Community Assets Approaches to Workforce Development

Part of the work of the Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens initiative is sparking interest at events in our questions about how organisations can take a community assets approach to workforce development. Here’s a story of a workshop we ran at Scottish Leaders Forum event a couple of weeks ago.  

Building momentum: Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens at the Scottish Leaders Forum 3/4th October 2013

The Scottish Leaders Forum (SLF) is a forum of Chief Executive level leaders from across Scotland’s public services.  About 150 members meet regularly to collaborate on different topics. Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens began during 2012 as a result of a commitment by members of the SLF to collaborate on community assets approaches to workforce development. One year on, SWSC was invited to run workshops to share where we’ve got to so far with this work – and encourage more public service organisations to join in.

The workshops were intended to reflect the content and feel of the Reference Group meetings held to date. This meant that front line workers and citizens should tell their stories directly to the fifty or so Chief Executives from right across public services who signed up. In the run-up, the organisers of the event questioned whether it was appropriate to bring along so many people – but after we explained the SWSC ethos and the mandate for our work to be ‘disruptive innovators’ to business as usual, we received good support to involve everyone (including a good lunch at the Beardmore Hotel where the event was staged):


Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens workshop presenters (left to right):
Ailie Macpherson (East Ayrshire Council Organisational Development Manager), Christina MacIvor (Threshold Crossreach ), Katie Kelly (Vibrant Communities Manager, East Ayrshire Council), Sergeant Janette Cameron (Gowkthrapple), Margaret Winchchole (Threshold Management Group member) , PC Susan Rooney (Gowkthrapple), Nick Wilding (Workforce Innovation Project Manager, SSSC), Inspector Kenny Morrison (Ferguslie Park), Constable Fiona Wilson (Gowkthrapple)

A key aim of the workshops was to encourage more organisations to consider getting involved. To this end, the SSSC communications team helped to design a postcard that went into all the delegate packs. This featured stills of different participants in SWSC to date taken from videos we have made. As I looked over the videos for good images with Jon from SSSC, we noticed that almost everyone in the films had been very animated, with lots of hand gestures. When turned into still images, we hoped that these might suggest the active and engaged sense of collaborative discovery, invention and honest exchange that has been a common factor across all the conversations in the work so far.

We offered two workshops of about an hour each. Each time, I (Nick) gave a brief overview of the story to date, emphasizing questions we have about the workforce development aspects of community assets work, before pioneers Threshold, Police Scotland and East Ayrshire Vibrant Communities each gave five minute presentations that told their story to date, evidence of impact of these new ways of working on both workers and citizens, and reflections on some key challenges re influencing their wider organisations to adopt and embody assets based approaches.

A question and answer session was then facilitated by Malcolm Wright (Chief Executive, NHS Education for Scotland) in the morning; and Christina Allon (Non-Executive Director, Scottish Government) in the afternoon.  The event organisers had requested that each workshop produce three insights:

Workshop 1 (am)

1.      Bringing community from the margins to the mainstream

2.       Service users as leaders, discovering their own skills

3.      Cutting through red tape, making things happen.

Workshop 2 (pm)

1.      ‘Listening’- hearts and minds. Asking not telling. A move away from command and control

2.       Workforce development and skills change. Tension between a professional judgment and customer desire / needs. Equalising power between the two groups.

3.      An ‘Asset’ approach is transferable to a wide range of settings. Similar principles apply.


Feedback on the workshops

Both of the workshops started late because previous sessions had over-run, leaving us without an opportunity to ask participants for feedback directly. However, several people came up to speak with presenters after both workshops and we picked up some feedback via Twitter and email afterwards. Comments included (anonymised):

·         I thought it was a really good session – and makes such a difference when you have input direct from the projects. I’ve copied in my colleagues x and y to see how best to take forward…

·         I’d really welcome you coming here to discuss further. I hadn’t made the strong connection between what we do in skills development with workforce dev requirements.

·         The level of energy and engagement throughout the event was testament to the quality of your presentations and workshops.

·         Skills required of the modern worker? Working with communities to identify the problems rather than imposing solutions #SLForum13

·         Wonderful, inspiring session on workforce development & community. Literally dripping with #ABCD. #SLForum13

·         The workshop was a bit dis-jointed (perhaps inevitably), and the early years theme was perhaps not strong enough, but it was very powerful getting the folk from the frontline speaking directly to the group.

And from SWSC pioneer contributors:

·         I enjoyed it and got a lot out of attending the event

·         We really enjoyed being there

·         Let’s do it again!

Video –


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