Doing social work and social care differently

Approaches and tools
Published in Tools on 13 Dec 2021

The context

In our response to the National Care Service consultation, we propose that social work and social care support needs to fundamentally change to meet the needs of the people of Scotland.

Our response –worth a read to get the gist of our views –  asserts that the social work and social care workforce need the right conditions to do their best work. These conditions are freed of a focus on finance, process and paperwork to make room for relationship-led support. 

So how do we create the conditions for this to happen? How do we support you to get started?

Try out approaches

The answer is: experiment. We believe there’s no one answer, no silver bullet, and that it’s important to explore different approaches to improvement and innovation.

We also know that successful change often relies on individual relationships and organisational ‘fit’, rather than a single method or approach.

To find out what works for you will take trial, and yes, possibly even error, before landing on an approach that fits. 

This page shares tools, resources and conversations to help you get started. They will support you build relationships, reflect on practice, and experiment with approaches. You could use one, or a number of them. 

We are happy and open to supporting you on your change journey. Get in touch

Tools and resources 

Involve those affected by the change

We must ensure that innovation and improvement of social care support is co-produced with those with lived experience. Whatever process you want change, be sure and include those who are affected by the change. Otherwise, it risks resulting in poor outcomes for people. 

Co-production Project Planner – the Iriss Co-production Project Planner presents tools to work effectively with people and communities. It focuses on putting ideas into action. You don’t need to be an expert in co-production. Work through the guide and see how you get on.  

Get practitioners and managers reflecting

Space and the right context and culture for innovation is critical to the success of any approach. It's important for teams to ask questions – reflect on the success of the support available and whether there is room for improvement.

Outcomes & CO – the Outcomes & CO tool supports practitioners and managers to have open, honest conversations about better lives for people. 

Partnerships & CO – the Partnerships & CO tool provides a framework for having conversations that can support a good partnership.

Community of enquiry – our Community of enquiry guide helps you set up a workshop-style session that offers space for a group of people to collaboratively explore ideas and ask rich and meaningful questions of each other. It is based around principles of trust and exploration, and helps people, either from a single team or a cross-organisational team, come together to share knowledge and experiences. 

Appreciative inquiry – an action research approach that provides opportunities to explore real change across public services in Scotland. Our evidence summary on the topic details how it supports looking at old practices in new ways – ways that disrupt established patterns of thinking and move them in a positive direction. 

Get experimenting

To try out a new way of doing social work or social care it's important to experiment with different styles and approaches to improvement. Below is information and resources to guide you. 

Human Learning Systems – an approach that starts with the belief that public service exists to support human freedom and flourishing.

The Human learning Systems website and book.  

Listen to Toby Lowe, Visiting Professor of Public Management at the Centre for Public Impact; and Diana Hekerem, Head of Transformational Redesign Support at Healthcare Improvement Scotland talk about the Human Learning Systems approach.

Presentations from an event that explores how to commission health and social care differently, with a focus on Human Learning Systems. 

Systems innovation learning resource – a website with guides and tools to help you on your journey of systems change. 

Would you like to learn more?
We offer hosted sessions expanding on our tools and their use. Contact for more information.