Event report: Transforming Local Systems

March 06, 2019

On 5 March 2019 we were delighted to host Transforming Local Systems: the national conference for the MEAM Approach network.

The event brought together the 27 MEAM Approach areas across the country, people with direct experience of multiple disadvantage, the partnership leads from the National Lottery Community Fund’s Fulfilling Lives network and MEAM staff.

The focus of the day was on the leadership role that individuals and partnerships in local areas can play in transforming the systems that surround them.  This was timely, as the vast majority of MEAM Approach areas are now delivering interventions and are well-placed to use this learning to drive change.

Below we provide an overview of the event based on the tweets, presentations and speeches from the day.

Reflections on the year

The day started with three reflections on the last year from Anne (Cambridgeshire), Paul (Surrey) and Tassie (MEAM).

Keynote: Commissioning in Complexity

The first keynote speech was from Dr Toby Lowe, Northumbria University.  Toby focused on the role that commissioners should play in a world of complex problems. He had one key message that he wanted the audience to take away…

Keynote: What are the building blocks needed for systems change?

The second keynote speech was given by Anna Randle from Collaborate.  Anna argued that public services and public servants have a key role to play in changing systems, and that to do so they need to ensure that ten building blocks are in place in local areas.  MEAM Approach partners need to reach out across their local systems and ensure that others share their vision.

Workshop 1: Everyone on board – creating buy-in and a role for your strategic board

This workshop explored the barriers and solutions to getting an effective strategic board up and running in a MEAM Approach area.  Key insights were provided by staff from the Norwich and Doncaster MEAM Approach areas, who spoke about the shared leadership they had been able to create across their localities. Workshop slides and materials are here.

Workshop 2: Commissioning in complexity – what does it really take?

In this workshop, Dr Toby Lowe helped delegates to think about what it really takes to be a commissioner in a complex environment and how nurturing and shaping the ‘purpose’ of the system is better than focusing on outcomes.  Workshop materials are available here and the link to the Plymouth example is here.

Workshop 3: Systems thinking – what is it and how can it help my area?

In the final workshop, MEAM staff helped delegates to de-mystify the concept of systems thinking and look at how they could practically apply it in their local areas.  The workshop aimed to answer three key questions: (1) Why bother thinking about systems? (2) What does it mean to do ‘systems thinking’? and (3) What practical tools can I use?  Delegates looked at system behaviours vs. traditional ones, tried out causal loop diagrams and were introduced to action inquiry. Workshop slides are available here.

Panel session: The role of coproduction in transformational change

Our final  panel session was formed of a brilliant group of speakers.  Adam and Joe from West Yorkshire Finding Independence spoke about why coproduction is different from user involvement; Charlie and Rachel from Basingstoke & Deane explained why you can’t create systems change without involving people with experience of multiple disadvantage; Jason from Bristol Golden Key looked at what’s most important when involving people; and Helen from MEAM spoke about the need to recognise and respond to power when working on coproduction.  The debate was thoughtfully chaired by Anne from Cambridgeshire.

And our poet in residence, Adam, closed the day…

In the morning, all delegates had been asked to write down one success from the last year and one hope for the next twelve months.  Adam from West Yorkshire, who runs Ad Verse, had used these to create a poem for the day, which we are delighted to share with you as it sums up so many themes from the conference.

Next steps

Thank you to everyone who attended and made the day a success. Please contact your Partnership Manager if you would like their support in taking forward any of the ideas that you took from the conference.  Dates for our learning hubs in 2019 will be announced soon and we look forward to seeing you at the next event.