Evolve: story of small changes


Evolve is a Wandsworth-based service that offers intensive support to young people and young adults who are at risk of, or affected by, going missing, child exploitation, gangs or serious youth violence. Beth Kelly, Service Manager, and Elisha Myton, Senior Information Analyst, reflect on their experience of implementing small changes within Evolve, and the impact the project has had on their service.

When the Crescendo team first got in touch with our service to discuss small changes, we were sensing, across the team, that practitioners were spending a lot of time on unnecessary, or unimpactful, tasks – attending irrelevant meetings and spending too long typing up case notes which weren’t necessary for supporting young people or evidencing best practice. This was taking time away from direct work with young people, which is where the really impactful work happens. We were also feeling a bit down about the extensive scrutiny and auditing that our work attracts, due to the high-risk nature of our cases, and we thought that our service lacked a distinct identity, which diluted our ability to push back on irrelevant tasks and to effect bottom-up change.

The Crescendo team supported us to identify and implement four small changes to address these issues:

  • Introducing a protected time slot of 12.30-5pm every working day for practitioners to spend on face-to-face work with young people, incorporated into our email signatures and communicated to the wider organisation.
  • Drafting a charter to describe the nature and value of Evolve’s work with young people.
  • Trialling the use of voice-notes to record case notes more efficiently, and in a targeted way, that captures everything appropriate to statutory requirements but without containing extraneous information. Including co creating the recording with the young person/their parents carers so that their voices and story becomes clearer and clearer through our recordings of our work.
  • Setting up a committee of young people to advise on all aspects of the service – recruitment, delivery, and decision-making.

These small changes were developed through a series of workshops between the Crescendo and Evolve teams, with smaller sub-groups taking a lead on different small changes.

Since these changes have been implemented, practitioners have reported that the protected slots in their calendars have allowed them to allocate their time better; they’ve also gained the confidence to push back on meeting invites where their attendance wouldn’t have a clear purpose. Practitioners believe that using voice-recordings will allow them to more efficiently record notes from meetings with young people, and may allow for more co-production, as the young people will be able to voice their wishes, feelings and experiences from their own perspectives using their own voice (rather than through our interpretation). Overall, the small changes have helped us to connect with the purpose of our roles, which is carrying out or facilitating direct work with children and young people to increase their well-being and safety and improve their outcomes.

There were a few key factors which influenced the success of these small changes. The most important factor was the continuous communication and buy-in from both within the team, and with senior management and other services across Wandsworth. There were a few push and pull factors; key leadership figures encouraged us to be creative and think outside of the box, while the Crescendo team were integral in helping us realise that change was possible, through their inspirational content and motivational energy. We also felt boosted just by the fact that their team had been picked to pilot this new way of working! We’ve noticed some evidence that our approach is ‘cascading’ around the wider local authority; others have noticed our example, particularly around protected time, and have started to critically reflect on the frequency and scope of the meetings they’re scheduling.

There have been a few barriers along the way – there’s been lots of change across the local authority since the beginning of the project, so incubating these changes in a culture of uncertainty has been tricky. When we’ve been communicating bold moves, it’s been helpful for us to remind people that this exercise is all about better aligning our services with supporting better outcomes in young people.

Taking part in small changes has really helped give us hope that we can change our sector for the better. It’s not unusual to hear “Wow, we can really do that!?” when we’re in team meetings now; there’s a sense of disbelief that the changes we want to make are possible, and that changes to the service can benefit direct practice, and not just reporting to management. Change finally means refocusing our roles towards practice! This project helped us critically think about ‘why’ we’re doing the work that we’re doing on any given day; why are we discussing this young person abstractly in a meeting rather than going out to see them? The Crescendo team have been integral to this; they’ve been so attentive, supporting and encouraging, providing encouragement, clarity of thought and a listening ear, which has helped us to feel like our voices and investment are important. That’s helped us to reflect on our involvement with young people, and how we can lift them up to help them feel empowered in their lives.

Share this article