We held our first Advisory Board last week. The purpose of the advisory board is to provide critique, advice, and inspiration as this project develops. We are lucky to have a group of incredibly talented and committed individuals on the team from areas of: health, innovation, economics, community development, and policy. All of whom we will be working closely with as this work unfolds.

Here is a bite-sized summary of the conversations:

People’s stories:
It goes without saying, but it is the stories of people, their real and honest experiences, that will bring this work alive. We need to understand the day-to-day reality for families in Southwark and Lambeth and use these as the basis for our focus.

Outcomes:
There was a lot of debate about the use of, or need for, current outcomes frameworks. While it is all slightly foggy and unfamiliar, we feel there is a real strength in avoiding outcomes frameworks for the time being. Instead we want to listen properly to the needs and desires of families and children and explore properly what outcomes become most important for this piece of work. We are keen to protect space for some really innovative thinking and we don’t want to get too tangled up in the existing system.

Early wins:
We are talking a lot about long-term impacts, but actually, are we forgetting about the short-term wins? What could we create that brings immediate moments or joy to the lives of children, while also building the foundations for longer-term wellbeing.

Emotional Wellbeing
Whatever we choice to call it, it is the more invisible components of development that we felt most drawn to. Not only because we see mental/emotional/social development as having a significant impact on longer term outcomes, but also because there is remarkably less early intervention focused on or measuring positive emotional and social outcomes. We do however need to think about what we call this, do these lofty terms mean anything to children or families?

The life I want to live
We are very sensitive to ‘development milestones’ and subsequent issues judgement. It was suggested that some simple outcomes might be:
Agency – Supporting children and families to live the lives they want to live.
Growing into happy people –  Letting children flourish in the now and in the future.
We might be wise to stay clear of the terms ‘improving’ ‘changing’ ‘bettering’.

Capabilities and Readiness
We presented a number of frameworks, as food for thought. The one that created the most fruitful debate was a diagram exploring the character traits that under-pin traditional development milestones. The illustration is below. This might help us start to identity some clarity and focus, or maybe we’re not quite there yet?
We also learnt that ‘school readiness’ is a much contested term and we’d do well to find an alternative definition. It is, increasingly, a semantic minefield.