Pace and scale

This has been one of those weeks where lots of conversations have turned on some very similar questions. First, 24 hours in (beautiful) Aberdour just north of Edinburgh, courtesy of the International Futures Forum (IFF), whose ‘three horizons’ theory of change draws on paradigm-shift thinking to examine how to get from a disintergrating current reality to a not-yet-formed future one, via innovation. We were there with colleagues at Community Catalysts, In Control and Inclusive Neighbourhoods (with Inclusion North there in spirit) discussing how our combined knowledge about community- and citizen-led change could add up to more than the sum of its parts.

We talked quite a bit about pace and scale. How to move at a pace commensurate with the urgency of reforming a broken care and support system, but without risking falling over ourselves in the process. And how to achieve sufficient scale to move out of the periphery, when we are all champions for interventions which are fundamentally rooted in doing things on a people-sized basis. System-change can sometimes happen as fast as decision makers can write a new strategy or cut a funding stream, but if service systems are actually only a small part of creating caring, supportive and inclusive communities, what is the right pace to go about something which is less system change and more about creating a new eco-system?

Achieving the right pace and scale was also the way Peter Beresford put one of the conundrums we were discussing when we met up this morning to talk about collaborating on a think piece. Peter Chairs Shaping our Lives, a big network of small user-led organisations, and has thought long and hard about the possibilities and pitfalls of a ‘personalised’ care and support system.

Finally, our Head of Shared Lives, John and I met with Liz Kendall MP, who has championed Shared Lives, having visited Shared Lives households who are part of her local Leicester scheme (which has just announced expansion to support more older people). Liz talked about her determination to think at a human scale, despite the pull towards thinking big which comes when you spend your working life in the midst of policy discussions about huge national changes to legislation, benefits and services. We agreed that good things in social care usually happen on a small scale, whilst power usually operates on a large scale…

Shared Lives, which takes place in ordinary family homes, but within a national infrastructure which already reaches 15,000 people, suggests that there are solutions to that conundrum. The ‘micro-enterprise’ sector of very tiny, sometimes user-led social care enterprises, probably hasn’t yet achieved quite that scale whilst the other area of our members’ work, Homeshare, is still tiny in the UK. If more politicians, leaders and decision-makers take Liz’s big/small viewpoint, we might get closer to our ambition to see the use of ordinary family homes and close relationships as a mainstream part of delivering public services, but for now, that’s very much what the IFF would describe as a ‘third horizon’ idea.

Matthew Taylor made some very interesting interventions in the roundtable we held which he kindly hosted at RSA, on the draft Care and Support Bill, chaired by Paul Burstow MP. Matthew’s latest blog discusses re-examining “the way we think about economic and social value” and “our ambivalence about whether the child care and elder care is primarily a familial or a social responsibility”. Matthew mentions that he will focus on creating ‘the care society” in his annual RSA lecture and given that he thinks very big, but has been a consistent champion of Shared Lives, circles of support and other people-sized solutions, it will be interesting to hear what ideas he has in mind.

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