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September 26, 2022

2022 Evidence and Skills Sprints: learning from Aberdeenshire County Council

In March 2022 we launched the third iteration of the What Works Community Impact Accelerator. This year, the programme was structured around ‘sprints’.

A ‘Sprint’ is a process that uses design thinking to make fast progress on new ideas in an intensive, facilitated experience, and we wanted to try them out as an intensive but accessible way to work rapidly with local authorities across the country to turn insights from evidence into plans for action.
Find out more about the Sprints

Aberdeenshire County Council sent representatives through to each of the three sprints we ran: one on preventing homelessness for people leaving prison (‘Prison Discharge’) attended by Lorraine Stewart and Kylie Whyte, one on Problematic Substance Use by Gail Predell, Team Leader (Support and Housing First), and one on data skills by Heather Buchan, Team Leader (Homeless & Temporary accommodation). We caught up with the whole team at Aberdeenshire to see why they made the decision to attend all three, what they thought, and what’s next for this Scottish Local Authority.

Why did they choose to do a Sprint with CHI?

“Because it was something different.” 

Colleagues at Aberdeenshire commented that there are so many reports that are released, but question how actionable and usable the insights and information they present are. They also are keen to work in partnership with other local areas as much as they can, and it seemed like a good opportunity for peer connection and learning. 

What was their experience of doing the Sprints?

“It was great getting some time out of our normal day to find out what people are doing, hear some new ideas.”

They really appreciated having time to take out of their normal routines to find out about emerging and best practices and ideas from other areas and from the synthesised learnings in the sprints. They also appreciated that the evidence was broken down enough to be explained, and that there was a job to be done in terms of then applying it to the context in Aberdeenshire. 

What practical next steps are they taking as a result of undertaking the sprints?

Lorraine and Kylie’s team did the prison release sprint. They looked at their prison release process they found that it worked well when the release was planned, but unplanned releases could throw up a range of challenges. One practical change they have made since the sprint is to arrange to receive the daily court list - of who is appearing (and so potentially being released). While someone appearing in court may not result in a release, treating the court date as the potential release date allows the housing team to plan ahead and make sure accommodation is in place.

Gail’s team are following up by developing a short training programme for housing staff in relation to substance misuse. It will have input from external agencies such as Police, cuckooing teams, ARIES (Aberdeenshire Responsive Intervention Engagement Service (Overdose Response) teams,  and others. They have also arranged for staff working in Housing First to shadow their colleagues in drugs services and for staff in drugs services to shadow staff in Housing First services.

What would they want people to know about the Sprints if they were thinking of signing up?

“There’s a lot of information coming in, but you need to be prepared, and be prepared to do the stuff in between.”

Participants from Aberdeenshire emphasised that it was a Sprint - a lot of evidence and learning was coming in at pace, so to participate you needed to be prepared for that, and prepared to dedicate yourself to the learning and activities in between the sessions. They also found they got the most benefit from doing it as a small team from the Local Authority as opposed to doing it alone. 

We really appreciate colleagues from Aberdeenshire not just for attending the Sprints, but also for sharing their experiences, which we in turn can reflect upon and learn from.

To access more information from the sprint yourself, including worksheets and evidence summaries, take a look at our Evidence in Practice resources.

To stay up to date with what’s on offer in the What Works Community and to be first in the line to hear more, fill out this short form and be at the front of the queue to work with us in applying the what works approach to your local homelessness issues.

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