I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in a recent Innovation Unit project which focused on the proposed changes to the probation service and involved service users, researchers, practitioners and others (my category) in a conversation about the future of work reducing reoffending.
“Probation Futures” was commissioned by A4e and involved three main components:
- A worldwide horizon scan of innovation in probation and other ways of working with offenders
- Interviews with service users and practitioners
- A series of workshops with a bunch of experts (many of whom were, like me, ex-probation officers who still work in the criminal justice system, mainly in the voluntary sector)
The project focused both on the big issues at stake under the changes proposed by Transforming Rehabilitation and ideas for designing the best possible future probation service.
I’ve been involved in previous Innovation Unit projects and have to say they are tremendously enjoyable – you get the chance to engage in debate with a wide range of people with the focus always on developing solutions, rather than merely complaining about the status quo. The fact that you are provided with the latest international research and that there is extensive service user input makes the experience all the more stimulating.
Join the Conversation
However, my favourite part of the project is its interactive nature.
Rather than publish a report, the Innovation Unit has today launched the Probation Futures website.
The site shares the findings from the research, sets out a vision for the future of probation and provides a space for everyone to contribute thoughts and ideas.
As an interesting taster, here are the seven design principles that the Innovation Unit concluded should shape any future probation service:
- Defining a clear purpose for probation – focused on facilitating desistance with public protection and prevention of harm as necessary aspects which should never compromise the commitment to service users
- Focus on the relationship with service users, not just the risk
- Plan for the future, not just the present
- Engage service users in decision-making
- Make support accessible, usable and tangible – designing probation offices to be centres of support and collaboration, not of restriction and penalty
- Facilitate a collaborative network – shifting the perspective away from providers (a focus on individual services) towards the service user (focus on the collaborative impact of services received)
- Measure and learn from what really matters
For me the Probation Futures website is a great idea, like all the best sites it makes you want to surf and explore with each click prompting new ideas.
I hope you find it as interesting and stimulating as I do.