The systemic champions group and our Camden Model of Social Work, “texts of identity”.
I am co-chair the systemic champions group - a self-selecting collection of social workers and managers who are passionate about developing and embedding systemic principles across the service. The organic, grass-roots nature of the champions means we have real life experience ‘on the ground’ and hold currency when making recommendations to peers and senior management.
The role, function and reach of the champions group has developed over time. We joined together in late 2015, our goal being to embed the learning from the systemic training in a constantly evolving staff team. Over time, the group has developed a much wider brief, being afforded the opportunity to challenge the senior leadership team when barriers are identified to the implementation of the model and recommending and developing changes to organisational process and procedure.
The format of the champion’s monthly meetings has developed over time from standard round table meetings to more creative, irreverent sessions. We have challenged ourselves to take risks in playing with roles and responsibilities in the group. The meetings often utilise the Bells that Ring (our reflective supervision model) to consider how we invite our colleagues to join us in a meeting holding the systemic principles in mind, or to reflect upon how we manage risk within our systemic framework. Champions have explained that trying things out in this safe forum has bred confidence to practice and share their knowledge and skills across the service.
In its current incarnation the group see our role as working relentlessly to promote and embed principles of Systemic Social Work at all levels of the hierarchy and develop an already thriving workplace environment that promotes learning, creative problem-solving and respectful professional challenge.
I vividly remember the champions group sitting together on the 11th floor of 5 Pancras Square in December 2017, overlooking the Camden skyline. We were reflecting upon what had gone well that year, sharing positive experiences of our systemic model of social work and visualising our dream future. We considered together that in another eighteen months we could further develop our social work identity and ensure that our principles were embedded into our everyday social work interactions supporting excellent frontline practice.
The Systemic Charter and Promise to Children and Families
Collectively we decided to ‘think big’, to make a film celebrating our successes (available elsewhere on this website) and promoting the benefits of our systemic social work and to co-produce a ‘Systemic Staff Charter’ and a ‘Promise to Children and Families’ to help share our vision with professionals and the community alike.
The charter was conceived as a way to make our values clear, both in how we interact with children and families but also in an organisational context. For champions, the process of making the charter was as important as the finished document as it was built using ideas and feedback from social workers across the organisation. Charlotte Williams (a member of the champions group) designed a playful exercise to stimulate discussion and consider the values that we wanted to be upheld in the ‘Charter’. The exercise challenged each team member to reflect and write down on post-it notes the answers to the following questions. The answers to each question being written on a different colour post-it note enabling the facilitator to create a visual wall of responses.
i. What do you tell others when you are talking about your job?
ii. What does the person closest to you think about what you do?
iii. What do you wish others knew about your job?
Social workers enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on how we are perceived and positioned by others and how we position ourselves both professionally and in our wider communities. The discussions then drew parallels between the usefulness of our physical orange rucksacks as toolkits and prompts and our metaphorical rucksacks of assumptions/prejudices that we carry with us wherever we go.
The ‘Promise to Children and Families’ was developed taking feedback from the Family Advisory Board (parents with experience of the child protection system) and the views of children and young people.
The aim was to co- produce documents, our ‘texts of identity’ that support us to communicate to the community what our social work values are and what this means for them in practice.
Now these documents are published, our next challenge is to promote them, sharing the messages with our staff and the children and families whom we support. We hope to communicate that this discussion about our values and our ways of working will not end here, and that the feedback through consultation with staff, children and families will mean that these documents are regularly reviewed and updated.