Are we making a difference?

Posted: 20/05/2016

This was the ‘Top 8’ topic for a recent session held with Anglicare Vic workers at St Luke’s.  It highlights the importance of self-reflection and how simple, but rich it can be to provide opportunities for social workers to talk about their work, and to consider how they can be more effective in the work they do with people.

( A Top 8 session supports an organisation’s staff practice development by encouraging staff to reflect on a predetermined topic (one of 8) that gets to the heart of great work with the people a service or team supports)

Thank you to Liz W for providing the following:

Our group had a very robust discussion about the topic. We started firstly with what ‘making a difference’ actually means. We talked about how when people are new to the industry, they often say, ‘We want to make a difference’. But then along the way there are barriers and things that happen to make people change this ideal. We wondered ‘WHO’ we were making a difference for: the family or us?

Out of our discussion, some of the ways we believe we make a difference are:

  • giving families skills to solve their own problems rather than solving them for them
  • finding out what the families need and want compared to what we think they need and want.

In our conversation, we found that there were some things that were barriers to us feeling like we made a difference, including tension between service systems, families dependence on the system, and deadlines around involvement and closing. There was some discussion around programs that were time-limited and how to help to make visits more meaningful and focussed. With time-limited programs it was felt that there was clarity around goals/tasks and clear indicators of what works. With this in mind, we discussed examples such as ‘Changing Futures’ and ‘Rapid Response’.

One way we felt that we would know about ‘making a difference’ was simply to ask the family the same question: who are we making a difference for?

They are their own best experts and we discussed going back to the basics of what makes a good worker and unpacking that with a worker.
Other questions we considered were:

  • Are we contributing to a dependence by accepting re referrals? Is this a bad thing?
  • How do we ensure families get what they need in terms of length of service as well as being creative in our practice?
  • What makes us feel like we have made a difference or done a good job?
Andrew Shirres, our Practice Development Coach responded:
Pondering your words took me on a round trip from ‘Are we making a difference?’, through to ‘What happens when we take families as “experts” to its fullest extent?’ I also wondering about the possibility of causing harm through fostering dependence and circled back again to the word ‘difference’. Could we somehow ‘be’ different in our approach.
So, as you discussed:
  • Imagine if the people we work with could be asked for three ideas on what they would like to be different and we were able to act upon their words?
  • Imagine it was the people we work with, rather than ourselves who defined what makes a good worker? Would that be different to our own or our agency’s definition of what makes a good worker?
  • And, perhaps to be a little seditious, if we say we are ‘giving skills’, does that mean we are the only place where they exist?

All in all these Top 8 discussions, the thinking that goes into everyone’s participation; what our staff do when they leave and get back out there and do the work, can all ‘make a difference’ to the people they work with. Great stuff!


Other Relevant Blog articles:

Values: moral will…

What is “The Strengths Approach”?

Reflecting on Practice… ever poured muesli?

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