“The Results-Based Accountability™ concepts utilised in this document are derived from the book ‘Trying Hard is Not Good Enough’, by Mark Friedman.”
Ok, so let’s start with first principles: I am a massive fan of the Mark Friedman model of RBA, but for it to work I believe you cannot cut corners. You must follow each of the stages outlined in the book; trying hard is not enough or I believe the impact will be diminished.
Starting with the first stage, what are the conditions the community want to see?
This inevitably involves consultation. A programme of change based on political priorities, and not on the changes the population think are important, will limit the power or desire of communities to facilitate change that benefits them.
The Results Based Accountability TM model favours the structure of Shelly Arnstein’s Ladder of Participation which sees the examples of the highest level of participation being those where priorities are identified by communities and driven by them. With statutory agencies offering professional support when required and requested it is clear that most communities see high employment as a desirable condition. It reduces poverty, increases skills, confidence and self-determination and generally leads to a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour, particularly among the young.
So to stage two and the conditions as they are experienced by communities and an outline of the problems as they exist. We need to establish the baseline. The level of the problem as it currently exists for unemployed people who are registered unemployed, this is fairly straight forward as statistics are available. Let’s assume therefore that our priority is to tackle unemployment among those registered as unemployed. Critical to the Results Based Accountability TM model is that we establish the reasons for the unemployment – the story behind the baseline.
The story behind the baseline:
In order for the RBA model to work this element of the process cannot be missed or simply paid lip service to. Unemployment in rural communities may be massively impacted upon by lack of affordable transport and a poor transport infrastructure. No amount of CV writing or Job Clubs are going to help if someone has no means of travelling to where the jobs are. Innovative solutions such as Wheels to Work, a short-term scooter hire, have had success in rural areas.
In areas where there are several generations of unemployment, the biggest challenge is changing the life scripts of individuals and communities. Life Scripts are our beliefs about ourselves, others and the world in which we live. Once these beliefs are formed, they are reinforced over time by our seeking evidence to prove we are right (and not the contrary). If you are unemployed, have never worked and your family and those around you are unemployed, it is easy to develop the belief that you will never have a job and there are no jobs out there for you.
You are constantly surrounded by ‘evidence’ to support your belief. So whilst you may go through the motions to ensure you receive benefit, how hard will you try? In these circumstances the solution again does not lie in Job Club or interview skills but in working with individuals and communities to develop a new more positive script. It is particularly challenging to encourage individuals to relinquish this script, when there are so few jobs around and employers generally will opt to employ someone with current skills and a sound work ethic. Therefore part of the solution must include employers.
Unless we can engage employers and offer some inducement/support to employ individuals from these communities and provide them with real opportunities with support we are not going to see a substantial reduction in unemployment in disadvantaged areas.
And now to NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training), a title that classifies a whole group of young people in terms of ‘what they are not’.
NEETS become a ‘problem’ as soon as they leave school and yet the creations of the fast majority of NEETS start well before they ever reach school age. For some their journey towards the classification starts at birth with unskilled parents who lack the necessary skills and support. Through school many children experience education as a bewildering and disempowering experience. Lack of parental support limits opportunities for engagement in the social aspects of school and absence of parents at parents evening leaves teachers guessing the reasons for a child’s disengagement in school.
So, given this history, it is not surprising that many young people do not engage in education. The solution is to engage these children and families from the outset, from preschool, throughout school as well as beyond. If we can ensure that education is a positive experience children and young people will achieve more and be more likely to remain engaged. If support starts only when children and young people are deemed a problem, for many it is too late.
By reducing the emergence of children and young people as NEETS we also fulfil the next requirement of RBA: Turning the curve.
Turning the curve:
Using the example of NEETS, if all the activity is focussed on responding to NEETS once they are categorised we will not affect the trend of emerging NEETS. Other factors such as recession, poor school attainment and educational models which favour academic children, not those who require a more practical approach, will impact on the trend relating to the incidence of NEETS. Whilst responding to the story behind the baseline will, if effective, begin to turn the curve (positively affect trends) it would be naive to consider that these projects operate in isolation, and university fees, loss of jobs locally and a reduction in schemes such as apprenticeships are all factors which can operate against your best efforts.
Working collectively to resolve the issues:
From a comprehensively researched ‘story behind the baseline’ should emerge a rich seam of potential projects and key partners which reach far beyond the usual employment agencies.
It is essential that any economic solution must engage businesses and unfortunately too often projects designed to reduce employment operate in a vacuum, seeking to train a population in skills which they assume businesses will need. In relation to NEETS and those with self-limiting beliefs, education both formal and informal will play a big role.
There are no quick fixes when changing the culture on individuals and communities and unless intensive work is undertaken to help people adopt more positive life scripts any change in behaviour will not be sustained.
Results Based AccountabilityTM is focussed on results, on impact, on outcomes of the activity and whilst levels of employment can be easily measured using statistical data, changing people’s scripts involves the measurement of soft outcomes.
Soft outcomes or distance travelled are measured using a range of soft indicators. A soft indicator represents a measured change in ‘attitude/belief, knowledge/skill’ and for ‘behaviour’.
Essential to measuring any outcome there is a requirement to establish an effective baseline, the condition as it exists at the start of the project or intervention. For soft outcomes this will require time to identify the attitudes and beliefs of individuals, their level of knowledge or skill and their corresponding behaviour. This needs time if it is to be completed properly. Changing cultures does not happen overnight.
So, in answer to my question, can the RBA model really tackle unemployment in Wales? The answer is ‘yes’ as long as time is given to complete the process properly and it is not used as a quick fix which wheels out the same old projects to a complex issue.
I deliver training on Results Based AccountabilityTM and challenging negative life scripts through our training course ‘Confidence Building and Motivation – a toolkit for professionals’ as well as 'Measuring Soft Outcomes and Distance Travelled'.
This entry was posted on Monday 16th April 2012.
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