Making Patchwork Happen in Brighton and Hove

Thanks go to Paul Brewer, Head of Performance for Children’s Services in Brighton and Hove Council, for writing this guest post for us.  As well as leading on all things performance for Children’s Services, Paul has also been leading the Patchwork project in Brighton and Hove.  

He has been involved with the project from the very beginning and here he shares some of his thinking about what it takes to make Patchwork happen on the ground.

 Patchwork is not a technology project…

Patchwork is an incredibly interesting and challenging project to work on. I remember back at Brighton & Hove’s launch event in November 2011, Carrie from Futuregov put up a slide of a road stretching out to the horizon, talking about how Patchwork was not a technology project.  Well, that was so true!

It is about connections across agencies

In the period since, I’ve seen some amazing connections made between different practitioner groups, deep discussion about the nature of multi-agency working and growing confidence around the need to get on and share information to help provide the best care.

Patchwork has also helped bring support services from different organisations together. Having a real thing to discuss and implement has been really galvanizing and helped lots of people move away from abstractions. It really hasn’t been easy at times, but I guess that’s when you know something is helping you change and make breakthroughs.

Because Patchwork is about creating the professional network in an area, the stakeholder map is large and varied. We’ve done a lot of work in Brighton & Hove engaging with organisations by finding ways to explain Patchwork that make the most sense to them, and this seems to have worked. We have a satisfyingly long and varied list of engaged organisations and practitioners.

It’s been really helpful to…

Ask people what benefits they see arising from Patchwork really helps. They can think about their own work and realize for themselves how Patchwork could help.  This approach has also helped us figure out which groups of organisations should go live at the same time. For example, we’re pulling together a bunch of organisations that deal with adult mental health and substance misuse, both statutory and community and voluntary sector.

Spending time with the different stakeholders within organisations has been invaluable.  It’s not enough to get the support of only the Chief Executive, although that is very helpful! It’s been really beneficial to give others dedicated time, and listen to their perspectives and address their concerns.

Avoiding forcing Patchwork on people by making it “mandatory” has also been the right approach. Forcing things through doesn’t work in the long run.  We’re doing lots to encourage use and are making sure certain types of involvement (such as children with a child protection social worker) can always be found, to help make the benefits really clear.

And in a nutshell

I think the engagement journey in Brighton & Hove has been about confidence in the Patchwork idea and a respectful but unswerving persistence.  Seeing people move from skepticism or cynicism and into trust and enthusiasm is amazing.  And I think this come from finding ways to give the thing away, so that people can feel it can be theirs too.  Their own “no-brainer”.

Oh, and being able to talk very precisely about the law and privacy definitely helps.

If you want to know more about the Brighton and Hove experience you can check out their website, or contact us here at FutureGov and we will be happy to help.  It would also be great to hear whether you enjoyed this post as we line up some more guest posts for Patchwork.

5 Days, 5 Councils – The Universal Aspects of Patchwork


As momentum for Patchwork continues to grow in the UK, you can imagine how excited we were to touch down in Melbourne, Australia, last week to take Patchwork global.  You can read some more about the how this came to be in one of our previous blog posts.

Needless to say last week was a busy week of getting over jet lag, getting our bearings, getting only a little lost in Melbourne (FYI, I count this as a huge success) and most importantly connecting with the 5 councils in Victoria we will be working with.  We managed to catch up with all of them; KingstonYarraCity of MelbourneBrimbank and Wyndham, to find out more about how they work and the difference they want to experience as a result of having Patchwork.

Patchwork will be used in both the Youth Service and the Maternal Child Health Teams, all who have a strong partnership edge to their work.  As you can imagine we approach a project like this with some questions, the biggest of which is  “will Patchwork fit into the context of their work in the same way that it does in the UK?”

We needn’t have worried. It seems there are some aspects to working in this area and with Patchwork that are universal:

1. A Desire to Strengthen Partnership Working

I feel like I can say with some confidence now that almost regardless of place and wherever you happen to be on your journey to truly integrated services for children and families, there is just something about this group of professionals that is committed to improvement. They are always seeking to do more, be better and to improve outcomes for their clients. Here in Melbourne, Patchwork is just one of many things that is going on to strengthen multi-agency working. We hope to be telling you more about some of their other work as the weeks go by.

2. Data Protection is Key

Wanting to protect people’s data and sharing that data to improve client care is also a universal tension. For many practitioners this connects with their own professional ethics and how they approach their role – often grounded in a need to build a relationship with clients and secure consent before they act.  Of course, this isn’t possible in every situation and like many practitioners in the UK, front line workers want to get this right for their clients.  What is really clear is that solutions need to work in a way that support front line workers and strengthens relationships with clients and other agencies rather than constrains them.

3. Trust is Vital to Strengthen Links

Here in Victoria, much work has been done in relation to the Privacy Act and gaining consent from clients so trust is established with their caseworker to both take care of their data but also that they will only share data when there is a legitimate reason to do so. As we work through this we will be sharing learning as my guess is some of these issues will resonate for many front line workers, and across many projects.

We will keep posting on the Patchwork blog about some of these aspects and more broadly about the project as it progresses. Make sure to check the blog regularly, subscribe by RSS for more insights, or get in touch for further info on how Patchwork could work for you.











Patchwork kicks off in Surrey

As if kicking off Patchwork in Australia isn’t enough, this week also sees Patchwork get rolling in Surrey County Council.

Patchwork is one of a number of projects that FutureGov is partnering with Surrey on as part of the Shift Surrey innovation lab. It will be anchored in the Family Support Programme, helping practitioners to connect as a team around the family, building on related work both Staffordshire and Brighton are leading supported by Patchwork.

It is a another big step forward for Patchwork, where it will be made available to all council teams, partner agencies and the voluntary sector covering over one million people (almost 2% of the UK).

We’re genuinely excited at the prospect of supporting better partnership working, meaning local services and practitioners coordinating their work together earlier to deliver better outcomes for families. Having now been in Surrey kicking things off for a few weeks now, we thought it might be useful to share some of the lessons we’ve gained from working with Surrey.

1.  Know what the barriers are

Surrey have usefully spent a lot of time thinking about what the barriers to partnership working are and aren’t. As a result they know frontline practitioners want to develop teams around families and to work together earlier, the issue for them is How?

Any solution to this needs to take account of the size of the county council, the differing nature of the boroughs within it and the fluid nature of families moving in, out and around Surrey.

What we notice on our work with Patchwork and other projects is that everyone involved wants to make partnership working simpler and easier for frontline staff. In Surrey’s case, step forward Patchwork.

2.  Leadership + Vision = Difference

Surrey have provided strong and visible leadership to the project.  They have been engaged and working closely with FutureGov to not just sponsor the project but to really lead it.  They have been able to articulate clearly what the end of this part of the story should look like for staff and clients alike so they understand the journey they are on.

The whole point of any change project is take people from A to B with B being a better place, if B can’t be described then how will you compel people to join you and crucially how will you know when you have made it there?

For Surrey they have been really clear that they want all practitioners working with their initial 400+ troubled families to be connecting with each other via Patchwork so that partnerships that already exist can be strengthened and amplified across all partners organisations and families.

Knowing the difference you want to see gives any project a better chance of success.

3. Empowering and giving rather than closing down and controlling

Another interesting aspect of the Surrey approach is that there is a very strong sense that this should be in the first instance an internal change project, where Patchwork as a tool can drive broader organisational change.

By embracing the social technology that is Patchwork, the council wants to put the responsibility for building relationships for frontline practitioners back to practitioners.

There is a very visible story or measure of success around the range of organisations / agencies in Patchwork growing, as a visible manifestation of this.

However there is also an equally important unsaid story about empowering and trusting practitioners to know who needs to be invited in to a case and giving them the ability to make that connection simply and easily.

Patchwork is tool designed by practitioners for practitioners so this approach really resonates with us and our guess will be that it will resonate with frontline workers too as Patchwork is rolled out.

We will be blogging regularly about lessons from the project and all things Patchwork on the blog, so please do check it out.