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Hitting the targets – missing the point

31st January 2012

Once again this week I will be spending my time responding to service specifications through a procurement portal.  It’s good that there are still tenders to respond to, but….

What I write in response to their questions doesn’t give me the opportunity to talk about the really important stuff, the life-changing opportunities and the amazing journey that some people will make.

Every day I hear remarkable stories from staff about the achievements of the people they work with, the overwhelming barriers they face and the challenges they have overcome.

And every month I read the reports to the commissioners about the targets they set us and how we have achieved them.  As I read these reports I see nothing about individual’s triumphs,   –largely because this information is not measured as a target.

Yet when I do tell people about the difficult circumstances that some of our clients are in, and how we have helped them everyone agrees it’s the right thing to do, it’s needed and often changes lives – will these experiences ever change services?

We know loads of stuff

The term commissioning comes from shipbuilding, and it feels to me that often we are treated as an empty vessel. The reality is that we are packed to the rafters with experience, knowledge, skills and understanding from all sorts of perspectives – community based organisations usually are.

Trust is a great thing

The thing that makes us able to help people, is because we can listen to them, often we have been where they are, sometime live in the same places and most importantly we can see many perspectives, we are here because of our life experience.  Someone recently said to me “The best guides in life are those that are just a few steps ahead of you” – that is how we see ourselves in relation to our clients. We need to be trusted to work in ways we know best.

We will find the way – see you there.

Where it starts to become uneasy is when the path is set, the route is determined and the road to a target is specified.  In our sector, there is a well known route – it’s called the Patient Pathway and many many hours have been spent designing it, mostly by people who are never going to walk down it.

People can do even greater things

About 95% of the time spent by people working in communities is on negotiating the hoops that have been set down, in order to get to a target.

Negotiating services and systems is a job in itself; how to find what you want, where you want it and how you want it would be much easier if the road to the target was simple, the signs were clear and perhaps designed by those who use it.

Community/voluntary organisations, social enterprises, Community Interest Companies know loads of things, we don’t want to be responders, we need to be specifiers – then maybe targets will become more relevant to the point.



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1 Comment

  1. Andrew J

    Agree with your comments, the big issue seems to be a focus on short term gain rather than long term benefits. Our clients tell and could “sell” the best stories to all potential commissioners but someone needs to listen.