Visualising the transformation of complex interventions and interprofessional working.

As I complete a three year project that evaluated a healthy weight programme implemented across three health boards in Scotland and working in its most disadvantaged communities,  I’m reflecting on how visuals helped me understand the complex relationships involved.  Through visual workshops with the range of professionals involved in the implementation I gained insight into the maps they used to navigate how they cooperated and learned from each other.  Rather than standing apart, as an evaluator I was invited to the joint planning meetings, which they called shared learning meetings.  This meant much of the evaluation insights I and my colleagues were developing, we tested with the implementation team.  These conversations led to mutual insights–for us as evaluators, but probably more importantly, for those still working at adapting their strategies to the many challenges they faced.    Both the project leader and myself had experience of working with a co-production ethos.  This leaves me wondering to what extent I can call our approach co-produced evaluation, and how I would define this as being distinct from conventional evaluation.  The use of visuals definitely helped make transparent and accessible the networking and organisational theory within the analysis.  I also think it meant projects did some transformational work. Changing the picture as we worked together.  Alongside the blog is the presentation we used to introduce our visual way of working to the team. Presentationvisuals

Homestretch Creative Companion

The Journal: In sessions we often ask you to draw and journal, and we thought it best to give you some space to do so. As the cover of the journal says, we hope you walk into some of your best thoughts and have a place to record them. May you see what you haven’t seen before and hear the listening in your life in new ways.

Thought Stretches: Throughout the sessions we like to drop little quotes that have a time-release capacity to spur further thinking. This little envelope is something of a chinese fortune cookie. It contains a few such quotes that you can draw on from time to time as seems right to you. Let us know if they set you on any adventures.

The Loom: Tim Ingold invented this simple loom as a way to glean as you walk and weave what you glean into something to carry the sense of the walk home. Walking does weave into our life and how we write. This practice proffers the possibility of becoming more aware of how this might be so. The idea is that you record of your walk through weaving found materials on your path as you go. This could be feather, twig, blade of grass. You may find a place for it in your study space and be surprised by the thoughts its captures or returns you to at the odd moments of taking a break from work. (COVID HEALTH WARNING: Be careful as you go and make sure you do wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face.)

If you are interested in Ingold’s work and how it underpins the Homestretch approach, please do take a look at this beautiful little essay Lines, Threads and Traces on what writing walking and weaving have to do with each other: may that set many lines of thought running for you.

You can also read this excerpt of his book. Ways of Walking, ethnography on foot, edited with Jo Lee Vergunst and with this chapter by Ray Lucas look at Taking A Line For A Walk, which is, itself, a quote from the artists Paul Klee.

Collage: Part of Homestretch is an invitation to embodied practices that serve to open up better spaces to live and research. Along with walking and drawing, the tactile handling of materials with different textures and colours also has a part to play. We’ve provided a few starter materials and encourage you to add to these from the ephemera in your own setting. With this collection we invite you to make a collage that helps capture a theme that is helpful to you at this time. One such theme might be exploring the mind palace or home you would like to have for your research work–what supports, windows, elevations would your work ideally inhabit? what gardens or vistas might it look out upon? With collage work it is sometimes best to let your fingers do the thinking as they arrange intuitively the shapes you have to hand or cut and tear to suit. As with walking and journalling this may lead to an insight or discovery of what will support your future process. We would love to see your creations if you’d like to share them.

As Bachelard reminds us in The Poetics of Space:

On whatever theoretical horizon we examine it, the house image would appear to have become the topography of our intimate being . . . There is ground for taking the house as a tool of analysis of the human soul. . . . . By remembering “houses” and “rooms” we learn to “abide” within ourselves. (1994: xxxvii)

HomeStrech Walking Guide


This walk is a different way to explore mindfulness.  We invite you, through slowing down the pace of speaking, to explore the possibilities of differing levels and focal points of listening.

Figure 1 Source: Presencing Institute


Speaker One response to questions: six minutes

Photo taking and swap: two minutes

(consider turning around and heading back, perhaps by a different route, to your workspace at this point )

Speaker Two response to questions: six minutes

Photo taking and swap: two minutes

This will be a walk in two halves.  On the first half one person will think through the reflective question and the other person will listen.  They should be given the opportunity to speak for their minutes without interruption other than to be reminded what the questions are.  On the second half of the walk exchange roles.  The listener is not to give advice or ask problem solving questions but to just listen and give space for the speaker’s response to questions to evolve.  We rarely have time to just be listened to without interruption and this is an opportunity to offer this.  As the speaker uses their minutes without interruption there may be pauses, times when they just think or breathe or notice their surroundings.  That’s all part of it. At the close of their response to the question the listener can feedback some of the images, metaphors, or gestures that occur to you in a few words to let the questioner know they have been heard.


  1. What changes have occurred to the way you work over lockdown?
  2. What changes would you like to support your work now?


 When you feel you have given your response the time you want, at this point both of you should pause your walk, look around for a photo to take and share it with your partner.  Take the opportunity to let what’s been shared suggest how your frame a photo, and what it’s focus can be.  The focus could be an object, texture, the play of light or anything else that catches your eye.

Techy bit: You can usually swipe up on a smart phone to open a new window to take a photo in and then swipe sideways to see all the windows open to find the whatsapp one and post the photo.  The call should continue in the background.  If either of you find this difficult you can close the call to exchange photos and then call again to begin walking and contemplating the next question.


Listen with an openness to hear the emotional tenor of what the questioner is talking about. Listen to what resonates: What images, metaphors, feelings and gestures come up for you that capture the essence of what you have heard?

ALSO: Here’s a basic guide to stretching in preparation for a walk, or at any time you want to break and regroup,

Thoughts on passing the torch

Today I learned about the public abuse of women in Cologne from a good friend. I go on Facebook and see Maihri Black making a powerful speech in defence of older women, just as I’ve come back from a packed room that came to hear an 84 year old nun speak about the American Ploughshares Movement. I went to be reminded to touch a remnant of my past. And ended up remembering together with one of the speakers the powerful important people who so strongly shaped my early experience of 247 complete commitment to activism, living the vision of kingdom of peace here on earth. But, oh, the personal violence, the genderd violence that runs deep threads through those experiences! I was reading Adrienne Rich, Marge Piercy, Dorothy Day at the time, Listening to Sweet Honey and The Rock, and doing my best to put into practice be the change, doing the best I could. But looking back I would call things differently. I would assert clearer lines, summon up the right to be respected. The personal is political, the ends never justify means because the means are our lives. How to help younger women now know their own worth and speak with it?

A Minority President: Why the Polls Failed, And What the Majority Can Do

In trying to make sense of it all, this makes a lot of sense.

George Lakoff

By George Lakoff

  1. The American Majority

Hillary Clinton won the majority of votes in this year’s presidential election.

The loser, for the majority of voters, will now be a minority president-elect. Don’t let anyone forget it. Keep referring to Trump as the minority president, Mr. Minority and the overall Loser. Constant repetition, with discussion in the media and over social media, questions the legitimacy of the minority president to ignore the values of the majority. The majority, at the very least, needs to keep its values in the public eye and view the minority president’s action through majority American values.

The polls failed and the nation needs to know why. The pollsters and pundits have not given a satisfactory answer.

I will argue that the nature of mind is not a mere technical issue for the cognitive and brain sciences, but that it had everything to do with the outcome…

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A few thoughts on after the march inspired by a friends FB post

wp_20151003_003I hope people stay out on the streets, with information stalls, open air town meetings and other uses of public identified spaces where people can talk and think of even more visible and structurally resistant ways of making a difference. The machines of government need to grind to a halt and we need to be as diverse and creative about ways that happens as possible. I’m wondering all the different ways we can go on strike for instance. Vigils have their place too. It was a lot of people marching, but we need to reach out and start conversations with a lot more, their activism begins with our listening.

Turn the Year

Turn the year over
Bed it under–
the tomatoe vines
still heavy with fruit,
the dried bean stems, shrivelled leaves, even the weeds.
In cart fulls carry them to be compost.
Cover them with coffee grinds and leftover salad,
onions skins and eggshells.
Let the frost and slow rain do their work.
Weight them down with rotting hedge apples.
While I, seaward,
gather kelp and dulse and do likewise.

Turn over the year
the grief, regret, the losses mourned,
the futures feared.
Let darkness mulch all the might have beens
layered upon each other, indiscriminate and dissolute.
Rest now,
reserve your frayed fallen selves.

For with these acts we make from defeat
further resolve.
Small, hard obdurate and against the odds.
the unlooked for
fertile rejoinder to fear.

We will have hope darkened hands.

How can we prevent the policy Prevent from doing more harm than good?


“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth

is a revolutionary act.” 

George Orwell

There is a fable about Truth and Story.  Basically truth is treated with contempt and ultimately kicked out the city gates.  It is only when Truth is cloaked in Story who is welcomed with open arms because of her charms that Truth manages to get a hearing.


The facts are that if you are an immigrant,particularly if you have physical features that mark you as an immigrant, whether you were born in this country or not, you are more likely to live in substandard housing and less likely to have your educational achievement translate into being hired or promoted at the same rate as those not so marked out by society.  Immigrants are less likely to claim their full entitlement to benefits, and far from stealing jobs, the contribution to the economy stimulates it, creating jobs and buying goods and services that help communities stay afloat–much more than the donors to the Tory Party who own much of social media and off-shore their profits thereby avoiding tax.

But this is not how the story goes. polls show that on average the number of immigrants is grossly exaggerated in the popular imagination.  When was the last time you saw a story in the tabloid press about how badly an immigrant family or person seeking assylum has been badly treated by being deprived of the very things that make life worth living: decent housing, fair pay for work?   That’s not the headlines you are familiar with?  The one story with any prominence that I can think of is about an Australian family that looks very much like a traditional Scottish family of Celtic decent.  They look like “one of us” and the unspoken rationale goes, they should be treated “like one of us”.  Let that sink in.  That is nearly the only high profile story countering the screaming headlines about immigrant hordes.

Given the hate and suspicions of immigrants worked into so much of mainstream media, can we just assume that all community and youth workers will implement Prevent equitably and without prejudice?  Is this assumption to misunderstand the dynamics of how institutional racism works?  How the stories we are surrounded by work? Do we need to examine how stories work in Prevent training?

We know that the sexual health education, drug education that works best doesn’t shut down the conversation but opens it up.  We have good quality anti-sectarian work that seeks  to open up issues and value lived experience. My sense is our starting point is even more fraught than it is when tackling those issues.

Before any of us attempt to implement Prevent, the very mechanics of the legislation have spoken loudly.  If you work with youth you have a statuatory duty to report anyone who shows signs of “non-violent extremism”.  You are to report them to the police and their name and details go on a central database.  That means this becomes a young person “known to services”.     Just having the phrase “known to services” attached to their name can tip the balance and  prejudice professional decision making. Survelience itself can bring young people into clashes with the criminal justice system.  So where does a young person go to talk about the quite justified fears, frustrations and concerns that the increased hate crime and disadvantage they are quite likely to be experiencing?  Do they dare evidence any anger about it?  Or does it become dangerous to even attend youth services?  What if it is mandatory that they attend?  What choices do they have then?

It would seem to me that now is the time to open up conversations with everyone working with young people about just how far from the truth prominent stories are. This is important particularly  for volunteer and part time workers, as they often are the ones building relationships and developing the culture of youth clubs.  It would seem to me, now is the time to make all our work a place of open critical debate about media and government policy so that it is every young person who can understand the fear, isolation and, yes, anger, that a person subject to this onslaught would feel.   It seems to me that this is the real preventative work we need to be doing.  Are we?  Where are the spaces where we can compare notes, improve how we do this?  This is not a rhetorical question.   If you are doing this work, if you are training people to do this work: seriously, how’s it going?  I’d like to have a conversation.  I would like to hear your stories about how some uncomfortable truths gained a hearing.  I’d like these kinds of conversations and stories to proliferate,  to become more common place than the headlines themselves.

It is tricky work.   Believing we have “zero-tolerance” of racism  can make this harder, as, if simply understood, this can lead to a focus on eliminating name-calling, rather than addressing all that is bubbling underneath.  Zero-tolerance tends to suggest that as long as there isn’t name-calling there is zero racism in the room.  Nothing is further from the truth.  Zero-tolerance can make people prickly, it’s my observation.  It’s as if people can starkly be designated as racist or not racist, instead of something most of us should humbly admit to and keep working on.  Racism is so embedded both in current media and long standing attitudes and traditions that we would have to have absolutely no social radar at all not to have been influenced by it and, often without realising it, embedding it in how we see, interpret and act.  Unless we are reaching out and asking for help to become less racist by building relationships with immigrants and having the courage within those relationships to talk about the issues that can dismantle our habits of thinking and understanding, we are airbrushing away the issue.  In times of scarce funding it is easy not to join up the dots, to just assume we will only implement Prevent in a “safeguarding”  “duty of care” sort of way.  But we live in a political era where words have taken on the opposite of their meaning.  I recently saw on social media a quote attributed to George Orwell:  “I wrote 1984 as  a warning not a (#&*%%) instruction manual”.  Can we read the instruction manual for Prevent with George in mind?  Let’s open up the conversation.