What is pragmatic radicalism?
At Mayday we believe that improving the current support system can simply be a way of perpetuating something which is harmful, so the goal has to be to replace the current system, and particularly the dysfunctional relationships at its centre, with more simple, human systems and services.
But calls for radical change, however grounded in real people’s lives and wishes, can be heard simply as angry shouting by people who are giving their heart and soul to support people within systems that are under-resourced, over-demanded and teetering on the edge of burn out.
Captivating those from within the system
So can we create steps towards that radically re-imagined future which people and organisations not currently thinking as radically as that feel able to take but will be irreversible in terms of changed consciousness….
To get people who work within the current system to engage with us, our offers must be:
Clear, practical and distinct from other offers
Useful now, addressing a problem they recognise
Hopeful: offering a better future which feels achievable.
This means meeting people where they are, developing some insight both into what time, money and regulatory challenges people within a broken support system are working within, and the ways in which they already are trying to work in more human and strengths-based ways. Our offer includes a specific support approach in the PTS Response, which is tailored to each individual or community, but is based on consistent values and key practices, which people and services can access through resources, communities of practice, learning materials and outcomes tools: tangible stuff which results in support which people can see working on the ground.
It’s time to bring system change not system tweak
But our end goal is not to improve the current system a bit: that would just perpetuate a model which isn’t working and which in some cases is exacerbating inequalities. So we also need our offers to result in:
The voices of people who are currently voiceless getting heard
Raised ambitions as people see that more human and effective support is really possible
‘No turning back’ moments
‘No turning back’ moments do not have to be big strategic leaps. Indeed, many Strategic Vision launches simply reframe the existing direction, values and belief systems of an organisation and as such are moments of renewed stasis, rather than real renewal.
But no turning back moments can happen when we stop seeing people as patients, service users, customers, and start seeing them as fully human. At those moments we can no longer sustain the cognitive dissonance required to conform to the expectations of being a professional within a system that isn’t working for people, and we become human again.
In my book, I referred to this as the ‘invisible asylums’ that so many of us work within becoming visible. For me, getting to know Shared Lives carers was when the institutionalisation I’d been accepting, and perpetuating became visible and unignorable. For many of my colleagues at Mayday, it is experiences of coaching after years of working within traditional support services.
Those moments are daunting. They can be moments which just add to the guilt about everything we know is wrong with the systems we are part of. Or they can be the first steps on a long, hard journey back to feeling human again.
This is what I mean by ‘pragmatic radicalism’: aiming for somewhere very different, but recognising that we can only get there one small, practical, achievable step at a time
Alex Fox – Chief Executive, Mayday Trust