Since the launch of this Journal, we have sought to showcase examples that demonstrate that the spirit of innovation is alive and well in the field of practice development. The Journal has highlighted change in ‘what’ we do, and in ‘how’ we do it. Learning and reflecting on both these dimensions of change have been important – two of the threads running through practice development.
In the first edition of the Journal, I described how innovation in practice needed to reflect a healthy attitude to change – it being born of a desire to change, driven by a vision of what could be and at the same time being eminently practical in implementation. However, sustainable change that is driven by the interest and involvement of patients and service users also needs to be fundamentally relational. Again, the first edition of this Journal described dimensions for such a relational approach; shared values, mutual respect, knowledge and understanding of others, continuity in relationship and how we mediate our relationships.
Recent research, soon to be published, carried out by John Ashcroft into the relational impact of change in the social care environment following the introduction of individual budgets and self-directed care, has suggested that where the relational side of change is not recognized, there are risks of role conflict and ultimately of sub-optimal benefits. (For more information, see www.thewholesystem.co.uk or www.relationshipsfoundation.org.) The research describes the tensions that arise when a professional social worker is expected to change from expert provider to enabling supporter, without full recognition of the time and input necessary to address these relational dimensions of change. We hope that the balanced and reflective style of the many examples of innovation featured in the Journal have demonstrated the challenge of getting this balance and the need for additional support during times of transition.
Using this Journal as one of the practical means by which innovation in practice can be encouraged now has to be changed, although the vision remains the same. As we make changes to that strategy, we hope that, through the Journal, you have grown to appreciate the complex, challenging, and yet rewarding world of practice development.