Workforce development for the Devon Early Adopter Local Safeguarding Partnership

Professional curiosity and appreciative inquiry inform methods for multi-agency learning.

In 2018, Devon County Council was one of 17 local areas awarded funding from the Department of Education to develop new approaches in local multi-agency safeguarding. We were commissioned to work alongside colleagues at Devon County Council to develop methods for appreciative, practitioner-led learning across the local safeguarding partnership.

Three practice leads were seconded from Devon police, health and social care to lead the work. We provided coaching and bespoke training in appreciative inquiry techniques and developed online materials that ground appreciative inquiry with other essential approaches to learning in practice – professional curiosity, analysis, and critical thinking. A practice tool to support appreciative learning conversations was co-developed and the Practice Leads took this learning out into localities.

The police practice lead used the approach in a review of a Domestic Abuse Unit, leading a series of one-to-one conversations across the Devon and Cornwall area, then a group session with the team under review. Ahead of the session the supervisor reported some nervousness and tension within the team; nevertheless, the appreciative inquiry format and skilled facilitation by the practice lead enabled a rich, productive session. The supervisor provided the following feedback:

I felt that it was good because it encouraged free dialogue, it sparked ideas, it flowed freely, it led to issues being identified but also promoted discovery of potential solutions. It looked at the benefits of working in certain ways. It has given us ideas to move forward. It provided an environment where people felt they could contribute.

The project outputs are available as a suite of learning materials on Devon’s open access website.