If measurement is going to make a major difference to the practice of family and community work, we need to become much better at being transparent, open and honest. Not surprisingly, when we talk publicly about what we do, we generally try to present it in the best light possible, which can mean minimising or disguising challenges and negatives.
Listening to Senator Zeb Seselja (the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs) at the opening of the Family and Relationship Services Australia (FRSA) conference, I reflected on what a huge change is required. The Senator spoke about all the great work the government is doing to support families and the great changes they’ve made. It was more of a sales pitch than open, honest reflection. I don’t want to suggest that he was worse than other people as he is not alone, and I do it too.
Being committed to measuring the impact of our work means we need to be open to the possibility that some things won’t work and that we will have failures. While this can be relatively easily in private, it can be hard to share our work publically, warts and all. When we present our work, our reputation can be at stake, we might be thinking about future funding, or we might be wanting to promote a program or an approach. We can be under a great deal of pressure to promote it rather than to provide an honest critique. How we share our stories can also have an impact on others (e.g., partners, colleagues, clients) so we need to think about our relationship with them and their reputation.
I sometimes struggle with how much to say in the blog. When I’ve discussed Kid’s Vegies on the Verge, Transition Streets, and even the recent Fair Share Festival and the visit by the Indonesian academics, I sometimes feel I gloss over some of the challenges. I try to be honest but it can be difficult. Sometimes discussing some of the difficulties could imply (or actually be) a criticism of other people involved. Sometime, it could highlight my limitations which could have implications for my employment or obtaining consultancies for the Family Action Centre. Sometimes it could mean I undermine the work of others.
I’ve been involved in a few failures I would love to discuss as I have learnt a great deal from them but, as they involved other people, I don’t feel I have the right.
Creating an organisation culture that allows mistakes and failure, and that encourages honest reflection, is one thing. It is another thing to share these mistakes and failures publically.
(Takes a deep breath.) I think you can expect some posts in the coming months where I experiment with sharing more about some of the challenges I personally find in my work.
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