Developing Strategy at the Whole Population Level

Getting from talk to Action – whole population level

The challenge is to get from talk to action, from end to means and address the question “What are the right things to do?”

The process starts at the whole population level, which means starting by looking at the conditions of wellbeing we want for all people (or all children, all young people, all older people etc.) in a defined community and defining these as outcomes. Whole Population outcomes should be stated as simple, straightforward jargon-free conditions of wellbeing that anyone can understand. It’s important to recognise that Whole Population Outcomes are not targets. They are aspirational statements that reflect the vision for the community and set the direction of travel for partner agencies and stakeholders. Defining the outcomes is the start of the OBA planning process.

Because we are looking to contribute towards whole population outcomes then this process cannot be done by a single agency or service provider. We need to bring together all the relevant agencies and organisations together with service users, residents and community representatives with a role to play and/or a stake in the desired outcome.

We can then start the journey from talk to action by addressing seven questions:

  1. What are the outcomes (quality of life conditions) we want for our community and the children and families who live here? E.g. All people (in a defined community):
    • Enjoy good health and wellbeing
    • Feel safe and are safe
    • Get the best start in life
    • Benefit from a thriving economy
    • Live in a quality environment
  2. What would these conditions look like if we could see, feel and experience them?
    • If we could travel forward in time to our community where all the desired outcomes had been achieved, how would be know? Walking around our community, what would we expect to see and hear? By visioning our desired community, we can use the experience to inform the data that will help us measure our progress towards our desired outcome. This experience is a bridge between our desired outcome and the data we’ll use to measure our progress.
  3. How can we measure if these conditions exist or not? (Indicators) Are the measures getting better or worse? (baseline) Where are we headed if we just keep doing what we’re doing now (forecast)?
    • We use data that we feel says most about the outcome (informed by the visioning process) to measure progress presented as historical baselines and forecasts with progress shown as the ‘curve turned’. The choice of Indicators will reflect the priorities for action.
  4. What do we understand about the causes of poor outcomes in our community? What are the forces and drivers at work? What is happening here? What are the barriers to progress? (the story behind the baseline)
    • We turn the data into information by building up a rich story made up of stakeholders’ personal experiences and anecdotes balanced with research and academic study. The use of the term “Story” is significant in that telling stories is something most people feel comfortable doing. By encouraging local people to tell their story, we are giving equal credence to their life experiences alongside the knowledge of ‘experts’.
  5. Who are the partners that have a potential role to play in doing better?
    • Pursing outcomes of any kind of complexity involves partners and stakeholders from different disciplines working together. We need to build the most inclusive partnership possible including community representatives working alongside the statutory, voluntary and private sectors.
  6. What works to do better? What would it take to turn the curve?
    • Linking the talk to action; informed by the story behind the baseline, facilitating discussion towards deciding appropriate projects, services or interventions that could plausibly contribute towards our outcomes
  7. What do we, individually and as a group, propose to do? (action plan)
    • Pulling together our collection of plausible actions with a reasoned chance of contributing towards our outcomes and forming the core focus for our commissioning or delivery plans.

This seven step ‘journey’ is structured around a process that enables participants to contribute their combined skills, knowledge and experiences to inform each step of the way. The process maximises the contribution of all partners and stakeholders and creates shared ownership for the conclusions. The core process (known as “Turning the Curve”) has been used extensively to inform strategic plans and actions for a broad range of partnership bodies.

The Turning the Curve exercise demonstrates the basic process and is structured around the seven questions above. Task groups of (typically) between five and eight partners are briefed to complete a single page report working step by step in a logical sequence from the defined population and outcome to the action plan. The step by step briefing for facilitating a Turning the Curve Planning Whole Population exercise can be found in the Resources section which includes the Report Card template to record conclusions and form the basis for creating and monitoring the Plan.

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