People do extraordinary things…

Babs Lewis

Babs Lewis

Babs Lewis
Senior Manager
Inquisitive, impatient and questioning, Babs joined Nesta’s People Powered Results team after a lifetime as a journalist and film-maker. She changed direction, becoming a development-manager for an innovative charity, when...

Babs Lewis headed up our work in Wales. Here she talks about how a People Powered approach can make change real…

From Captain Tom to the mutual aid groups that sprang up during the pandemic, Covid-19 has shone a light on the capacity of people to make a difference. But how do you harness that capacity to care, how can it drive scalable, sustainable change? 

This is the knotty problem People Powered Results’ Make it Real methodology seeks to tackle – the same focus we’ve had since we began pioneering new approaches to achieving change and innovation in complex systems in 2014.

Taking a people-centred approach

With 40+ 100 Day Challenges, sprints and prototyping programmes to date, PPR has built its foundation on taking a people-centred approach – one that supports those closest to the issues, front-line staff and people with lived experience, to use their unrivalled expertise to bring new ideas to life. 

Committed leaders, willing to relinquish a little power to get fresh insight into complex problems, are key to this bottom-up/top-down approach. At the heart of PPR programmes is a ‘wheel’ of conditions needed to support successful experimentation.  

Good data on nominated challenges, clear goals set by participants, space to learn from failure and coaching support to grow capacity and confidence, sponsorship from senior leaders and, as the pandemic has proved, a sense of urgency are needed. 

Covid has thrown into sharp relief just how effective the kind of flexible, iterative and personalised approach taken by PPR can be in enabling communities to come together to meet real need, using local resources. It’s a contrast to the more traditional approach, imposed from outside, that can have an impact, but often fails to get to the heart of the matter where problems are complex and knotty. 

From the first 100 Day Challenge in Essex that worked with hundreds of front-line staff and people to drive change, to our digital delivery of HARP, PPR’s Health, Arts, Research and People programme in Wales that tested Covid-safe arts activities for people in lockdown – PPR has unlocked expertise and captured real-time learning to tackle complex, difficult issues that need attention now.

Making it Real is one of PPR’s modes of innovation

The ‘new normal’ has to be better than the old

At the moment, having a way forward that recognises people’s capacity and autonomy has become more important than ever. When we talk about a future where Covid-19 no longer locks us down, one thing is universally acknowledged – the need to build back better, to learn from the innovations it has forced on us. 

Whatever else happens, we say, the ‘new normal’ has to be better than the old. And while there is nothing new in wanting a better future – In Wales, Sophie Howe, the Future Generations Commissioner, points out, the existing Well-being of Future Generations Act is all the framework we need to drive change. 

What’s different now is our perception of what’s possible, thanks to the rapid innovation forced on us by Covid. 

PPR will continue to support people to move from vision to action, to make better futures real, whether we’re working face-to-face or virtually with diverse, place-based teams and leaders. The question now is, if you had a chance to innovate at pace how would you build that better future?

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