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Stories of Change - TACSI perspective on Weavers

Author: Kerry Jones at TACSI
Published Date: 12 May 2015

At SIX we think it is important to tell stories where social innovation has impacted people’s lives for the better. Our Stories of Change series tells you the stories that inspire us from around the world. 

This post provides another perspective to build on our Stories of Change - Weavers.

Nana’s 85 today. We are celebrating in the hospital because she has fallen over and broken her shoulder. We are waiting to hear if they need to operate.

Nana’s unwrapping a roll of bubble wrap - a ‘birthday' gift from my Mum (her daughter). We all laugh, but I know that bubble wrap symbolises all the concern my Mum is carrying inside.

This is the start of a story about being a carer, this could be any one of us caring for an older person in our lives - a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, spouse, neighbour, dear friend. There are 2.7 million known carers in Australia alone and they have the worst wellbeing outcomes of any population sub-group.

Let’s jump forward a week...
Nana’s had her operation, the acute stage is over and now the hospital needs the bed for the next acute case. They are looking for a bed in a nursing home for Nana to be transferred to. As I listen to Mum tell me this on the phone I can hear all the anxiety she is feeling about this. “I don’t want her to go into a nursing home" she says “she’ll lose her confidence”. In Mum’s mind this equals loss of strength and skills which equals quicker decline and loss of her Mum (research backs this up).

At the same time this happens I am leading the demonstration of ‘Weavers’ at The Australian Centre for Social Innovation - a peer-to-peer model of support for people looking after a loved one whose ageing. I’ve already learnt so much from our Weavers, people with lived experience of caring who volunteer their time to make it that bit easier for others. So I turn to them for their wisdom and intuition.

They help me understand the options that are out there for Nana; give me phone numbers to call to get more information; provide advice on the things Mum can say to advocate for an alternative for Nana; share insight into how to help Mum stay strong when advocating in a health system that needs the bed, with a sibling that is happy to go the easy road and give opinions but not do much and with her Mum who will say what’s needed because she doesn’t want to burden to anyone.

This is what makes Weavers unique, the combination of practical advice to navigate multiple systems to get the right help (unlike any you would get from a professional) and emotional support that is instinctive because they’ve been there, they get it.

In the end...
Through Mum’s advocacy she got Nana transferred to a rehabilitation centre. In 5 days Nana was up making her own breakfast, in 10 days she was back home and over the coming weeks she worked through a plan that increased her strength to a level better than when she fell. Mum felt confident about her caring role,  she has new knowledge about the options for the future care needs of her Mum and has had conversations with her Mum and siblings about it.

The end of this story could’ve been so different, a bed in a random nursing home that had one available would not have had the same resources to support Nana to recovery. At the right moment in time Weavers were able to provide the support and guidance in Mum's caring journey and ultimately improve the situation for Nana.

The idea of Weavers came from learning from people in caring situations. Through rapid ethnography, semi-structured interviews  and paper prototyping we discovered what people really need as a carer and would be helpful to them in their caring relationship.
This idea was tested out with people in real caring situations under rapid prototyping conditions - constantly testing, learning and iterating the model over a 12 week period.

The results from this 12 weeks lead to funding to demonstrate Weavers as an alternative model of support for carers. Developing an idea to meet a need, with the very people it is for, testing and confirming what really works for people in what context and then demonstrating that on a larger scale requires belief in what is possible and perseverance to make that happen through all the challenges and obstacles.

We could have stopped at the prototype and said here’s a model you should be running. We had great personal stories to share from participants in the prototype and a business case to argue. However, we know many great ideas and innovations stop here because they haven’t been through the next test of operating.

Our current work is building Weavers just enough to operate at a level that rigourously tests our theory of change and teaches us what is core and what could break the model when moving to a greater scale. Developing a blueprint and a runbook that will enable others to adopt and adapt the Weavers model. Designing a quality framework that ensures the fidelity of the service design operating model for Weavers.

We’re only a year into this part of the journey. Some of the things we’re learning include - the value of having someone from the design phase move through to the demonstrate phase (nuance gets lost if you don’t); what mix of capabilities and what level of resources we need to move from design to demonstrate (how lean you can run it); the role of business thinking and business modelling along the innovation journey (do it from the beginning); the importance of the right partnerships for the demonstrate phase and the value of engaging them early in the journey (you can’t do it alone).

We’re learning this because we’ve made mistakes and faced challenges along the way that have made us reflect and do something differently. Recently I heard from an innovator that good innovation takes 7 years to get from idea to sustainability/profitability, that means we’re half way there...