Challenges of supporting self management approaches

Written by: Marianne Brennan, Development Officer, the ALLIANCE
Various cogs with health related icons in the middle, with the caption 'Self Management' above

Self Management Development Officer Marianne, shares her thoughts on some of the challenges the Self Management Funded Projects face.

In the recent round of reporting for the currently funded self management projects, I was overwhelmed hearing about all the different ways projects are transforming self management in Scotland. What struck me through all the success was the honesty of projects when it came to acknowledging challenges. This is part of why we seek the reports; we need to learn from challenges and be able to share this learning with our networks to enable us to strengthen self management approaches.

From the reports I read, a few key challenges cropped up:

Understanding each other’s worlds

The Self Management Fund is currently open for applications and we’re actively encouraging partnership working. My observation is that we need to take time to find out how the other partners work. By doing this, it allows expectations to be met and relationships to flourish. This also links to one of the Academy’s Five Provocations; Nurturing Transformation. “Transformation requires patience, it takes time to forge relationships, to embed change and to realise long term benefits.” One project noted the lack of understanding of the role of the health professionals they partnered with as a challenge that they had to work at. It then took a few unplanned weeks to nurture relationships and get to know each other in order to truly apply partnership working.

How can we successfully partner a piece of work if we don’t understand the implications or what goes on in the other’s day to day routines or what else they have going on that could put pressure on the partnered work?

Flexibility is key

The second main theme that came through the reports was the constant need to adapt and be flexible. Each project will set their outcomes and work to achieve these but the path they take to get there isn’t always straightforward. Projects that are truly involving people in their delivery will continually ask for feedback and evaluations of the project throughout. This allows the projects to suit the needs of the people they support. Services should be flexible, as sometimes with the best intentions, activities planned don’t get off the ground. If they don’t fit the needs of people they support then it shouldn’t be continued and other avenues should be looked at.

As part of a suite of activities of a particular project, one of these was targeted at over 50s. On three separate occasions the number of attendees were lacking. Yes, it is disappointing, but the project spoke to people who did attend to get feedback and to try and uncover why there were such low numbers. In conclusion, that activity no longer runs but other activities can support those who did attend.

It’s not a bad thing

The feeling I get from reading the reports, is that not one challenge was a bad thing. It was acknowledged and addressed. It is this learning of the challenges that is so important. We need to talk about these so other projects can learn and adapt their ideas. Or so that projects can breathe a sigh of relief when they realise they face the same challenges too.

This year was the first time I had been asked to provide formative feedback to the projects through reading reports. I was slightly nervous at first but as I read through the many different reporting styles, I was struck by the variety of ways in which organisations are working to support self management. It hits home that one size doesn’t fit all, and one way doesn’t fit all – and this reflects the self management journey itself. We need to ensure we continue to invest in such amazing projects and drive forward transformational change across Scotland.

As the fund is currently open to applications, the Self Management Team are here to answer any questions, discuss ideas and possible challenges. The challenges may not go away but we continue to learn to deal with them and the creative solutions we can take.

To find out more about the Fund and how to apply please click here.

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