What do we mean by change?

Published on 26 Jun 2014

‘And that is how change happens. 
One gesture. One person. 
One moment at a time’
— Libba Bray

But what do we mean by change, and what do we want to change and why?

I think we all accept that we need to change things in the social care and support sector. Budget cuts, an increase in older populations and existing social and health inequalities means there are many opportunities where the workforce need support to make the changes people aspire to in their lives. Change is a word that we use when we mean a lot of different things. It also comes in many vernacular guises: innovation, improvement, transformation, which all sound good, but what do we mean when we use them?

How we choose to think about change is important in relation to how we approach and enact change in the world. I am sure there are many way in which change, innovation, improvement and transformation have been conceptualized, however I’d like to share some practical ways to Meroni and Sangiorgi (2011) identified after analysing case studies where service design practitioners worked with people to change services. Meroni and Sangiorgi believe there are four ways in which services can be supported to change. I think about these as four different levels, from the ground up, but in reality they are all interdispersed and inform and feed into one another. However I think these views are useful when focusing upon the kind of change I hope to influence through my project work at IRISS. These four ways of thinking about change in services in practice include changes to:

  1. Interactions – people’s interpersonal relationships and experiences
  2. Systems – how many people interact
  3. Services – how service models operate
  4. Futures – how strategies effect interactions, systems and services

What is common to each of these views is that change is enacted by and with the people that change aims to effect. Examples of collaborative and participatory types of change include:

  • Case study 1: How an experience based design approach has been used to change interpersonal relationships in the NHS
  • Case study 2: How a co-design approach has been used to respond to the needs to families with complex needs to enable them to live stable lives.
  • Case study 3: How thinking about the psychological impact of an environment can support the design of that environment when people collaborate to providing care.
  • Case study 4: Imagining and testing how communities’ can utilised their assets to create new value networks.