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Whose Shoes? Exploring new perspectives on more citizen-centered social care

Change Management

What is Whose Shoes?

Whose Shoes? was developed by Gill Phillips, Director of Nutshell Communications, who has more than 30 years experience in the world of social care. It is an interactive board game, helping people to understand sensitive issues from other people’s perspectives, so that different groups can work together more effectively towards personalising services.

The perspectives of the following four social care stakeholders are explored in the game:

In the game four players or teams work collaboratively to build “the path to personalisation” to achieve the following outcomes for users (directly reflecting the seven outcomes of the “Our Health, Our Care, Our Say” White Paper):

  • Exercise Choice and Control
  • Improved Health and Emotional Well-Being
  • Personal Dignity and Respect
  • Improved Quality of Life
  • Freedom from Discrimination and Harassment
  • Economic Well-Being
  • Making a Positive Contribution

Each outcome is met when players have laid four different coloured tiles (representing contributions from each perspective) which collectively complete one block on the pathway. Players move along the board after rolling a dice to land on colour coded footprints or the special Poet’s Corner feature. When they land on a footprint, they pick up a card of that colour with a statement expressing a point of view associated with that specific role. Reading this card aloud triggers relevant discussions and the player will follow instructions to place or remove a tile of a specific colour on the board. This means that each turn will build or impede the pathway to the realisation of the seven outcomes that represent personalised services.

Overall, the board game is made up of over 160 scenarios, including Poet's Corner poems, to start discussion amongst participants. Each scenario encourages players to discuss the challenges, opportunities, frustrations and fears associated with the personalisation agenda.  Some of the issues that are touched upon by these scenarios include:

  • achieving the right balance between choice and risk
  • new types of working and changing roles
  • the feasibility of greater personal control for people who lack mental capacity
  • handing over power
  • collaboration
  • the importance of adequate information and advice and the role of advocacy.

Here are four cards showing examples of the issues explored from the perspectives of service users & carers, providers & commissioners, staff, and managers

Here is an example of the sorts of issues raised by a Poet's Corner card. 

How does this tool help?

By stepping into each other’s shoes, participants are able to develop a greater understanding of the drivers and constraints affecting other people. It also helps them to empathise with the aspirations and concerns of the other players. Taken together, these insights  reveal just why delivering truly personalised services, particularly in difficult economic times, can be challenging. The discussions within the game therefore allow public providers to develop a more in-depth knowledge of what service users want in their daily lives and how they wish to live and confront problems that may arise.

Whose Shoes? is also a useful tool in allowing all involved to realise that no one group sees the full picture and can work alone. This increases awareness of the need to improve communication and for collaboration amongst professionals and service users.

Uniquely, by providing a non-threatening informal and open atmosphere, the game allows individuals to broach complex and difficult issues, harnessing the creativity of the group to help people find ways to overcome barriers that concern them. It means that ingrained practices and assumptions can be challenged without creating resentment. This provides an equal voice to all involved, facilitating the spread of innovative practice, the exploration of ideas and agendas for making progress.

The tool is flexible and can be tailored by its facilitators to concentrate on a particular issue, or for different settings or purposes (such as staff training, or community engagement).

Whose Shoes? has received national acclaim including an endorsement from the Department of Health praising it as an innovative and effective communications tool (click here for more information). It is used by Skills for Care for induction of their own staff.

How is Whose Shoes? being used by Leicestershire County Council?

Leicestershire County Council’s Adult Social Care department has utilised the Whose Shoes? Tool for some time, initially for team meetings and training days. The tool was used as part of a learning and development programme to engage staff from across the social care field (home care, social workers, community support workers and so on) to have a greater understanding of what putting citizens at the centre of services entails and how to transform their systems towards its achievement. This took place through an innovative one-day training workshop entitled ‘Put Yourself in My Shoes’ that Sarah Wigley from the Council worked with Gill to develop and then delivered in-house.

The workshop sought to:

  • raise awareness of person-centred approaches to social care;
  • understand personalisation from the perspective of the four groups
  • reflect upon current ways of working with individuals and options for moving forward
  • enable people to develop skills to work in an outcome-focused way

The day began with an ice breaker exercise to demonstrate scenarios of no choice, limited choice and purchasing power choice. This enabled people to explore their feelings and expectations around choice and control and to carry this forward into their work with clients.

The participants then played the game, during which video clips from the Department of Health, Ripfa and InControl were shown to the teams to bring to life the perspectives of the four different groups. As the game was played, questions raised during the in-depth discussions were captured on post-it notes. These were revisited during a question and answer session with a senior lead staff member that concluded the day’s training. This final session ensured that all queries and potential issues were discussed and pathways were established through which they could be dealt with.

Following the training day, which was repeated with different groups, over 100 social care staff have been trained in the game and it has since been used successfully by the council in facilitated sessions with service user and carer groups and at care provider forums as part of a wider engagement programme.This has included its use with Force 4 Change consultation group and network for disabled people living in the county.  Whose Shoes? was used to tease out the key challenges and opportunities for the group, linking the points raised to the headings of Think Local, Act Personal's (TLAP) key headings in terms of what needs to happen next to "Make it Real" for individuals within the group. The session highlighted important issues for the group that included the provision of transport, how this can have a major impact on individuals’ ability to exercise control over their lives, and paradoxically that they weren’t able to use their personal budgets to pay for it. All of the information, problems and ideas raised at the event were fed back to Leicestershire County Council, and the Think Local Act Personal ‘Making it Real’ Project that is checking progress with personalisation and community-based support. Watch this video below to get a feel for the event.

About this case study
Main Contact

Gill Phillips

Tel: 0845 680 1841

Gill Phillips wrote this case study for Governance International on 27 February 2012.

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