2012 03 Responses to the Aberdeen Conference Print

Thank you for permitted myself, Dr Tony Miller, and David McAra from the Deming Learning Network to attend the “Systemic Social Work Throughout Europe” seminar on Thursday 15th March. It was appreciated

As someone who is steeped in the study of systems, I wonder if I could comment – add to -  the presentations on the day.

Walter talked about dynamic systems operating between the social worker and the client. He also alluded to the complex system behind this interface. Our view is that there are massive opportunities for studying how this complex background system is designed and managed.

I also identified with Johannes and Lisa’s presentation when they stressed that we learn when we have a hypothesis/theory/ assumption and then put it to the test. It is when we are not aware of our underpinning assumptions that we are not able to learn from any feedback received.

Mike explored the need to be aware of the political background to policies.

And yourself, Steve, gave us a hierarchical triangle where the aims were articulated by politicians that were interpreted by front line social workers in carry out their function. I wonder if I could add a step in this process.  The aims of the politicians are passed down to government civil servants who design the system to enable and control the work of front line social workers. As mentioned above, there are very significant improvement opportunities from studying the design of this holistic system. But learning and improvement is hampered by government civil servants not being aware of the assumptions that underpin their design. As Johannes and Lisa pointed out we do not learn in these circumstances. They may get plenty of feedback but without this learning foundation little improves.

Finally to return to Mike’s point about involving ourselves in the political sphere, the Scottish Government bend over backwards to connect with the electorate. For example any one of us can submit a petition to the Scottish Parliament.  The Unreasonable Learners, of which we are part, have submitted a petition in the above vein. We have asked that the government research the underpinning assumptions of the present design of their systems and then compare them with current research. We have submitted this petition because we are persuaded from evidence that their designs reflect “Command and Control” principles that have been out of date for the past 50 years.

Finally might I comment that a contribution on systems thinking from out with the social work profession might add significantly to your deliberations – See Dr Tony Miller’s Systems Thinking Group – and many others.


Gordon Hall

The Deming Learning Network Ltd - A Scottish Charity - No. SCO406640
& The Unreasonable Learners

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