2021 was an undeniably tough year characterised by considerable and consistent uncertainty, change and challenge. This year we are not only hoping but planning for better.
In 2022 a new Alliance structure – the work of two years’ discussion and development throughout the Alliance – will start to make a tangible difference and become increasingly obvious to everyone involved. The SCiP Alliance Community will become a reality in the work of a new online platform helping allies connect, collaborate, and make change together, while a new Management Group will make sure that the diverse perspectives in the community are translated into shared priorities and action.
As we make the shift to sharing the leadership of the Alliance more widely, I want to suggest three ways in which our work together needs to make sense of the whole rather than only our part: we need to work in ways characterised by whole-person, whole-journey and whole-system thinking.
“we need to work in ways characterised by whole-person, whole-journey and whole-system thinking”
The diversity of the Alliance reflects the diversity of Service children’s experiences. Whether in research, practice or policy, allies are, variously, homing in on education, wellbeing and mental health, family, skills and career development, peer support and relationships and much more. There is value in paying attention to all these, but you cannot separate these easily in individual children’s experiences. The complexity and diversity of Service children’s lives makes attempts to generalise difficult and potentially damaging, so the more support reflects the individual the more it will help them thrive. Each of us will have a different contribution to make (to their education or wellbeing, for example), but we must challenge ourselves to consider our contribution in the context of the whole person, rather than expect Service children to fit their lives to our compartmentalised provision.
Just as, say, family, education, and wellbeing support all play a part in the whole person’s experience, for the Service child, these experiences happen in the context of what has gone before and affect how they respond to what is yet to come. A whole-journey approach means we must find ways to add value to Service children’s journeys so far. Listening to their experiences and their wishes for the future is an invaluable starting point for helping them make the most of the small part we can play in helping them progress.
Finally, given that each of us will add only a piece to myriad experiences in each Service child’s journey and to only part of who they are as a whole person, it is imperative we find ways to think (and act) as a whole system of support. Until we do this, we will not identify the gaps between provision where Service children may fall and we will duplicate effort – our precious, limited resource will achieve less. Working in whole-system ways will realise innovation and impact gains in ways we cannot see until we initiate it. Whatever 2022 holds, we will achieve more for Service children if we start as we mean to go on – if we start together.
Phil Dent, SCiP Alliance Director