‘Validating the feels’

It can be a challenge to convince some funders, academics, policy makers, health bodies, inspectors, auditors and assessors that the creative and relational are just as important as quantitative measures in health, wellbeing and social justice. Where is the evidence that although all the processes are in place and the boxes are ticked that someone still feels that they aren’t getting the help they need, for example?

I was recently involved in a research project led by Dr Marisa De Andrade from the School of Health in Social Science at the University of Edinburgh that asked some pretty tough questions about how we ‘measure humanity’. Can you connect individual, community and structural levels to ‘measure’ changes in health, wellbeing and inequalities through creative community engagement? Can you prove that an individual has achieved better life chances through being involved in some community connecting activity?

‘Validating the feels’ – or getting these approaches ‘quality assured’ – calls for a reconceptualization of the evidence base as you try to represent community members or individuals lived experiences.

All of this has been in the forefront of my mind as I’ve been overseeing Audit Scotland’s most recent report on Self Directed Support (SDS).

It’s not a new concept to Audit Scotland, that people’s views are essential evidence that tells us so much about the experience they have about the services they use. We are increasingly thinking of new ways to ensure that people are involved in our work – for example our CheckSee project with Young Scot enabled us to co-design some new approaches with young people – and it’s important to us that we understand the story and the outcomes as well as the input, outputs and costs.

We know that often it’s the narrative behind the data that gives the richest picture.

This will be even more important to us as we get into the realms of the Community Empowerment Act and undertake an audit in 2018/19 on Reforming Public services through better asset management.

The team working on the SDS audit have focused as much on users views as the data and statistics to tell a story about what’s working for people and how they feel about the services they receive. We have used our links to a range of organisations to get direct access to people using SDS and their carers; we have run surveys, focus groups and all sorts of other methods to make sure that we hear from the horse’s mouth.

This isn’t entirely new for us at Audit Scotland but I’m not sure that the rest of the world appreciates that we do this to the extent that we do.

So, while the data and statistics and money is important to us as we tell the stories we do about Scottish public services, I’m glad to say that we are ‘validating the feels’ too!

About the author

Lorraine Gillies

Lorraine Gillies is a Senior Manager at Audit Scotland