The first conversation was vibrant, and emotional. There are many ways to skin a cat apparently. Here is my take on what was said:

Language. We are beset with words that obscure. Co-production. Learned experience. System change. Place based reform. There are road maps to system change. There are people with learned experience co-producing system change. Isn’t everything place based? We are obsessed with scale, but we don’t know what it means.

Scope. Roy Parker only had two books to read. Now knowledge is like a virus. It is everywhere. We have to wear a mask to stop ourselves catching it. It is impossible to get to it all. We constantly work with an incomplete picture.

Ubiquity. How come we are all doing something similar, or at least using the same jargon? Too often we are doing the same thing because we don’t have space to do something different. And it is unheard of for a funder to stop doing something because it turned out to be a stupid idea.

Risk, success and speed. Foundations should be risk takers. Public systems can afford to take big risks with a small proportion of its funds. (There is much less money than a decade ago, but money isn’t the problem). We are expected to succeed, and to succeed quickly. So we don’t take risks.

Tension between stories. There is science and evidence. There is the need to do better with the resources at hand. And then there are the real lives of people. Which story matters? How do we keep our work rooted in the lives of people?

A space to learn. There is so happening, but not many contexts in which we can reflect and learn. A place where it is ok to say ‘I don’t know what that means’. A place where the experience of people around you is as important as the inputs. A place where I can say ‘I think I really messed up’. A place where we don’t yet know what we will learn.

Complexity. We are drawn to linear models of change that allow us to think that something we do will lead to widespread change. Then there are representations of the world that reveal its true complexity, for example Harry Rutter’s work on obesity (see diagram).

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