Collaborative changemaking in North Ayrshire

Published in Networking the change on 3 Apr 2024

The bees are back! Watching these amazing creatures leave their hibernation spots and fly around again this Spring has struck me as I look back on this year’s Foundations for Change work. I’m thinking particularly about the powerful hive mind that colleagues in North Ayrshire have engaged with over the last year to find collective solutions and network their changemaking across different organisations, teams and functions. Back in Autumn I wrote about sprints getting started as people got together to take action. As a result of that work over the winter colleagues have redeveloped spaces and channels for improving communication and collaboration between social care and support partners in the area, and grappled with making a more streamlined approach to managing waiting lists. A new list of potential change interventions have been identified, many of these with a focus on building capacity for community-led and preventative supports. We can see the power of the network growing. 

All this activity has needed people to step out of the day-to-day and connect with others in a shared space where different perspectives, priorities and ‘ways of doing’ had to be brought together with a new purpose. People involved have commented over the year about how being in that space has made a difference in breaking down assumptions they were holding, and that being able to hear where others are coming from makes them less ‘others’. 

That goes for both people who have the same employer (but work in different teams) or work in different organisations. As one person said “I’ve learned not to assume someone's title defines them. We are all people, it helps to break down barriers.”   

In our last workshop together in Saltcoats Town Hall, we asked people ‘what makes you a changemaker?' It’s a hard question to answer if you don’t see yourself with this identity, but people told us that it’s about being “open to new ideas and not scared to try things even if they don't work’’, building on “the influence of amazing colleagues past and present” and “great ideas… need help to make these actions”. Back to the hive we go for strength in numbers and help to make things happen. Everyone has been so willing to get out of their workplace silos, be open to learning and work with each other to take action.

Following the bee theme I found this advice on how to combine two beehives into one - making for a stronger bee colony with more reserves. It really resonated for me with how we’ve worked together over the last year, so I’ve added that into the brackets after each beekeeping tip!

  • Feed the bees. (A light working lunch is fuel for the body and brain, and makes a little space for people to chat and get to know each other a bit more.)
  • Keep things stable so they can get used to each other. (Have a series of sessions with some regularity and invite the same people back. Incorporate updates both written and verbal to keep everyone in the loop.)
  • Make a space that they can inhabit together. (Offer online and in-person sessions so people can join when and how they can, but still contribute to the shared work.)
  • Do what you can to keep everyone calm during what might be a stressful transition time. (Name real life pressures and uncertainties as well as recognise openness to listen, learn, speak up and act.)
  • Consolidation - allow time for it to happen - but check back in after a short while to see how it’s going. (Trust the people working on their innovation sprints! But make sure there’s a process in place so they feel supported and have somewhere to turn to when they hit a progress block.)

So to colleagues in North Ayrshire, keep on going! We’ve learned loads from you and we’re looking forward to seeing where you go next with your collaborative ideas.

Here's a short video from our most recent workshop for a flavour of what we’ve been doing!

Remote video URL