Creative things happen when I see new things

Published in Features on 28 Oct 2014

For me creative things happen when I see new things, or old things in a new light, and need to make sense of what I have seen in order to act upon this new perspective.

Social workers make sense of people and situations all the time. They use many different sources of evidence and different senses to build a picture, question it and act upon it. Yet, when trying to support other people to make sense of how they feel and are behaving, sense making tends to rely upon verbal, audio and literary comprehension. They don’t get to build as full a picture in the way social workers do. Why not? Is this really the best way to understand and support people?

Supporting people to make sense of their situation, and the social work system, is a complex task. For social workers, making sense of an ever-changing social work system and service is an additional, and ongoing task. Neither of these complex and fluid sense-making activities are going to dissipate, so what can we build into the current system to support people as they engage in these activities? I am pleased to say many things, but believe much more needs to be developed and evidenced.

For example, to support a person explore their individual ways of making sense of themselves and their lives the International Future Forum has developed various kit bags for individuals, families and in schools (

Using methods such as physical materials, computer packages and ipad apps is another way to share the experience of making sense of themselves (,,, Witty)

During discussions, to support people see the bigger picture and key details, graphic facilitation techniques are being used (,

And to become aware of, explain, and make sense of services, maps are being created to support people learn and facilitate discussions about the kind of support people can access and expect (Throughcare Map).

We live in a complex word with so much knowledge, so may perspectives and numerous experiences. We all need support to make sense of ourselves, others and the world around us. We could create many more tools and engage in many more facilitative sense making processes to support our attunement to what we think our priorities are and how we are going to engage with these priorities.

However, we are at an early stage of augmenting social work practice with such tools and techniques, and we need more evidence to better understand the cost/benefit analysis of enabling social workers to support people make sense of the world in which they live and the world in which they want to live.