Thursday, April 11, 2019
Amanda Bennett, Network Partnerships Officer with the Frontline Network, talks about her experience of recently attending The Children’s Society Systems Changers event in Birmingham.
A couple of weeks ago we headed up to Birmingham to attend a ‘Systems Changers’ event organised by The Children’s Society (TCS). The event placed a spotlight on some of the amazing work that their staff have been undertaking on systemic issues affecting young people, through participating in a 9-month Lankelly Chase funded ‘Systems Changers’ programme.
TCS staff spoke candidly about their experiences, key reflections on their learning, how they had started embedding new ways of approaching their work and noted that whilst the 9-month process had been uncomfortable at points, it had re-inspired them.
Sarah Wayman, Campaigns Manager, passionately spoke about the power of language; how detrimental our choice of words and descriptions about young people can be to a person’s experience. Highlighting some of her work around positive language use, she outlined how she had been encouraged by TCS to draw on her creativity to bring a new dimension into her work. Her infectious love and use of zines showed us how being encouraged to introduce some simple, creative elements into our daily work, in her case- with young people- can give us the power to really explore and develop new approaches to our work.
All staff spoke openly about their experiences of Systems Changers, stressing how the process had removed them from their comfort zones, challenged their thinking, their work practice and most importantly- how this had provided them with the confidence to pursue and question things that they might not normally have felt comfortable to do so. People highlighted ‘professional fatigue’ which had led to anxiety. Through a Systems Change lens, it allowed staff to challenge everything they had done and learnt so far, critique it and then review and refocus. Central to a lot of the process was using creativity. Other brilliant examples of this can be seen on their Systems Changers page here.
Two staff highlighted a training pilot being run with a Police force’s custody staff- to improve staff understanding of young peoples’ experiences when entering and leaving custody; to improve safe guarding during and after. Other areas of focus included work on criminal exploitation and risk; looking into the gendered differences and experiences between male and female profiling- whether experiences were seen as sexual or criminal exploitation.
The afternoon showed us that by providing support, encouragement and a safe space, you can encourage creative thought and new approaches. However, it also highlighted that this requires a commitment from an employer to fully invest in this, but by doing this, it can reinvigorate, re-inspire optimism and re-energise the tenacity of frontline staff, even whilst working in the current uncertain environment of reform.
At the Frontline Network, we believe strongly in the importance of supporting the wellbeing of frontline staff and the people they work with. We left the event reminded of the importance of keeping a spotlight on the value of frontline workers; what they bring to an organisation, not just within their role and job description, but the diversity of unique qualities and insight that can be drawn on and influence their approaches.
If you’re interested in their systems changers work check them out!
If you’re interested in finding out more about Sarah’s work, she’s organising an informal meet-up to discuss the Power of language and how change can be created on 25th April at The Children's Society in London. Please see here for details.