Could your organisation be a pioneer with the 'Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens' initiative?



Skilled Workers Skilled Citizens 'pioneer site' 
East Ayshire Vibrant Communities team filmed in August 2013.

As many people involved in this network already well know, the 2011 Christie Commission made radical proposals for reforming public services in Scotland. In an age of declining resources and escalating need, Christie's report pointed out that services were completely unsustainable if they carried along the same track.

It highlighted mounting evidence that switching resources into prevention could both save money and create the conditions where more resilient communities could emerge. It signposted that services should become more integrated, and embed assets approaches in the way they work. The question was: how to achieve this?

During 2012, the Scottish Leaders’ Forum (which comprises Chief Executives from Scotland’s public agencies) considered how to take the Christie recommendations forward. One outcome was a commitment to explore the implications of assets approaches for workforce development. In other words, for public service organisations to learn together how to make it easy for all their staff - from frontline workers to people in traditionally 'back office' roles - to learn alongside citizens how to embody the values and skills of assets ways of working. 

Make no mistake, this is an enormous agenda of culture change for institutions that have decades long histories of establishing systems and structures that do not make this very easy at the moment. And of course this is happening at a time of rapid change in response to budget cuts. As well as coping with this pain, is there a way to sow the seeds of something more positive and hopeful at the same time? An opportunity to rethink how organisations go about 'workforce development'? An opportunity to challenge other tenets of an old, managerialist approach that involves too much top down target setting and not enough compassion and emphasis on how people relate as both workers and citizens with each other?

It turns out that these type of questions have begun to generate a lot of interest from organisations from right across the public services in Scotland who are coming together through the Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens initiative (SWSC). The initiative is all about opening up spaces to share learning and particularly to follow the stories of 'pioneers' who are getting on with re-inventing what workforce development looks and feels like in their context.

The initiative is six months old and we are still in the early stages of signing up 'pioneer' organisations alongside places like East Ayrshire Vibrant Communities, Threshold (Glasgow) - part of Crossreach Scotland; Police Scotland, the Prisons Service and more. We aim to be open and inclusive - anyone can attend quarterly Reference Group meetings, and we are already beginning to generate new resources like the video at the top of this blog. We aim to do much more of this as part of the wider public service reform work happening in Scotland. For example, here's a video we took at a Reference Group meeting hosted by Threshold in June:

Skilled Workers Skilled Citizens Third Meeting, Threshold Glasgow June 2013 from Nick Wilding on Vimeo.

Latest News

Last Friday (13th September) the Reference Group met at North Inch Community Campus in Perth. As part of the meeting we devoted an hour or so to learning in detail from Catriona Ness (well known in this network!) and Jackie Doe about their work establishing 'The Scottish Healthy Communities Collaborative' since 2005 in Perthshire. This was a really powerful meeting because we were able to learn from many years' experience of a pioneering 'assets' initiative that is already well established and has lessons about how such work can be sustained - and the challenges connected with this.

When they are ready, notes about this meeting, along with all our previous ones, are at

These will shortly move to a new group on KnowledgeHub which I'll annouce here too so folk can join the conversation there. 

How to Get Involved

The easiest way to get involved is to get in touch with me - either via this website or via my email My mobile number is 07557 494605 but it's easiest for me to schedule a call in advance.

As I've said there will soon be a website (due to be launched in the next couple of weeks) where I'll be posting blogs and more. I'm also tweeting @nickwildingsssc

Although I'm based at the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) in Dundee, my remit is to work across a full spectrum of public service organisations to I get out and about a lot. The pattern is that after an initial contact I'll arrange to come visit to explore in more detail the opportunities and how to build on the best of what every organisation is already doing (we are attempting to 'walk the talk' of assets approaches in the development of this initiative).

If you decide you'd like to be a pioneer organisation, the next step is to draft up a 'statement of intent' (which I can help with) as the basis for a follow-up meeting with myself and someone from the Reference Group, where we can pin down what kinds of support will be most helpful to you, and what you might be able to offer to the wider group.

We hope that pioneers will be able to host a meeting of the Reference Group at some point, too. This can be a good opportunity to showcase work you've been developing, but to also invite in some critical friend feedback to prompt a reflection amongst people in the organisation/s about how to build on what's worked so far - and what might be missing. For example, when Jackie and Catriona shared their story last Friday I think I'm right in saying they found the feedback very valuable and practical for questions they are holding right now about how to take the initiative forward into a new phase.

There are lots of options after that. One good one is to invite me along to meet with people involved (ideally a mix of users of services and staff) to get some video footage of a live reflective conversation like the one at the top of this post. We can then co-produce the video (nothing would go out without being OKd by everyone present). The East Ayrshire folk said that the experience was really rewarding both at the level of their team ('we don't get a chance to do this much') but also as a way to generate a resource that can help to communicate the essense of what they are about to other people in other places.

This really is at the core of what Skilled Workers, Skilled Citizens is all about: building on the strengths, passion and commitment of people who are already taking an assets approach and know that to be really effective we have to transform cultures and insitutions and perhaps even the way government works in the process. You might call it movement building! 

A bit about me

This initiative is run collaboratively by the Reference Group. My role is to help make connections, generate resources, and generally maximise the opportunity that this initiative can make a real impact for people in Scotland.

One of the conversation points at previous Reference Group meetings is that part of the culture change is that we invite people to show up as 'whole people' - not just the professional hat they wear. So, for example, at the start of last Friday's meeting everyone introduced themself in terms of something that 'drives them' or they are passionate about that is not immediately obvious in the day-day working context. 

This exercise revealed that a lot of us are parents (I have two young boys, four and two); many of us value creativity of some form (whether it be sowing or poetry or painting - for me, it's music and I play fiddle, guitar and piano); and affirmed that many of us took a decision to get involved with public services at some point in our lives because of our personal values and commitment to justice, fairness and wanting to make a positive contribution in some way (for me, community resilience has been a big focus - in a previous role at Carnegie UK Trust I had an opportunity to develop some of this through a publication called 'Exploring Community Resilience' - (PDF file here). I'm also really interested in how to make videos and animations that can go 'viral' - one experiment I was involved with was called 'Surfing the Waves of Change' -


Responding to this post

Responding to this post

If you'd like to get in touch directly, please do. But it would also be great if you wanted to ask more questions and to do that by commenting on this post - then I could reply in public and other people might find this helpful...

And thanks for reading all the way to the end!


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