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A whole systems approach

Working with Public Health, Plymouth GEMS is applying a whole system approach to transform the management of our green estate.  

What is it?

‘A local whole systems approach responds to complexity through an ongoing, dynamic and flexible way of working. It enables local stakeholders, including communities, to come together, share an understanding of the reality of the challenge, consider how the local system is operating and where there are the greatest opportunities for change. Stakeholders agree actions and decide as a network how to work together in an integrated way to bring about sustainable, long term systems change.’ Public Health England.

Workforce focus group at Poole FarmBy sharing power, listening actively and facilitating more creative discussion about our natural spaces, we hope to co-create more radical and active engagement and develop new and exciting projects that promote health, physical activity and wellbeing for all our citizens.

How we will do it?

Understanding the system through appreciative inquiry 

Plymouth GEMS is about identifying and managing change.

An appreciative inquiry (AI) approach aims to involve stakeholders in self-determined change.  Motivation is key to achieving change.  AI helps to understand and develop intrinsic motivation.  This is when people are self-motivated because they are given the freedom to do the work they enjoy. 

AI holds that when all members of an organisation are motivated to understand and value the most favourable features of its culture, it can make rapid improvements.  The three components of intrinsic motivation are mastery, autonomy and purpose and these are the areas of the system for exploration.

AI uses conversations to stimulate new ideas, stories and images, create relationships and provide positive future imagery to build on the potential of a person/organisation.

A Whole Systems Approach process diagram

The 4 AI processes are:

  1. Discover: The identification of organisational processes that work well.
  2. Dream: The envisioning of processes that would work well in the future.
  3. Design: Planning and prioritising processes that would work well.
  4. Destiny (or Deploy): The implementation (execution) of the proposed design.

The Discover phase started with the Parks workforce during Summer 2019, after which it will move onto wider stakeholders and the community in Autumn/Winter 2019. 

What’s next:

Feed learning from the Discover phase into the Operations and Experience area of work, identifying quick wins. 

Share common themes with staff and lead a visioning exercise through Dream and Design phases.

Share findings with the enterprise and community programme: Enrich