What skills and attitudes do we need for justice system change?

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Our friends at Nesta have been working on a new competency framework to define the key skills, attitudes and behaviours that public sector innovators combine in order to successfully solve public problems.  Check out this wonderful post for more details.

This is difficult work.  I was heartened to see confirmation of the various “tensions” that we experience every day:

Solving complex problems involves managing the intricate tensions and dynamics between opposing mindsets, skillsets and ways of acting. Such dynamics include: being disruptive and challenging the status quo, while being humble and integrative; making decisions in the face of uncertainty while being able to legitimise these decisions; having a clear plan of action, while adapting to and improvising for unforeseen situations; exploring new possible futures, while focusing on outcomes and committing to real-world effects; keeping the big picture in mind while also considering citizens’ needs at an individual level; being reflective and critical while having a strong bias towards action.

All this requires ongoing judgement and the ability to combine multiple different attitudes and skills at the same time. For these reasons, it is important to recognise the elements presented in the framework as “complex skills”.

The framework groups the complex skills into three broad categories:

  • Accelerating learning (exploring and experimenting)
  • Working together (collaboration)
  • Leading change (inspiring people)

I was interested to see the overlap with Adam Kahane’s three requirements for successful system change (systemic, participatory and experimental).

The diagram describing the categories can be downloaded as a pdf:

Thanks to Nesta for more powerful tools to assist our work!

Kari D. Boyle