31/01/2019 Kathy Graham

Education – a leading light in driving social and economic change, or a job for us all? (Part 1 of 2)

Last Thursday I attended SERC’s conference on Driving Social and Economic Change at La Mon Hotel & Country Club and what a conference it was……. I nearly didn’t go, but the draw of Sir Harry Burns was too much and he did not fail to meet, NO! exceed expectations.  The connections he has made in his medical career and work in the realm of public policy between health, deprivation and mental health; the root causes and the failures of current policy initiatives is fascinating.  But why does it feel no one is listening?  The evidence is all there.  So why do policy makers and decision makers keep doing what they’ve always done despite the glaring obvious evidence that inspiring, committed and passionate professionals such as Sir Harry present to them?  The evidence is not only sound but compelling.

The main take aways (for me) of Sir Harry’s key note speech:

  • Inequality of death is not an issue of age 
  • Salutogenesis; an assets approach causes well-being (going to look into this one more, or ask my good friend Jenny about it ) 
  • There is molecular biology in a hug (yes, I’ve always known they feel good; but there is science and it goes deep)
  • Adverse childhood events lead to increased risk of alcoholism, obesity, criminal behaviour and deprivation
  • Thinking Yes (an initiative implemented by Martin Armstrong of the Wheatly Group) can and does help people
  • Involving people in decisions which affect them; mentoring and increasing their self-esteem has the power and ability to change lives and break the “cycle of alienation”

And for me – the loudest thing I heard – and perhaps it is because I work in the area of engagement and Sir Harry was preaching to the converted?  Public policy initiatives fail because they “do things to people”.  Often public policy is designed without the insight of front-line staff or very often without asking the people it is being designed for.  Sir Harry is a huge advocate for taking problems to the real world and testing solutions.  However, Sir Harry also is acutely aware that this is simplified and cited examples of the need to engage with people in meaningful ways that will work for them rather than for the bureaucrats. 

Sir Harry in his summation encouraged his audience to “Think Yes”, proceed until apprehended; go the extra mile.  Trust people, encourage them and they will find their self-worth.

I get it.  I understand it.  But how on earth do we create “Think Yes” thinking in a systemic bureaucratic rule driven environment which sees, according to a study by Michael Marmot, lower grade civil servants experiencing much greater stress levels than senior civil servants?  

Want to know part of the answer?  Read more in Part 2.

Engagement pointers:

  • Have you got the desire to involve people in decisions which affect them but you don’t know where to start?
  • Are you a consultee and want to influence more effectively?

If so, drop me a line at kathy@tciengagement.com, I’d love to hear from you.

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