Guest blog: Exploring brave reflective spaces within the workplace

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Circle Scotland

To #KeepThePromise and challenge poverty we must reflect on our own professional practice. It requires us to explore the paradigm of family support through a lens of kindness, compassion, and curiosity. It requires us to develop and sustain brave spaces to explore and reflect on current ways of doing and seeing, to truly enact ‘system’ change.

But first - do those within the ‘system’ actually have the power and agency required to change it? It can be easy to direct blame and responsibility elsewhere, to negate our responsibility to the next generation of professionals. To ask them, to fight for systemic change and eradicate poverty. We need to value and empower our communities and our staff.

Reflective practice

We must question our current status quo of ‘fixing’, ‘solving’ and ‘case management’ and move toward a truly reflective space. We must acknowledge that our current practices can be stigmatising and that treating symptoms of poverty rather than the sources of, does not empower individuals or communities. These current practices do not allow for co-production or codesign of the services they need and often does not align with our practice, professional or sector values.

Excessive bureaucracy is a reality of living and working in today’s era, but can we transform our reality to make bureaucracy beneficial rather than burdensome? Too often we highlight good practice and exemplary case studies without eradicating bad practice or ‘systems’. But what could be achieved if we gave ourselves the space, time, and tools to reflect on how we can work better? What if we felt safe enough to criticise current practices within the ‘system’? What if we felt comfortable to discuss how this impacts the well-being of us, and the communities we support.

Movement toward coproduction

A relations study conducted by Stirling University (2023) suggests that we are over surveilling poorer and working-class communities. Through judgement and stigmatisation of services, we are further policing already vulnerable and excluded communities. The research suggests that by using a deficit model of risk assessment, we are actively finding faults within the communities we are trying to support.

We need to move toward a risk assessment process that is truly co-designed and co-produced to reflect communities’ experiences. However, true codesign and production can be challenging as it disrupts power dynamics in the form of personal career security, media rhetoric and a systemic need to maintain professional hierarchy. Perhaps we could look to the recovery movement for inspiration on how to increase agency, enable peer support and include those with lived experience.

We must work together to change the current system to ensure it is beneficial to, and owned by the community it serves. Once we move out of silos and positions of power, and take the time to reflect, we can realise that we are worth so much more as a collective. This is a movement of activists, who are campaigning for a unifying set of principles. We already hold these shared values close to us and must work together to coproduce and codesign services with our communities.

We believe that we all work in third sector and community development roles. We all need to #KeepThePromise and ensure that intensive family support is available, proactive, and informed by the 10 principles of family support: community based, responsive and timely, work with family assets, empowerment and agency, flexible, holistic and relational, therapeutic, non-stigmatising, patient and persistent, and underpinned by children’s rights. These are value driven, foundational ways of working to challenge poverty. We need to invest in reflective spaces to ensure we align with, and feel, valued.

Family at the heart

At Circle, we are creating codesign and reflective spaces for our workforce. Supporting our staff wellbeing in a collaborative way can enable potential systemic change.

Families should be placed at the heart of our society. This will ensure that each family in Scotland has the potential to empower themselves to be the parent they wish. Scotland is an incredible place to grow up in, and we must work together to ensure each family and child has the opportunity to do so. We cannot leave any child or family behind due to the trauma they had to endure growing up.

Circle is a family support charity supporting families with complex needs exacerbated by poverty, trauma, and addiction. Could we work toward a reflective space where we have collective values and principles that realise the 10 principles of family support – as promised by Scotland?


Circle is a registered charity improving the lives of Children by strengthening families:

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