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Our experiments

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We view our work as being fundamentally experimental, so we think of our projects as ‘experiments’. This doesn’t imply that the people we work with are lab rats who we poke with electrodes. They are experimenters with us as we’re all trying to figure out things that none of us yet knows.


To fit with our experimental approach, we like to think of our work in terms of ‘What if…?’ We imagine how things could be different and see what happens when we try to make something different.

What if we could make the money work differently by building community power?

- The Gateshead Community Bridgebuilders

A group working to reimagine the Gateshead system, explore how we can break cycles of disadvantage and redistribute power through community-strengthening and devolving decision-making. This work is in partnership with the Lankelly Chase Foundation. The work is divided into multiple ‘inquiries.’ One inquiry has invovled using story-telling to capture a picture of the Gateshead system and identify links in cycles of disadvantage that can be broken. A second inquiry has people working on an exploration of what happens if a community is empowered to make its own resourced decisions about how to make the most of its strengths and how to experiment with addressing ‘what’s wrong’.

What if a local system came together regularly to learn and connect without agenda?

- Gateshead Futures

Gateshead Futures is an open learning network that began during the first 2020 lockdown. Originally conceived as being for people living or working across Gateshead to co-design the future of the borough, over two years it evolved to be much more about relationships, learning and reflection. People come to the space as individuals, as human beings, rather than as their ‘professional roles.’ Anyone can bring any topic they like, which plays to people’s curiosity, their strengths, or areas of life or work they’d like to explore with the help of others. This space has helped people to feel part of an interconnected whole. Hearing other people thinking about the same things as them, recognising the challenges we’re going through are shared rather than individual challenges, all this has been incredibly valuable and has helped us all look at the things we’re dealing with in new ways and new lights.

What if men tried to actively challenge systemic sexism?

- Men Don’t Talk network

Men Don’t Talk was formed as a response to the horrific murder of Sarah Everard, as a coming-together of a group of men who wanted to explore how to be ‘better’, how to challenge systemic sexism and misogyny and how to challenge other men to be better and to do better. Initially the group was a men-only space but has since been expanded to include women in order to challenge some of the assumptions and orthodoxies of a patriarchal society. Subjects explored to date have include emotional intelligence, how men dominate spaces and toxic masculinity. Men Don’t talk isn’t about a group of men slapping themselves on the back for ‘being the good guys’, it’s a challenging space where men can reflect on their conditioning as part of a male-dominated culture and how their actions, both conscious and unconscious, can affect women.

Improving Digital inclusion - Gateshead Health & Care Tech Group/Academic Health Science Network

Digital exclusion is a broadly experienced and widely talked about systemic issue. However, the approaches taken to tackle it are often siloed and isolated. People don’t want to duplicate work, they want to collaborate, but it’s challenging to know how to start to solve a problem so broad, a problem that affects all areas of life and is experienced in different ways by different people across different geographies. We’re involved in two projects, focusing specifically on access to health and social care provision: one in Gateshead and the other on the North East & North Cumbria more broadly. Our role in this work is to broaden the working definition of digital access in digital inclusion work, viewing it as a social determinant of health and as a systemic issue that extends well beyond the boundaries of health and social care. Growing our collective understanding of how digital inclusion can be improved through a system change lens and connecting relationships and partnerships to make sure that digital inclusion is approached in a more cohesive way are key focuses of these projects.

What if we devolved decision-making to a local community?

- Teams & Dunston Inquiry

Coming soon

What if we could make trains family friendly?

- Campaign for Family Friendly Trains

Have you ever noticed that trains are designed with specific groups of people in mind? Steps up onto the train pose a challenge for people with mobility issues, small children and – crucially for this campaign – prams. No train in the UK (that we’re aware of at least) has dedicated space for a baby in a pram. Most operators have a policy that prams and buggies should be folded before boarding. But luggage storage is built on the assumption that you’re travelling with a case that’s lightweight, small and easily fits in an overhead rack – designed for access by people who are tall, able-bodied, and not trying to hold an infant and nappy bag at the same time. The Campaign for Family Friendly trains is a group of parents, of whom Abby is one, who are pressuring the rail industry to move away from commuter-focused rail and ‘design in’ families. Our main ask is for trains to have dedicated space on board for unfolded prams, but also well designed and situated changing and toddler-friendly toilet facilities, family-aware and -inclusive customer support and level boarding.

Exploring Equality Diversity and Inclusion – Stockport VCS

VCSE organisations in Stockport wanted support in identifying gaps and strong points in their approach to equality, diversity and inclusion. We have been supporting this work by conceiving and developing the proposed approach and co-facilitating its pilot. We are guiding staff through an exploration of their personal experiences and attitudes towards inclusivity. We are challenging them to deepen their own understanding of the issues and barriers faced by different groups and intersectionalities. We are working with them to develop solutions to the issues they uncover that are informed by their own context.

Building reflective practice into social care

- Gateshead Adult Social Care System Learning

This work started when the Director of Adult Social Care at Gateshead Council asked for our help capturing the learning from all of the fast-moving changes that materialised at the start of the Covid pandemic. So far we’ve run two ‘system learning groups’, spaces where a group of people working across Adult Social Care come together to reflect on and dig deep into a topic that emerges from the group. We designed this space to be owned by the participants, where anyone could bring insights, observations, and questions, and for the group as a whole to delve into them. Each session evolved out of the one that came before and no two sessions were the same, ranging from developing a statement of beliefs about what care actually is, to exploring what it is like to ask for help, to understanding the human aspect of working in social care in the context of the pandemic.

What if we could build learning relationships into primary care practice?

- Sunderland Primary Care Networks and NHS Leadership Academy

Working across the six primary care networks in Sunderland, we are surfacing the priorities and areas of curiosity for each PCN and designing a series of mini-experiments to help the PCNs learn together better. The experiments focus on working together to improve public services. The main purpose of the experiments is to act as a ‘disruptor’ around which we design and build new learning structures. We sense-make together about what the collaborative is learning from the experiments, and how to iterate our experiments over time.

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