In the municipality of Rotterdam are 43 different social teams active. Each district has its own team, with a unique composition. How do you secure a shared working method with this diverse club of people, in which everyone's expertise has a place?
Since 2015, many municipalities in the Netherlands have started social neighborhood teams to support residents in the field of welfare, care and health. After almost five years of working in this new set-up, it was time to take a closer look at the working methods of all those different social teams. What did we come up with before? How do we do it within our practice? What can we improve and formalize for the future?
In a collaboration of three years, Flatland worked with the professional development team of the Municipality of Rotterdam to develop several visualizations together. About topics such as basic help, guidance and case management, and from overviews to workflow drawings to arrange youth care. The goal was to provide insight into and further develop the working method of all roles and teams, but we gained so much more…
Further development requires overview
Neighborhood team employees provide appropriate basic help close to home and work together with, for example, general practitioners, schools, youth health care and mental health care. Often a team consists of social workers, family coaches and other professionals in the field of parenting, youth care, finance and debt. The composition differs per district team, and each district has its own district team. There are a total of 43 neighborhood teams in Rotterdam, with a total of about 1200 staff members.
Further development requires a clear picture of the working method: where exactly are we from, how do the connections run and what can we learn from each other? But you can’t just do that with so many different people, roles, compositions, networks and working methods. The professionalization team came to Flatland with the question: how do we ensure that we get an overview of all the different components and the logic of the work processes? And that this process is really meaningful and lasts?
Visualisations are a bridge between policy and practice
Usually, in change management or professionalization processes, everything is carefully written down by (policy) advisers. They have a lot of knowledge of the topic, but often just too much knowledge, a need for completeness and a tendency to detail. The result: there is a very heavy report and a wonderful plan of action, but after that hardly anything happens. The report ends up in a drawer somewhere.
Why? There is usually a gap between policy and practice, and between all the details in the process and the professional’s experience. But if we let employees think along and contribute to the drawings, more attention is paid to their experience and this ensures more clarity and support. In fact, the employees were happy and really proud to participate! And instead of using abstract language, visualizations make everything a lot more concrete, which is why we always work with drawings, even during all sessions.
First we prepared the approach together with the core team, then we organized sessions with various district team employees. The team leaders, but especially the professionals, were put forward in these sessions: after all, they know exactly how the day-to-day practice is. For the very first kick-off, we used a football metaphor to clarify the urgency and objectives of our journey, so that people could immediately relate to it. Storytelling works well as a way to highlight a larger or more abstract issue. What place do you have on the field and which balls do you take or pass along? We did several sessions for each subject, in which we worked out the system together and immediately made it visual.
Sustainable implementation through regular use
Together we draw up an unambiguous and clearly described working method, with a clear visualization for each subject. First for the youth domain, then for the adults. And even though the first visual is now three years old, that basic image has remained intact and is still actively used after all these years. After the visualizations were ready, the program team organized a kick-off for 600 people. All colleagues received the visuals bundled, with a QR code to the digital version.
Each month the team organized a theme (‘The month of…’) to highlight a specific part. A good idea to keep this shared method alive: the program team regularly uses the visuals, or details from them. And regular use means really regular: in all newsletters, intranet, manuals, individual presentations, reports, training documents and even as background image in Teams. They put a lot of effort into it!
Co-creation is discussion: drawings lead to conversation
When you work with so many people, the trick is to find the balance between the essence and completeness. On the one hand, you want the story to be complete enough, with room for all the details and different priorities. At the same time, it is precisely about making the overlap visible and clarifying the essence. How general do you remain, so that everyone recognizes themselves and all people feel heard?
Therefore, co-creation can sometimes be difficult: everyone has a different opinion. But precisely because of this, a shared image is created: the drawings lead to very concrete conversations. Very often processes are closely protocolled, but it helps to go beyond that and look at each other’s work together. In this way, the visuals provide just enough grip for a joint approach and at the same time enough space for individual interpretation.
Some visuals for the social teamsBasic help, case management, tasks and roles, guidance
Extras: tools, recognition and pride
Els van Lierop, advisor at the municipality, was the driving force behind the project. Els tells us that the visuals are even occasionally used for clients. In a complicated case with a mother, the employee took the case management visual and was able to explain very well what everyone’s role is. Colleagues who had been a part of the organization from day one responded: “We should have done this five years ago!”
This type of collaborations ensure – without exception – recognition of personnel and make people (again) proud of their job. It’s nice to be recognized in the complexity of your daily work. There are many personnel changes in this sector, and the visuals have even become part of the introduction program. Existing staff find each other faster, new people understand more quickly what is expected of them. And when people pick up the visuals independently, then you notice that they provide sufficient support and are of added value.
Colleagues responded: "We should have done this five years ago!"Els van Lierop Advisor at Municipality of Rotterdam
Thomas van Daalen
Would you like to know more about our approach or how our methods can help you? Please contact Thomas.Email
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