What tools does a Fire Starter need?

Day 5 of the Fire Starter Festival was an opportunity for colleagues from across public services to come together and try out some of our Workforce Scotland tools. Janet Whitley, Ingage Division lead, blogs for us about two of those tools: the Pioneer Collaborative Leadership and the Dialogue Community of Practice.

We began with a taster of the Enabling Collaborative Leadership Pioneer Programme, which is an offer to work with collaborative teams (‘Pioneer Sites’) across public services on real work issues where there is a need to find different kinds of solutions to complex challenges. The approach is built around a core model of action inquiry, supported through a team of facilitators and a shared commitment to learning as we go.

For me, hearing some of the stories from the collaborative teams that we have been working with really brings the programme to life. This approach has made a real difference to how they have worked and the outcomes they have achieved.

Colleagues from the Musselburgh Pioneer Site shared some of their experience of working with families who were intensive users of multiple services, beginning with the questions: “What is it like to be in this family?” and “What is it like to be me as a practitioner working with this family?” This approach has really changed how they’re thinking about this work.

We then undertook a brief listening exercise, trying out speaking uninterrupted and listening intently. This helped us bring some focus to the importance of listening to inquiry and to collaborative leadership.

There were people from a range of different backgrounds and contexts in the group and the taster seemed to resonate with the questions about collaborative leadership they brought. I was delighted that we even had a couple of participants who were interested in joining our facilitation pool and in exploring the possibility of becoming Pioneer Sites.

The session on Dialogue built from this, exploring with the group how the nature of our conversations and the roles and patterns that we adopt can make a real difference to the results that we achieve. We talked about our use of advocacy and inquiry in conversations, all recognising situations where too much of either element could lead to some very frustrating results!


We then had some practise conversations in groups, observing the roles and stances that we were adopting and recognising the elements that could get us stuck, or that could really help us to have productive conversations.

As with all of the Workforce Scotland events, the real joy is the opportunity to meet colleagues from a range of different sectors and to explore together how each of us can influence public service transformation.  This session didn’t disappoint on that score.

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