Our people are our biggest asset: Building Back Better in Midlothian


Dr Grace Vickers, Chief Executive of Midlothian Council, tells us about Midlothian’s experience of responding to the global pandemic, and how they are adopting people powered approaches that are enabling staff to shape how services can be delivered in the future. You can read more in our Listen and Learn report.

Midlothian Council is one of the first Local Authorities that the PPR team at Nesta has collaborated with in Scotland, after working together on a 100 Day Challenge in 2019 that focused on Children and Young People’s Mental Health.

An Unprecedented Challenge

Midlothian, like all communities, faced an unprecedented challenge as we grappled with how to respond quickly to a global pandemic with far reaching consequences for thousands of people locally.

Across Midlothian Council, staff have rapidly adapted to working completely differently, delivering more services remotely and trying to maintain business as usual while supporting people through the crisis. At the same time, many of our staff have been forced to shield and isolate, some due to illness have been unable to work, and many have volunteered to undertake alternative duties.

While this experience has been extremely challenging, it has also acted as a catalyst for change.

We are determined to ‘build back better’, to use our new knowledge, experiences and sense of shared endeavour to collaborate and think innovatively to reshape services around the needs of local people.

Midlothian Council’s 4,000 plus staff are central to learning from our response to the crisis and building upon the positive changes we’ve made.

A People Powered Approach

Working in partnership with the People Powered Results team (PPR) from Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, we interviewed staff from across the council’s two directorates. From social workers to refuse collectors; teachers to maintenance staff we heard about their experiences during the pandemic. The PPR team captured the findings and the recommendations in this report, Listen and Learn.

We adopted a People Powered approach because we want to see empowered communities, and because a majority of our staff are also members of the community, they have unique knowledge and experiences of what it is like to live and work in Midlothian – and we can benefit enormously from them.

The staff insights gathered are already helping us towards our vision of a safer, sustainable, ambitious and thriving Midlothian underpinned by a wellbeing economy that puts its citizens and local service delivery at the heart of all decisions.

In practice we have now set up a series of transformation boards that will take forward the recommendations. We are directly acting on what people have told us.

The Future

I’m confident that if we continue to listen, learn and implement the ideas of our staff, communities and partner organisations we will emerge stronger, united and committed to an even better future. Their input will change the way we work for the better.

At the start of the pandemic people felt they were all in it together – fighting COVID and protecting one another. Now we are entering the recovery phases there is a danger of slipping back into old habits. We don’t want to do that, we are committed to building back better for Midlothian.

We shouldn’t let go of how people felt – the initial response to the pandemic was rapid and created the environment for kindness to flourish, for decision making to be transformative and for all of us to feel we were truly making a difference to people’s lives.

Our people are our biggest asset and by listening, learning and utilising the skills and talents of all our individuals we can truly make a difference.

Download the full report here.

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