Recently, Interact was at Gloucestershire County Council HQ for a day of conversation, problem-solving and planning.  Under discussion: how can the council go about “Building Better Lives” for people with a disability? 

Gloucestershire is embarking on a challenging but exciting journey to improve the way that people with disabilities access support.  It is introducing a co-production model that focuses on shaping services with the people who are accessing them. The participants on the day represented service-users, carers, and council employees; and they brought with them a complex mix of scepticism, uncertainty, and optimism.  

We at Interact are very familiar with the journey stakeholders typically go through in the face of transformation; starting with trepidation, progressing to denial and resistance, before developing into acceptance and adoption.  The key to a successful transition from resistance to adoption is a combination of transparency and dialogue: the more those affected feel that their concerns are heard, the more likely they are to embrace new ways of working.  

And how better than to do so than by employing theatre-based experiential learning, a medium that is in essence collective and democratic?  With our unique approach to analytical, practice-based learning, Interact was able to systematically support stakeholders to unpick the range of opinions and anxieties surrounding this significant cultural change for all involved.  Our experience of exploring how beliefs and attitudes can both help and hinder progress enabled us to help participants understand –  and take responsibility for – their own role in the changing services.

In Gloucestershire we saw a clear commitment to transparency and candid debate.  The characters Interact were asked to portray in Forum theatre scenes represented the challenges facing both service-users and providers, and allowed the council to acknowledge some of the flaws in their own system.  This level of frankness gained the trust of the participants, and therefore brought about more fruitful discussions. While no organisation will experience change in the same way, in order to innovate in any setting we need to emphasise the agency of all our stakeholders, and work together to negotiate change. 

Lorna McGinty