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What I Now Know About Lighting Fires

The Fire Starter Festival 2017 drew to a close last month after 35 events which attracted around 1500 participants. Over the coming months we’ll reflect on the evaluations, and have many conversations about what went well, what could have been better, what inspired people, and what actions have been taken to light some small fires of change.  As the inspiration for the festival came from the Seven Steps for Lighting Small Fires of Change, I thought I would share seven things I now know about lighting fires and what it takes to light a Fire Starter Festival.

It’s all about trust… isn’t it?

glass

“If you don’t know what to do, there’s actually a
chance of doing something new.” Philip Glass

“It’s basically about trust”

“What is?”

“Well, everything. Strip out the buzz words – ‘transforming public service’, ‘open government’, ‘co-production’ – it basically all boils down to building trust doesn’t it?”

“Well yes I suppose so”

“EXACTLY! Scratch the surface, every story of positive change worth its salt … has building and sustaining trust at its core – the leaders who earned it; the friends and colleagues who are sustained by it even when things get tough; the organisations that go out of their way to create the conditions for it”.

“And so…?”

“So why then do I get the feeling so many of us are confused about what it is and how to build it? Why isn’t it at the top of everyone’s job description (who works in public service)? What is getting in the way?”

“And so what are you going to do about it then…?”

“Well good point I suppose I’ll have a think”

That is pretty much a summary of a few different conversations I had at an event called ‘Shaping Scotland’ in November 2016. The event was run by the same team who run an online change course called ‘Ulab’ (see www.ulabscot.com) which thousands of people across the world do every autumn.

A week later, I saw how I could try something out.

Breakfast Club – Don’t you forget about us!

The breakfast club had been meeting for about six months now and we thought it might be timely to remind you when we meet and what we meet for!

 

coffeeThe breakfast club is open to anyone who sees them self as a mischief maker. Do you like to try new things at work? Do you like to question process to make improvements? Do you try and bring more fun and creativity into what you do? Or do you just want to meet people who are doing this and more at work?

 

Then the breakfast club is for you!

 

Dialogue Update

The National Dialogue Community of Practice (DCoP) met and had a productive session on the 15 November at the COSLA Conference Centre, Edinburgh. Sharon Millar, Principal Lead Organisational and Leadership Development at NHS Education for Scotland, opened the session, reviewing the DCoP journey so far and the recent evaluation carried out by Marie Laidig from Insight Expedition. See Sharon’s insights on the session below.


Our Steering Group Needs You!

At the session, we decided to form a steering group of between 8-10 members of the DCoP to keep the drive for dialogue to support people through system wide transformation of public services.

The commitment of Steering Group members would be:

  • Contribute to quarterly meetings: face-to-face, telephone or Skype (locations will suit the membership)
  • Plan and shape events on behalf of the dialogue community
  • Guide the overall direction of the different strands of DCoP activity and their contribution towards national outcomes
  • Network and connect the DCoP with other relational based networks, groups and practitioners

A festival of fire and ice

As winter arrives, many of us are drawn to the magic of making fires. Personally I love this time of year. There is something about the stark beauty of the landscape, stripped back and illuminated by winter sun, with breath taking glistening frost. It feels elemental in the way that fire, light and dark play with our senses, providing an opportunity to take stock, reflect, let go and prepare for what emerges in the new year.

The upcoming Fire Starter Festival  provides an opportunity for us to share what we personally and collectively what we want to leave behind, and share some of the small fires of change we have ignited. And given that we are holding it in the last week in January (23rd – 30th) there is a strong chance of snow and ice as well as all of our fires! fire-snow

Already we have fourteen events open for registration, with the same number almost ready to be ignited. It’s wonderful to see the energy and enthusiasm of so many colleagues across public services, evidencing a paradigm shift in how we collectively share ideas, resources, and reimagine the future of public services in Scotland.

Here’s a small sample of what’s on offer but please do check out the Eventbrite Page and watch as the small fires of change emerge over the next few weeks.

Why host a Fire Starter event?

As you may now know, between 23rd and 30th January 2017, Workforce Scotland will be hosting and supporting the Fire Starter Festival, a week-long festival of collaborative learning events, illuminating creative, disruptive and innovative ways in which we can all transform ourselves, our organisations and the wider system.

 

fire-starter-poster-1We are now just over two months away from the launch of Fire Starter Festival and events are constantly being added to our EventBrite page. Look out for a newsletter in early December to formally launch the festival programme!

 

Over the last few months, we’ve been out and about, speaking to lots of different individuals, groups and organisations who have expressed an interest in hosting an event during the Fire Starter Festival.

 

If you are still on the fence about hosting your own event, maybe we can convince you to join in…

Fire Starter Update

With the Fire Starter Festival rapidly approaching, we thought it would be a good idea to start a monthly blog, to keep all of our sparks and fire starters up to date with all the latest news and events. For our first post we have some stories from people who have attended some of the taster events we have been running over the last few months, as well as information on some of the big events we have planned for the actual Fire Starter Festival in January 2017. We’ll also share a breakdown of exactly how you, your friends and your networks can get involved and become fire starters!

If anything in this blog sparks your interest please email us. We are always keen to share stories, blogs and other fire starters events.

 Karen and Kirsty, Chief Fire Starters


A 21st Century Public Service – Launching the Fire Starter Festival

The conversations we have had with people all across public services whilst planning and scoping events and opportunities for Fire Starter Festival seem to have all drawn on a core theme – that of transforming our public services for the future.

Recent research – including ‘The 21st Century Public Servant’ – indicates a paradigm shift in public service: one characterised by services co-designed with citizens and with a far greater emphasis on experimentation, improvisation  and collaborations.
The Fire Starter Festival provides an opportunity to explore this shift in paradigm. It is unique in that it is being co-produced by services themselves, illuminating the ways in which we are already changing: the small fires that have been kindled; the learning about how these are impacting on professional identity; as well as considering the bonfires of practices and procedures that no longer serve us well. The aim is to inquire into what is happening, as it happens, with openness and curiosity, and a willingness to use the learning to shape the future of public service.
To ignite the Fire Starter Festival we will be holding a launch event looking at the idea of a 21st Century Public Service, hearing stories and examples from people and services already trying these new ideas. Registration for this event is now open. If you have a story that you think you might like to share at the event, please contact Karen.



Breakfast Club

If you’re looking for a place where people understand that you’re trying to do something different and can give you moral support, and possibly practical help, the Fire Starter Breakfast Club might be it.  Photograph of Breakfast Club attendees

The Breakfast Club is a monthly space for all fire-starters, quiet disruptors and system-shakers, risk-takers, rebels with a cause and civil disobedience makers. You may see yourself as all or none of these things but that doesn’t matter. It’s not about the labels, it’s about the work.
If you want to find out a little more about how the breakfast club works, Keira Oliver has written a short blog on the last meeting. If you fancy joining in the Breakfast Club you can join us:

  • 9 Nov 2016, 8.30 – 10.00  – Starbucks, Leith Street (near the Omni Centre)
  • 14 Dec 2016, 8.30 – 10.00  – Starbucks, Leith Street (near the Omni Centre)
  • 11 Jan 2016, 8.30 – 10.00  – Starbucks, Leith Street (near the Omni Centre)

Walking Westport to Westerhailes

Over the last few months we have had lots of meetings and taster sessions with people from all across the public service landscape in Scotland. These meetings have really helped us to understand your ideas and the kind of work you are doing. The taster sessions have also been a catalyst for new ideas and events.

20161003_090128.jpgElaine Lawther, NHS Education for Scotland, Lorraine Gillies, Audit Scotland and Pete White, Positive Prisons, all met at our first taster session in August. By the end of the day they had started planning a walk for the festival. Elaine shares their story with us below:

Thanks to the Firestarter Festival, three very different organisations are coming together to explore the links between communities, civic space, public service and how money is spent and counted!  Positive Prison Positive Futures, NHS Education for Scotland and Audit Scotland are hosting a walk from the shiny offices of Westport, along the Edinburgh canalside to Westerhailes.

Come rain or shine, the walk will invite individuals to draw on their observations across the miles, exploring the link between their roles in the finance community, the civic and public spaces they walk through and the people they meet along the way. 

The aim is to set fire to narrow definitions of value, community and outcomes that may result in short term decision making and limited civic engagement.  Although the event, scheduled for Tuesday 24th January, has a focus on financial governance, it will be of interest to anyone who wants to explore and shape the connections between the communities we live in and support, and how our performance is measured and valued in our public management frameworks.”


Registration for this event is now live. 


Host a Fire Starter Festival Event

There are examples of innovative work happening all across Scotland. We hope that you will join our festival and host your own event to share what you’re doing.
We are hosting a few events during the Fire Festival, but we’re really keen for others to catch the sparks and create their own small fires of change.
You may have an event already planned for January 2017 which could be ‘badged’ as part of the Festival, or you may want to host a bespoke event on a theme or topic that aligns to our ethos. This short guide outlines some of the benefits of hosting a Fire Starter Event.
If you would like some help thinking through how you and your organisation could get involved please email Karen.Lawson@gov.scot or Kirsty.Merriman@gov.scot


Sparks and Kindling

We have already had a number of people and organisations, from Shetland to the Borders, contact us with events and ideas that they want to share during Fire Starter Festival. Below is just a small sampling of some of the sparks and kindling already emerging. If you have a similar idea, or want to connect into one of those below, please contact Kirsty.

  • Human Library – looking at equality and diversity through personal stories
  • 100 Stories of Co-production
  • Bonfire of Performance Measures
  • Playing with Fire – playful facilitation methods
  • TeachMeets – sharing innovation in education
  • ‘Sparks’ Education reform
  • Pathways to Prosperity – looking at economy and how we work
  • Participatory Budgeting

All Fire Starter events can be found on our EventBrite page. Events are being added on a weekly basis, and we will send out further updates as the programme for the festival shapes up.

Join the Breakfast Club

Quote from The Breakfast Club: we're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that's all

Are you trying to do something different within your current system, whatever system that may be? It could be your organisation, the education system, the healthcare system, or you’re starting a new social enterprise.  Are you trying to work in a new way or start something that will disrupt how things are traditionally done?

Being in this space can be exciting, inspiring and challenging. But it can also be frustrating, tiring and, at times, a bit lonely, because others might see you as a bit weird. So how energising is it when we discover others who are in this space too?

If you’re looking for a place where people understand that you’re trying to do something different and can give you moral support, and possibly practical help, the Fire Starter Breakfast Club might be it.

Fire Starter Festival: stoking the small fires of change

“We cannot wait for great visions from great people, for they are in short supply. It is up to us to light our own small fires in the darkness. ”  Charles Handy 

Recent research and reports (21st Century Public Servant, and Rethinking Pubic Services) indicate a paradigm shift in public service: one characterised by services co-designed with citizens and with a far greater emphasis on experimentation, improvisation, cross boundary collaborations, and where public service workers “engage with citizens in a way that expresses their shared humanity and pooled expertise” (Needham & Mangan, 2014).

21st-public-servant

Does this resonate with you and your experience of public service? Whilst there may be consensus on a more human service, the transition can be fraught and small fires of change can be extinguished before they have the chance to burn brightly. However, we also know that there are lots of small fires that are having a positive impact on public service: fires worth spreading.

The Fire Starter Festival provides an opportunity to explore this shift in paradigm. It is unique in that it is being co-produced by services themselves, illuminating the ways in which we are already changing: the small fires that have been kindled; the learning about how these are impacting on professional identity; as well as considering the bonfires of practices and procedures that no longer serve us well. The aim is to inquire into what is happening, as it happens, with openness and curiosity, and a willingness to use the learning to shape the future of public service.

The festival launches on the 23rd January with an exploration of what is emerging for the 21st Century Public Servant and public services – a more human service?  There will be an opportunity to hear about the underpinning research from the authors  of the report and from many services who will be sharing the creative, disruptive and innovative ways in which they are transforming themselves.

p2

Who better to help us launch a Fire Starter Festival, than the Chief Officer for the Fire and Rescue Service, Alasdair Hay, who will be sharing how the service responds to the diverse needs of communities, from engaging with street gangs to homework clubs.

There are still opportunities to contribute and be part of this self-organising fire starting  movement.

Contact Karen Lawson or Kirsty Merriman for information. Or check out our Fire Starter Festival page.

References

Needham & Mangan. 2014. The 21st Century Public Servant.