Principles and Practice
The principles of co-production, are embedded directly into the model of service delivery using solution focus [SF] principles and practice. The entire history and development of the SF approach is centred around the client having maximum choice and control in the service they receive. SF also involves significant others in the person’s life; their families, friends and loved ones. SF recognises that people are not outside of social systems, but are part of communities, families, social groups and other ‘systems’ with which they interact and have shared experiences.
Carol S. Dweck is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Dweck is known for her work on the mindset psychological trait.
The SF approach provides a useful framework for the construction of a support plan, and adds significant value to support workers’ conversations, providing a mind-set, and a related set of techniques to enhance the function of support in the lives of our clients. A consistent finding from research into the effectiveness of ‘talking cures’ is that the type of relationship established between the support worker and client is highly significant. The SF approach builds an empathetic relationship in which the client is empowered to exercise their self-motivation for productive change and improvement in their life. This directly engages what Carol Dweck terms the ‘growth mind-set’, where clients develop the hopefulness and strengths needed to see problems as challenges to be overcome rather than fixed barriers preventing any progress.
Co-produced support plans
The fabric of a support plan that is constructed using SF principles can be seen to have three sections.
 ‘Best Hopes’; the support worker seeks to understand the client's overarching hoped for outcome [from the support work]. Right from the beginning, with the very first question, the SF approach engages the client on their own terms.
‘What are your best hopes from working with me here today?’
- This is a basic of any customer directed service; what is it that they want?
- ‘working with’ signals clearly that this is a collaborative interaction.
 ‘Preferred Future’; the worker is curious about the concrete behavioural detail of the hoped for ‘new future’, and seeks to help the client describe a rich, detailed, picture of what life would be like with their best hopes realised. SF work does not give advice, hijack the client’s description, or problem solve for the client. The worker simply seeks to work with the client to create a description that contains concrete behavioural detail of life looking different, noticing wherever possible elements of this already happening.
 ‘Progress’; the SF approach assumes that change is happening all the time, therefore the worker encourages the client to notice their own progress, seeks to amplify instances of the preferred future already happening, and thoughtfully acknowledges the client’s difficulties and challenges, but shows curiosity about the client’s resilience or abilities to cope. In so doing the worker is interested in the strengths and resources the client is bringing to bear that help them to move towards their goals.
The approach makes a few key and significant assumptions, upon which the practice rests:
- To assume that change is not only possible, but happening all the time
- To see a person as being more than a problem
- To look for resources rather than deficits
- To explore possible and preferred futures
- To explore what is already contributing to their lives
- To treat clients as the experts in all aspects of their lives
This philosophy is extended through all the interactions that the client may have with the organisation. Staff will assist them, ‘hands on’, to protect a tenancy or preserve their income, but only in a consultative and supportive context.
Support staff do focus on: what clients would be pleased to notice being different, what they notice is already happening, and progress that they are making. The style of these conversations is designed so as not to leave extensive ‘footprints’ in the client’s life, or to create a dependent relationship between the client and the workers. Instead they are calibrated to construct narratives where the client leads the description, using questions like:
- How did you manage to do that?
- What did you find most helpful?
- What did your Mum/Brother/Partner/Sister notice?
- When you did [….], what difference did that make?
Solution Focus Coaching Service
SF is part of the everyday support worker’s toolkit. However, clients, who feel ‘stuck’ with an issue, and sense it would be good to talk for longer to someone, can access a more intensive service where they receive a planned programme of sessions with a ‘Solutions Focused Coach’.
These confidential 1-2-1 sessions are provided by, either, an external qualified/accredited consultant, members of staff who are qualified/accredited in SF practice, or one of the organisations advanced practitioners.
This form of coaching is not designed to give advice, or instructions on what to do. The SF Coach asks questions that produce useful changes, emphasising the client’s hopes for their future, their strengths and resources.
Co-produced groups, activities and wraparound services
The range of activities offered to clients by Caer Las are co-constructed with clients. They are usually developed in forums or groups, or come from ideas raised in support sessions. The principles and the style of SF questions are useful aids to workers in forums where they are engaging with Clients to identify new groups or activities.
SF based support work enables staff to collect data from clients about what is already working, or what they think would help their development. This is captured in real-time via InForm (our Case Management System) and reported to Management and Board. In this way, we can continually update our intelligence about what matters to clients. This is supplemented by our client surveys. The information from which assists the Caer Las leadership to institute new or revised practices, service elements or activities that help clients have a better experience, better achieve their personal goals, and better evidence their outcomes.