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Blog: Threading the Needle – We’re still explorers

Helen MacKinnon, Chief Officer, Third Sector Interface, PKAVS (Perth & Kinross Association of Voluntary Service) gives her reflections on ‘Gathering the Needle’ – the final event of the Threading the Needle programme… 

As health and social care partnerships evolve, the enormity of the learning journey becomes starker. We’re integrating, transforming, improving and striving to innovate with pace, while still trying to learn about each other. We have so much information and evidence at our disposal that it’s sometimes hard to know how to ‘gather the threads’. 

During the Evaluation Support Scotland event, I wrote a note to myself –

Don’t assume we have the same understanding of our world, language and vision for the future yet. We’re still explorers’

With each piece of joint working, we’re learning more about each other and the health and social care landscape that exists beyond our experience and insight. However, this is a long-game commitment, and in the meantime, we’re jumping off the cliff and building the plane as we go. We’re still learning what each one of us can bring to the engineering process and all the while, hoping that the impact is effective and the landing is smooth.

A key message from Threading the Needle was the need to ‘build the focus on outcomes’. Much of the third sector has been working with service and individual outcomes for years. Many external funders were ahead of the curve and the third sector evolved its understanding and practice in line with this.

But in our complex system that supports health and wellbeing outcomes, attribution of effort to strategic outcomes is difficult. The interdependencies are multiple, nuanced, and not yet fully apparent or understood. In Perth & Kinross, we’re exploring how we connect our evidence across sectors to tell the outcomes-story of ‘the individual’ and better understand our collective contributions to that story.

As a Third Sector Interface, we have a strong vision for how we should jointly plan and commission for outcomes. We envisage a powerful collaboration between stakeholders that is underpinned by mature relationships and values different perspectives. A collaboration that centres our efforts around shared priorities and mobilises our joint resources and innovations to improve outcomes.

It’s not the role of a few, but that of many diverse stakeholders working strategically and in localities.   

It’s a cyclical process that analyses intelligence, plans, implements, understands impact and reviews. It’s ‘live’, proactive and can respond flexibly to changing needs and new opportunities. It must enable innovation. And it has to feel different to what we’ve done before.

But that’s our vision. Is it shared? Are we talking the same language? Is our view of the world the same yet? We need to keep listening, talking and exploring.

More information about Threading the Needle here

Threading the Needle resources:

Three learning points:

·         We need to talk about data and evidence

·         We need to build the focus on outcomes

·         We need to understand where third sector evidence fits

How to explore decision making and the role of evidence

From the source to the sea

The story of Threading the Needle in:

Reviewing the pathway (Anticipatory Care Plan, Glasgow)

North Ayrshire Monitoring and Evaluation Form