London Borough of Wandsworth

Crescendo and Wandsworth started their journey together in November 2021

It was agreed that Crescendo would work with Evolve, an Early-Help service within the local authority which offers intensive support to young people and young adults (up to age 25) who are at risk of, or affected by:

  • Going missing
  • Child exploitation
  • Gangs
  • Serious youth violence

Evolve’s work centres on building and sustaining relationships between young people and a primary carer, trusted adult or consistent professional – focussing on identifying what a young adult’s behaviour is telling them about their lived experience. The work is bespoke, consent-based and young-person led; the practitioners work hard to find creative ways to engage with the young people who are referred to them.

Before beginning the Crescendo change project in Wandsworth, we collected survey responses from staff across the Evolve service in order to carry out a temperature check of the situation on the ground.

We found that:

  • Practitioners, managers and business support colleagues agreed that the key barriers to spending more time with children and families were meetings, paperwork and high caseloads.
  • Practitioners, managers and business support colleagues gave a relatively low rating for the extent to which they felt able to effect change within their local authority. Frequent changes in senior management, lack of communication and changing expectations were listed as things that got in the way of them driving change.
  • Both practitioners and managers/business support colleagues feel relatively satisfied in their role, though managers felt more valued than practitioners.
  • Factors that influenced how valued and satisfied staff feel included themes such as feeling listened to, making a meaningful difference and work being recognised and celebrated.

Ambition setting

The main behaviours that the Evolve service wanted to embody in their work with Crescendo were:

  • Trust
  • Empathy for young people
  • Hopefulness
  • Thinking big
  • Being creative
  • Being courageous

In addition, we considered what it would look like if we worked in the exact opposite way, and surmised that things would be ‘pointless’, people would ‘not say what we really think’ and they would ‘switch their cameras off’ during calls. Staff would feel ‘sad’ and ‘unsafe’, with ‘a lack of reflection and curiosity’, and would ultimately ‘seek employment elsewhere’. It was important for us to identify the ways of working we were trying to avoid, in order to encourage comprehensive buy-in for the vision the team were putting forward

Next, Evolve identified the values and principles that needed to be at the heart of their work, in order to allow their best work with the young people who engaged with the service. The full vision is included below:


The barriers that got in the way of living this vision included:

  • A feeling that there was an audit culture within the service, which dampened their confidence in their own work;
    A lack of time to think, discuss, reflect and make changes;
  • A lack of awareness from other agencies and local authority services around what Evolve does and how they contribute to good outcomes for young people;
  • Too many meetings, which distracted practitioners from undertaking meaningful direct work with young people;
  • Too much direction from senior management

Making small changes

Reflecting on the principles and barriers they identified, the Evolve service started the process of making small changes by first developing their mission strands, providing a focus for their small changes.

  • Challenging systemic discrimination and oppression at different levels of the system;
  • Promoting Evolve’s identity;
  • Prioritising time spent doing direct work.

The Evolve service brainstormed small changes under each mission strand, and identified eight small changes which resonated most with the team:

small changes2

The Evolve team focussed on four small changes that addressed key barriers that were getting in the way of them spending time with young people and their families, and that would make a big difference to enabling them to do their best work.


Co-designing a local blueprint Making small changes helped the Evolve team and leaders further understand the system they work within. It also exposed the more challenging systemic barriers in the way of practitioners building relationships with children and families and living the vision they outlined. The next stage for Evolve was to consider what a local blueprint looked like from these small changes. The Evolve service chose two pillars for their local blueprint to focus on driving system change:

Pillar 1 – Changing their approach to meetings


Create a stocktake of current meetings, reflecting on why team members are attending these meetings, what they contribute and whether their presence is essential.

Communicate changes in Evolve’s approach to meetings to partners and get their buy-in, alleviating the tension in the social care system and encouraging a similar journey in multi-agency partners.

Create a framework to understand and assess meeting effectiveness, contemplating whether they have sufficient focus, purpose, direction and with clear limitations on time. Evolve could also work alongside partners to consider meeting structures, formats and chairing to make sure time isn’t wasted in professional meetings.

Pillar 2 – Developing more innovative recording practices

Develop clear expectations/practice standards around recording, working with senior leaders to develop a framework around the limitations of what practitioners are expected to record.

Pilot a new, more creative approach to supervision recording, potentially involving the development of a consistent supervision template which addresses issues identified by the team, or through the use of arts-based reflective materials, such as drawings and images.

Experiment with different media: video and voice. Evolve could use technology such as GoPro cameras and Dragon software to use video and voice notes for recording.

Moving forwards, Crescendo and Wandsworth are considering how they can work together to implement the local blueprint in the Evolve service. Alongside this work, we are considering how to spread the learning across the wider system in Wandsworth and share the Crescendo approach with colleagues working in different contexts in children’s social care in the borough.