Unconferencing with the Transform Alliance

Dame Julia Cleverdon, Chair of the Transform Alliance, shares her reflections on the inaugural Transform Unconference.

Recently I was privileged to join participants from Police NowTeach FirstUnlocked GraduatesThink Ahead and Frontline for the day at the Transform Alliance ‘Unconference’. The subject of the event was ‘Future Generations’ with a particular focus on vulnerable children and young adults.

‘Unconferencing’

For those of you who haven’t heard of an ‘Unconference’, they are a facilitated way to run events with no pre-set agenda. Core to this is the belief is that the sum of knowledge and experience of everyone in attendance is greater than that of any individual. As one of the guest speakers and Chair of the Transform Alliance, I could not agree more. The room was filled with energic, passionate and bright frontline practitioners who act as leaders in their communities every day. It made perfect sense for them to lead the discussions on what matters most in their roles.

At the start of the day guests pitch the topics they want to talk about with the diverse group in the room. These pitches then form the discussions for the day – there is no content until the participants create it! The topics raised ranged from children missing from care homes, institutional racism, the culture of accountability within frontline services and youth engagement as part of rehabilitation activities. The idea of a fourth emergency service covering mental health was especially interesting to me. Each topic was then allocated time in the day for discussions on how frontline practitioners can work together to overcome issues; sharing ideas, experience and challenging each other to take action.

We were lucky on the day to be joined by a series of interesting speakers who are change-agents in their fields. Frances Crook, CEO of the Howard League, shared her experiences trying to change the penal system. Henry Timms and Jeremy Heiman inspired the audience around their concepts of ‘new power’ and ‘old power’ – with the idea that new power structures and beliefs can be used by frontline practitioners to make lasting change in their communities. More information about their ideas can be found here along with their new book.

Collective action’

I was inspired by the excitement, level of engagement and insightful discussion I observed across the day; clearly those in attendance were driven by the opportunity to make a difference. James Darley and I (of the Transform Alliance) are committed to delivering systemic change through collective action; we believe more can be achieved together.

The feedback on the day highlighted a clear desire for more cross-sector collaboration. The role of Transform is to allow this to happen; providing space to learn from each other, share best practice and experiences and through effective collaboration become even better frontline practitioners – this is how we can truly start to transform communities together.

I hope this is the first of many collaborative events and projects hosted by the Transform Alliance and I look forward to hearing the follow ups from the discussion had on the day.