concludes with opportunities and suggestions that might help to enrich the possibility for changed relationships, changed mindsets and learning.
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Using the Learning Review to move forward on the Relationships First project
On Thursday September 19th, team members from the Relationships First project gathered over Zoom to discuss the findings from the learning review and share stories about the project’s impact on them.
As the researcher leading on the learning review, I hoped that it would hold a mirror up to the team and help them to see the strengths of their work together. I also hoped our discussion create an opportunity to acknowledge the challenges and tensions they faced, so they can use this learning in the final phase of the project.
Seeing the strengths, and the challenges, in our reflection
When I asked if the learning review felt true to their experience, team members said the insights “hit the nail on the head” and help to “remind us of where we were at the time”. Team members reflected the findings reminded them of the motivation and “mojo” that they had in the first phase of the project.
As we discussed the findings from the review, and their own experiences of the project, there seemed to be renewed commitment to “get on with the good work”. As one team member put it: “It’s good to reflect cause we had such momentum then. It’s good to be reminded of what we were thinking of now that we’re going into the next phase. It’s good to get my mojo back”.
In Thursday’s discussion, team members were also honest in that there are very real challenges in this way of working. The experience of putting love and relationships first in this project brought up “new feelings and opinions that we’ve never felt before”. And team members reflected that the project had a few “difficult months”.
Using reflection to learn and move forward
The learning review helps to identify and give a language to the tensions in the project. For example, there was a tension in the first phase of the project between ‘sticking to the plan’ and being ‘responsive’ to the needs of the people in the room. The report highlights that tensions can be a normal part of complex system change and makes a suggestion that the team may wish to acknowledge and ‘work with’ these challenges, rather than trying to ‘solve them’.
It was heartening for some of the team to “be reminded that it’s okay to be unsure” and to know that “you’re not alone” in your experience. But team members still emphasised that the “intensity of the challenges” and the “limiting” effect these challenges had on the project’s progress can’t be fully captured in this review as it only covers the first phase of the project.
All the more reason to ensure that learning and reflection are core parts of the ongoing work of the Relationships First project, and any embedding Falkirk Council may wish to do.
In keeping with the findings from the learning review, Thursday’s discussion showed the personal, professional and emotional work involved in making changes to leaving care service provision. It showed the commitment of the team. And it revealed the challenges they’ve faced. More than anything else, I think it gave the team time to talk honestly together – and an opportunity to reinvigorate their commitment to demonstrating how love and relationships can be at the heart of leaving care service provision in Falkirk.