Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens: November 2013 update

This blog is one of a regular series highlighting key events and developments with the Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens initiative. Please don’t hold back in offering suggestions, feedback or other comments…

Whilst the focus of October was reaching out to generate widening interest in our work, this month has both continued this work whilst also following up –turning initial curiosity of people who have been told – or independently heard – about the initiative into participation as pioneer sites. It’s been an exciting month of meeting a great number of assets practitioners and strategists who share a commitment to shaping Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens going forward.

This post attempts to capture and share key points from many of these conversations – but first, a reflection on an event called ‘Writing our Story’ that was hosted by the Permanent Secretary in the Parliament on November 18th

Writing our Story event, November 18th

Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens is one of three initiatives engaged with workforce development priorities of the Scottish Leaders’ Forum (with the Permanent Secretary, Sir Peter Housden). The idea behind this event (co-ordinated by Janet Whitley at the Scottish Government) was to take stock, one year on, of these initiatives and how best to unlock their full potential going forward into 2014. Janet asked me to contribute as a co-designer of the event.

Permanent Secretary as ‘Keynote Listener’

We decided to invite the permanent secretary to play a ‘keynote listener’ role, rather than the more traditional opening keynote speaker. I had come across this idea from the Transition Network ( who had asked Ed Milliband to play a similar role at one of their plenary events a couple of years ago. Sir Peter quickly endorsed the idea as being a good way to emphasise his desire to step up a gear in taking forward Christie Commission recommendations. From here, we went on to design a day that intended to enable those present to find a voice in shaping next steps, and getting involved with existing work underway. Feedback suggested that the event had managed to generate lots of ‘buzz’, affirming that the radical vision of the original Christie report was still alive and well. In his closing remarks the Permanent Secretary said he thought the design of the day was a model for how future events might be run.

Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens workshops

In an early presentation, Anna Fowlie set the scene for two workshops where existing SWSC Reference Group members joined a conversation with newcomers about the initiative across two 30 minute workshop sessions. Our intention was to recreate the kinds of exchanges that have happened at all the Reference Group meetings so far, and trust that this would be a good way to let others know what we are up to, and how to get involved.

It worked! Despite difficult acoustics in the committee room, both sessions attracted about twenty people as we introduced the idea that the initiative is a network for disruptive innovators in organisations who are attempting to tackle how examples (or ‘pockets’) of assets practice can begin to influence the wider structures and cultures of how their organisations work. There was broad agreement across both discussions about the scale of change needed and the fact that barriers and hurdles exist everywhere – from ingrained habits that get in the way of line managers being more human in their relationships with the people who they manage to the practical challenges and fears associated with giving local people direct power to decide how public money is spent. However, both conversations had a great sense of engagement and ‘oomph’ about them, galvanised by the broader permission that everyone at the event heard to take bigger risks and experiment more boldly with the ‘empowerment’ aspect of public service reform.

Exploratory conversations with new pioneer sites

Both before and after the event, I have been meeting many prospective pioneer sites this month. The table below doesn’t do justice to the stories that they have already to share – and those that are in the pipeline. But it does offer an overview of who’s getting involved, and a flavour (filtered by my notes of the meetings) of what may be on offer…


Pioneer Where Focus
East Ayrshire Council Vibrant Communities East Ayrshire Inspiring culture change across the council; Involving local people in developing Local Community Action Plans (implications for workforce development)
Police Scotland National Developing workforce development (leadership and learning) strategy building on existing assets based policing initiatives; reshaping Police training
Threshold Glasgow Glasgow People with Learning Disabilities shaping workforce development agenda day by day
Aberdeen Prison Aberdeenshire Building on existing (Robertson Trust sponsored) initiatives in shaping workforce development strategies for new HMP Grampian
Crossreach National Extending Assets ways of working across different services within the organisation
Forestry Commission National Developing  staff feedback system; Inquiring into existing community and social forestry work re innovating assets approaches to workforce development
Glasgow Caledonian University/ SCVO Glasgow Researching how to catalyse innovations in workforce development within a higher education faculty of nursing
NHS Fife Fife Transformative innovation within a Health Board, reaching GP practices, inspired by examples eg Alaskan nuka model
Open University National Applying ideas like the ‘growth mindset’ to staff development
Scottish Natural Heritage National Deepening culture of community engagement/Implications of extrinsic and intrinsic values thinking in shaping workforce development strategy
East Dunbartonshire Mental Health Services East Dunbartonshire Building on personal and community assets mapping tools … implications / impact of tools for workforce development across a wide partnership
Edinburgh City Council Children and Families Edinburgh Building on integrated services and existing knowledge exchange work with Childrens’ Services (specific issues of learning alongside potentially unwilling users of services)
Edinburgh Total Neighbourhood East Edinburgh Wforce dmnt Learning across 4 areas toward culture change: Virtual Team; Organisational Development; Community Engagement and Themed Champions
NHS Borders Borders Sharing learning from existing and new assets based workforce development initiatives, building on partnership with Borders Rural College; reflecting on roles of June and Janice as culture change catalysts
OSCR National TBC
Penumbra Edinburgh Lothians Sharing story of Penumbra’s evolving approach to workforce devleopment and engagement; example for how to retain and grow staff through tough times
Scottish Prison Service National Sharing stories of workforce development – sites to be confirmed (eg Polmont/Stirling/Aberdeen)

Scottish Training on Drugs and Alcohol (STRADA)

National (to be confirmed) Circles of Care – workforce development implications
Volunteer Development Scotland National

Story of re-orientation of VDS towards focus on volunteers; and implications for workforce development within VDS as well as charities it supports

Education Scotland National Stories of applying three horizons model as exercises in generating whole school innovation; sharing lessons from review into introduction of Curriculum for Excellence (due by OECD during 2014)
STUC Learning National due to meet asap
Dundee University Services for Design National due to meet December 9th
British Red Cross National due to meet January 29th

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