In May 2009, a range of voices from the child protection system in the North West Metropolitan Region (NWMR) came together for the first time. This included representatives from all levels of the child protection program, child youth and families division, children’s court, and community service organisations.
We concluded that first workshop having forged greater connection among participants and eight ideas or seeds for initiatives, which are outlined in the workshop report. A second series of events in September 2009 enrolled further participants from across the child protection system.
Between September 2009 and June 2010, these seed innovations were cultivated, sharpened, expanded, evolved, and/or refined. During this time they endured turbulent conditions across the system as both the public and ministry authorities sought to overhaul the child protection system from the top down.
In June 2010, we re-evaluated the lab and learned that indeed, our efforts have greatly helped participants identify and make progress on key needs across the system, in spite of and alongside the political turbulence. On this basis we helped the eight innovation teams create near term action plans to begin piloting innovations in specific “high leverage” areas within the heart of the child protection system.
As of Spring 2011, six innovations continue to function, two of them in pilot or pre-pilot stage. These innovations are operating within a rigid hierarchical system and receive, unfortunately, inadequate senior level support. Our read is that there doesn’t seem to be a strong commitment to system-wide innovation in the leadership of the Child Protection System as a whole. Thus, the modest gains innovation teams achieve must be considered substantial with so little senior management committed to over-arching change. We continue to support the Lab from time to time pro bono and as asked.
At its heart, the project is striving to tangibly respond to the following question: “How can the NWMR child protection program, within current legislative and resource parameters, enhance its interventions in the lives of vulnerable children and families and build a highly effective workforce that ensures the wellbeing of staff?”
The project arose in the wake of a work culture and wellbeing audit from Atkinson-Consulting! that detailed the presence of significant systemic issues – issues that could no longer be addressed with ‘work arounds’ and ‘band-aid solutions.’ Department managers then concluded that addressing the root causes would require a substantial and unprecedented level of collaboration and innovation.
The Change Lab process was chosen in this light as it is designed to address complex and unprecedented challenges at individual, group and systemic levels.
Our partnership with Steve Atkinson of Atkinson-Consulting! led in 2010 to our establishing a new office in Melbourne with Steve, Leigh Gassner and Paul Larkin.