Systems Thinking

Transforming advice to improve lives

AdviceUK is leading a revolution in thinking about what advice is for and what it can do. Our approach offers real value to commissioners through radical transformation of services. It provides a method for learning how to do better things and so more effectively tackle and prevent the problems that blight people’s lives.

Advice services help people deal with the acute challenges they face, particularly as the welfare safety net is gradually removed and cuts to services bite. Demand for advice has increased significantly, but cuts in legal aid and local authority spending mean capacity is reduced and under further pressure.

Faced with such challenges, we don’t believe that trying to ‘do things better’ is good enough – we need to learn to ‘do better things’.

In recent years, we have seen local authorities and other funders move increasingly away from grant funding to procurement. Tight service specifications cause advice services to become narrower in their scope, with success measured by simple output targets. Advice services are forced to become more transactional, sticking plasters on people’s problems at the point of crisis, rather than helping them tackle underlying issues and causes. And using ‘softer’ performance management based on ‘outcomes’ doesn’t help – it’s still based on the same flawed thinking that focuses attention on making the numbers, not learning what works and doing what matters.

AdviceUK has pioneered the use of Vanguard Consulting’s Systems Thinking in the advice sector. From our work we know that advice can help public services learn where and how things go wrong. Commissioning advice to ‘do better things’ could help public bodies improve services and reduce costs.

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