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Life without a Safety Net

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The preferred legal form of the future Local Healthwatchs (LHWs) is social enterprise…but, how do you leave the comparative safety of being inside a ‘parent’ organisation for life without a safety net? Are you equipped to function effectively as a business and retain your social mission?

How do you develop the organisational resilience to convey the needs of service users to providers, build bridges between all stakeholders, avoid becoming a political commentator and effectively disseminate your knowledge about the community’s needs, all the while encouraging more effective use of finite resources?

The potential to be pulled in all directions is enormous. However, the potential to be incredibly effective is also enormous, when there is the right blend of strong foundation, skills and business process in place.

What is resilience?

Resilience is most commonly defined as the ability to ‘bounce back’: the ability to cope and overcome adversity, challenges and fears and keep moving forward. However, true resilience is more sustained and constant, allowing setbacks to be steadily overcome and learned from. ‘Bouncing back’ may imply or involve a one-off recovery that isn’t necessarily sustainable. There are three core components to increasing resilience for individuals, organisations and communities: see things as they really are, visualise a compelling future and use what is at hand to build bridges and make that compelling future a reality.

Creating a resilient LHW

For an LHW, these three core components of resilience translate as follows. First, set strong foundations through your vision and values. These in turn form your unique brand. Every organisation is the sum of all of its parts - its employees and its stakeholders: an LHW must create its vision, values and identity in a way which represents those of every member of its local community. No small feat but unless an LHW knows who it is, it can’t be what it is.
Second, for real organisational resilience it’s not enough to just have your vision and values cited in documents. To fulfil its professional and ‘emotional contract’ with the community it represents, an LHW must ‘be the brand’, living its values in its service delivery. That means bridging the gap between what you say you do and what you really do in your business processes.

Finally, knowing what you really do is an opportunity to discover the skill gap and internal limiting beliefs, which are undermining your organisation’s ability to deliver services effectively. Individuals who work in the public sector and social enterprises have an ‘emotional contract’ with their work, which is incredibly motivational, but conversely it can often mean over-delivery/under-charging - enough of which is going to bring your business to its knees. Ensuring that your teams know how living the LHW’s vision and values through their specific role and being well-equipped to do it, is critical to your success. Why? Because each employee is your greatest asset: they are a stakeholder and communicate with other stakeholders in the community. Each employee IS ‘brand LHW’.

Elaine France, Balance Verbier

  • Elaine France will be running Life without a Safety Net workshops at the end of January and early February 2013 at Capsticks’ offices in London. To register your interest please email elaine@balanceverbier.com

 

Elaine runs Balance Verbier providing resilience and leadership consultancy, training and mentoring. She has had a long career working to improve and promote civil society in the UK and was latterly at Partnerships UK/Local Partnerships supporting the creation of health and social care social enterprises. She is a qualified Strategic Interventionist with the Robbins-Madanes Institute and a Certified Life Coach with the Centre for Stress Management, London.

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