Outcomes and Measurements Project: Interview with Glenn Liddall

This is an interview with Glenn Liddall exploring a series of questions about outcomes and measurements aiming to get nuanced views from people as what started as a part of an action research project.

Below is a transcript of the above recording.  Special thanks go to Glenn Liddall giving the time to share his considerable experience in reflecting on these questions.  I am grateful to his participation and giving of time to share his thoughts through this project.

Alex Dunedin: So if you can say a few words

Glenn Liddall: Okay so my name’s Glenn Liddall and I head up a new charity called People Know How

Alex Dunedin: Great, okay, Glenn can you talk about your role and your relationship to care work and support work

Glenn Liddall: Yeah, so over the last 27 or so years I’ve worked in the voluntary sector in Edinburgh more very recently I’ve made a change and I’ve headed up a new charity called People Know How but for the last 16 and a half years I’ve worked with a charity called Crossreach which is part of the Church of Scotland in a variety of different areas of work; working with adults, children, young people instigating new services, developing new services and monitoring evaluation outcomes has been a big part of that right well

Alex Dunedin: Just to let you know all of this will be anonymized, I’ve made this decision because it’s better – it’s just better for everybody – so at the end I’ll type up these reports and extrapolate and

Glenn Liddall: yes

Alex Dunedin: …then hand back to people and make sure that everybody’s…

Glenn Liddall: yeah, yeah

Alex Dunedin: …that this is representative

Glenn Liddall: yeah

Alex Dunedin: So can you tell me about the successes you’ve had in delivering support and care work

Glenn Liddall: Um that’s a good question because I’m thinking what… how do you define success, so one way of defining success which is what a lot of funders want – statutory sector, local government, Scottish government want is success defined by outcomes and defined by impact and defined by targets objectives outcomes that are set at the beginning of a project; the beginning of a piece of work whether that be – you know – a one-year project, a three-year project, a five-year project, or an individual plan with a particular individual person…

…they set it at the outset and whilst that that’s quite nice in terms of the analogy of ‘how do you know if you’ve got there if you don’t know where you were aiming to get to’, it misses out so much of…um…so much work that happens and so much success that takes place which falls outwith those parameters

Um some of the… so it only captures those focused things that you really want to capture and the purpose of capturing it is often about proving to the funder that you’ve done what they said you’re meant to do but there may be a load of other benefits around there that just almost get ignored and swept under the carpet. I’ve give a good example of that is where you have a project which involves working with volunteers and one aspect of one way of looking at… one lens of looking at that is what is the benefits to the volunteers

So if you’re a funder that’s funding the work because you want to improve opportunities for the volunteers they’re looking at a list of outcomes that benefit the volunteers; if let’s say for argument’s sake that volunteering is about supporting older people – they are a befriending service – then… another funder would be looking at in terms of what’s the benefits to the older person and it seems as if no one’s able to actually look at the benefits to both sets of people because ‘no, the bit of work we want to fund is with the volunteers’ or ‘no, the bit of work we want to fund is how is that going to benefit older people and their quality of life’…

…and so I think often there’s this, you just miss so much of the story so much of the the successes through the systems they actually… rather than gathering the successes they miss the successes because they’re so focused um… does that kind of makes sense ?

Alex Dunedin: Yeah yes, it’s these kind of subtle understandings, the situated understandings I’m wanting; I’m keen to get at

Glenn Liddall: Yeah

Alex Dunedin: So in the interview I’d like you to take it where you think is important for people to understand the complexities of your work

Glenn Liddall: Yeah I’m not sure if I’m on the on the right track here but I think another thing to be really aware of is that the way that funding is structured now – and again whether that be Scottish government national front rationing, international funding, national funding, Scottish government funding, local authority funding – so the the sort of statutory element of funding, or whether it be philanthropic or trust funds, they all they all tend to go down a route of outcomes and they all will have very particular criteria about what this funding is for and what it’s to achieve…

…and that makes sense because actually that’s the way the world works if somebody has died and left millions of pounds in trust and said they want it for the benefit of – you know uh – of animals or you know, environmental issues well then that’s what they want it for that’s fair enough but what happens in reality is that when you get all those different sets of pieces of criteria people then build pieces of work to fit the criteria

um and again I don’t know of a way around that’s human nature that people see ‘well I want to do this on one hand and there’s a piece of funding over there which is asking for us to do that; it’s not quite what I’m looking for but by jolly I’ll make it fit. That’s human nature, that’s creative, that’s using your initiative but it does mean I think that again you miss something in that translation when people are fitting things to a funding stream. Is that helpful ?

Alex Dunedin: yeah it is. Do the current systems of administration help you achieve the successes you want to achieve

Glenn Liddall: Yes and no. You’d expect that um, one aspect which has been talked about for many many years between funders, and again that’s both non-statutory and statutory funders is this idea of of writing a report that would satisfy a multiple audience. Um now I have managed to do this on a kind of informal basis a couple of times where we’ve had a project and it’s been funded by a trust fund and it’s also been funded by local authority and they’ve been the two main partners and they’ve said actually we’ll accept the same report

Now that is the exception. Normally they’ll say ‘no no no, we’ve got our reporting templates, there’s a way we want you to record it. We’re looking for five outcomes..’, you know, the other crowd is looking for three outcomes and it’s letting them know you have to report it through that that template, through that system.

So yes there are some sometimes you can get those systems to work together but that’s more a kind of informal basis so it’s almost a grant officer you know and a commission officer kind of seeing sense and going ‘oh yeah, don’t write that report twice in different ways we’ll accept it as the same report

I know there’s been a movement, a conversation happening between funders particularly non-statutory funders for them to look at ways that they could make that formalized so particularly looking at the really big funders like Comic Relief, BBC Children In Need – um you know – Esmée Fairbairn; there’s some really big funders that fund the charitable sector and if 10 or so of them got together and actually had some sort of standardized reporting template then you could in theory have funding from more than one of them and be using the same report to report back

That’s been talked about there’s been a lot of enthusiasm I think about it. People see the common sense in it but it’s never quite happened and I suspect it always gets – it is only a suspicion, I’ve not been a part of those meetings or those processes but I would suspect that it gets so far and then someone will go ‘Oh no actually we don’t want to do it like that we want to do it like this’, so you never get that one…

…because that’s about… what your question I think was about, I think administration and you know, we waste so much in administration, in double bookkeeping and double, treble, quadruple reporting; and that would be a mechanism; if there was some way of saying that actually there’s a template here, there’s a methodology here, there’s a way of a writing report here which a lot of funders could sign up to that – would save the sector millions I think in wasted man hours, people hours

Alex Dunedin: So in delivering this for, in the services you have done, how much of your time has been taken up by by doing this, performing this

Glenn Liddall: So if we – because I want to give you a kind of balanced view you know – outcomes in themselves aren’t a bad thing and then yeah, and then it’s about not just looking at… in your introduction you were saying it’s about looking at all these different aspects that all interrelate to each other
So you can’t just look at outcomes on their own you have to look at the whole system around that which starts with, um you know, either a charity or an individual saying we want to do this piece of work, we think there’s need for it, there’s evidence that we can do this and then matching that with someone else that’s gonna be saying ‘we want to fund something like that’, so it’s not that process… Um so tell me your question again so I don’t go off, completely off the track here…

Alex Dunedin: How much time and energy… So say you’ve got a service where you are offering day care. Well daycare is one thing and administration bureaucracy is another…

Glenn Liddalll: Yeah so it’s hard to give a percentage or proportion of how much time gets spent but but a lot of time gets spent even before a project can be set up… um and it’s not to say these things are wrong but it’s a fact that you have to find evidence of need; you have to be able to find evidence that what you’re proposing has got a good chance of being successful

You have to… there are days you’ll be looking at how do you work collaboratively, how do we work across organizations, across sectors, how do we pool resources, and that’s not just money, that’s – you know – buildings, people, knowledge, computer systems

So the actual process of pulling together a project these days can take months and even years to bring it together successfully and successful in terms of being able to put that together into a funding application that may be multiple applications to different funders saying ‘will you fund 20 percent’, ‘will you fund the building’s cost’, ‘will you fund the staff costs’, ‘will you fund the money to support the volunteers’, often as a multiple application process

That can take a huge amount of time and effort and money, ultimately because time is money; um and then at the other end – you know – the monitoring the evaluation, the reporting back can take a huge, huge…. to give an example, a number of years ago I was successful in the receipt of a grant of up about five or six thousand pounds and we looked at the amount of effort that we’d taken to get the money and to report back on it and it really had cost us more money than what the grant was – in sheer time and effort and man-hours and all the hoops we had to jump throughThere’s economy of scale I suppose, the bigger, the bigger things you’re going for you know, but then if you go for something really big which I have done in the past and been unsuccessful you can of put weeks and weeks and weeks of – you know I mean – like full weeks of time into something to develop it and to write an application, to write supporting documents and that can all come to nothing

So it’s….so if there’s a way of being more targeted, focused, efficient with that administration that would be a good thing, absolutely but you have to have some of it I think we can’t be naive and go ‘oh just give us the money, let us do the job’; and I know some charities, some people have been quite vocal like ‘we’ve running this service for the last 20 – 30 years just give us the money and let us do it’…

…actually even with the best will in the world you have to, if it’s taxpayers money, yeah, you have to be able to evidence that it’s the right spend – the right way of spending that money. If it’s a trust fund, if it’s come through… if it’s Children In Need that’s people dipping into their pocket on a Friday night…
…there’s got to be a system to make sure that money is spent properly but whether that system can be made streamlined, thinned down, more efficient, I suspect it could be

Alex Dunedin: You mentioned earlier the way that people can start building services to fit funding. How much does the… have you seen bureaucracies affect the services on the ground

Glenn Liddalll: I think, that’s an interesting question. I think we have to look at… I’ve lived through two very different eras. The more recent era of austerity, and really if you look at government spending it’s – over a number of years it would have shifted by a reduction in the sort of state spend by probably about ten percent; you’re very good at looking at statistics, those kind of things but I think you probably find there’s been a reduction by about ten percent of sort of state funding

Um so that’s so you have to be able to mind that as… through the last – you know – seven, eight years everything’s been contracting everything’s been reducing, getting tighter; ten years before that broadly speaking – I’m only aware of it now, I wasn’t aware of it at the time – but those were the good old days when budgets were expanding…

…I’ll give you an example of that. If you go back to the beginnings of the Blair government they put an extra 100 million pounds into drugs and alcohol services in Scotland over a three-year period, first bit of that government and they didn’t put in place any monitoring, evaluation or outcome systems at all for 100 million pounds um that’s wrong – they should have…

18 months in they panicked and all of a sudden you started getting – you know – ‘what are you doing with it’, ‘report back on us’, and we’re like – ‘you didn’t… what are we meant to report back on ? You didn’t ask us to collect that data, those things’. Um so we had…

So we’ve lived through some really different eras where money was very freely available – I said we didn’t realize at the time and money was spent by governments…but it’s like your household budget, if you’ve got lots of money then you don’t spend it so wisely, so frugally; um when money gets tight you start watching the pennies, the pounds, um you shop around for the debt, for the best deal

…and again we see that just in popular culture – you know – the rise of Liddl, Aldi, the pound shops; um…10 years ago we were all going to Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and – you know – buying the quality products. So I think you have to frame…. there’s a bit where the research you’re doing is fantastic, and you have to frame it in the…we’ve lived through different pieces of history, even in recent times of plenty and of some quite full hardy spending

You know, you could look back at the Scottish Parliament; it went from what, 40 million to 400 million, um the ways that the spending with the trams ran away – there’s no pun intended – but the spending of the trams did definitely run away, um whereas now you look at lots of Scottish Government building product, projects, lots of big structural projects – they come in on budget, they come in on time. The culture has really really changed and that can only be a good thing. I hope I’m on…I feel like I’m going off at…

Alex Dunedin: No, it is important that we do, you know; it is about painting a picture and it is not a predetermined thing. These questions are spark points and help us look across conversations, so yes, please…

Glenn Liddall: So yeah yeah… just keep going

Alex Dunedin: Can you talk about the difficulties of measuring the outcomes of your work

Glenn Liddall: Difficulties. Difficulties… So straight away my head goes to challenges and opportunities that should be a dead giveaway if you quoted that… um I suppose some of those difficulties I’ve already alluded to. Um, I’m trying to sort of group them together in some way. I think the major difficulties, challenges, are around – you know – I’ve already spoken about kind of multiple reporting

um so yeah, different systems that don’t don’t fit together but we have to fit them together. Um, funders don’t want to be the sole funder very often nowadays, they want to be in with somebody else’s – ‘well if they’ve funded it or will fund it’ so you’ve got to fit together different funders different criterias – is that difficulty ? It’s a fact of life

I think there’s difficulties around um… I’m just going to try and probably reframe the question a bit. So I’m thinking in terms of statutory spending they currently have to reduce spending – end of…but that, that’s a fact. How do they do that, how thoughtful is that, how intelligent is that – I think there’s probably been a mixed mixed bag

The charitable sector is probably quite an easy sector to pick off um in terms… and these are things that are things that are quite hard, they’re anecdotal, they’re quite hard to prove but you just have a sense that you know when those kind of things happen that money can can go inward to a local authority or to a health board, um money that would in the past perhaps have gone gone outward to the charitable sector which would then give it added value

I’d give an example of a situation recently of a service; three aspects of it delivered by volunteer sector, one aspect of it delivered by a health board and they said ‘right we’re gonna put this workout to tender’ and then a long way into that process they decide that we’ll put it out to tender for the charities that are involved but actually we can’t really put it out to tender for the health board we’ll just continue to give them the same amount of money and they can just pretty much do what they do already…

…and I don’t quite understand the logic in that. Why can’t you apply the same kind of checks and balances and systems and ask them the same questions that you’re asking charities around the piece of work and around efficiency and value for money and outcomes um just to kind of park up, and i’ve seen that happen a number of times over the years within local authorities spending and with health spending that all of a sudden or they’re not part of it; ‘they can just get their budget, um that’s okay’…

….because there’s for the voluntary sector they’re talking about EU law and procurement law and – you know – all these different…invisible things that they have to all of a sudden do but that doesn’t doesn’t count for the voluntary sector, for the statutory sector it doesn’t apply to them

I think that’s a big, that’s a big difficulty because the difficulty then is about mistrust, mistrust between statutory sector and mistrust between the voluntary sector. Um yeah and that just breeds so much, you know; the negative outcomes – to use the word outcomes – around…having mistrust in any situation is very self-evident I think

Alex Dunedin: Can you think of helpful and unhelpful examples of bureaucracies in relation to your work ?

Glenn Liddall: Again yes and no. Um and I can think of the same… I can think of the same bureaucratic structure which has been a helpful thing and both an unhelpful thing. Um and maybe that’s again perhaps the nature of things that it’s never perfect but something can be better than what it was before so

I’m just drawing from my own knowledge here in terms of how services for around drugs and alcohol are delivered within Scotland. Um, there have been… yeah, we all know the history of this – you know – late 70s early 80s, HIV/AIDs rise of intravenous drug use and the beginnings of services and charities and the volunteer sector

Yeah, you could easily find a dozen different charities that were all started in that sort of mid-80s period that came out of this. To begin with that wasn’t coordinated at all very well; then it was better coordinated and often coordinated within a health board framework or within a statutory sector framework and we had Drug Action Teams

We’re now, probably for almost eight years, we’ve had alcohol and – called Alcohol and Drug Partnerships that have teams and have partnerships. Um and these, I mean it would be quite easy to find the Scottish Government.. and I’d be happy to help you to direct it towards the Scottish Government kind of documents and archives to track how those those bodies care about how they’ve been reviewed, how they’ve changed, how they have actually probably got better but then they’ve got bigger and therefore they’ve got more administration and costs and stuff…

…and you look at those budgets and you think there is an awful lot of that budget which is just the people planning how to spend the money – you know [he laughs] – but in terms of… there have been some real successes if you look at HIV/AIDS, if you look at drug use, if you look at alcohol services, they have got better

You have to say, actually it has got better, they are better coordinated, but is it perfect no. Um do they do horrible things like I just mentioned in terms of tendering contracts – one rule for the third sector, another rule for statutory sector ? Yes they do

Um is there a – you know – overburdening of of administration costs ? Yes, there is. Is there battling between different local authority areas, different health board areas for what portion of Scottish Government spent should they have ? Yes there is. Um all these things are human nature and they’re never going to go away

Um the very nature of bureaucracy is there’s an element of necessity within bureaucracy we always think; we always use the word bureaucracy in a negative way and ‘all that’s bad’, but actually you have to organize things somehow

Um and you can track back through history, thousands of years, there’s always been some way, some method of organizing things. So yeah and it comes with successes, failures; it never is perfect, right… Um the very nature of – to stick with that example of drug and alcohol use – we’ve seen that change over the last few years

…with – you know – particularly in terms of legal highs, so the service that we have now… we need different services to what we had five, ten years ago. The statutory sector needs to respond in different ways; Gps need to respond in different ways health boards need to respond in different ways. So there’s never a point where you can arrive and say ‘oh that’s it we’ve got it all sorted’ because the environment around you continues to change

Alex Dunedin: How often do the funding administration systems change and do they have continuity ?

Glenn Liddall: They change all the time [he laughs]… I’m kind of… I’m thinking there’s a kind of macro level – you know – which could be from European Funding downwards. Um, there’s a….are you thinking particularly statutory funding or all funding ?

Alex Dunedin: I am thinking everything that is relevant, I want a full…

Glenn Liddall: …because I’m thinking even within trust funds, um, they will change their criteria, they will change their priorities. Um it’s not known for trust funds to say ‘actually we’re going to close down for the next two years while we think through our strategy and they’ll come back out with a new list of priorities and strategy’, and it isn’t to say that that’s wrong

It is um…they’re – you know – they’re going through a process of modernizing themselves of looking at um, you know, where does, where do they really need to put their money and their resources to best use ? That most definitely happens on a European-UK-Scottish level in terms of statutory funding, local authority level. Um, it’s happened a lot more – I was saying earlier in the interview in terms of this – the overall spend has had to reduce by you know 10 percetn and I’m sure you’ll find the exact figures for that

Um so they’ve had to change the criteria, they’ve had to change the way that money’s spent; you can’t keep doing the same thing if you’re trying to to reduce it. Um, politics has a big part of this – of course it does. A lot of these cycles work now over, one-two-three year funding cycles so if you do have a funding stream, um particularly statutory sector funding, if it runs for three years that’s quite a long time these days…

…and often that can be, it runs for a year and then another year, and then another year, so nobody could actually start three years – you know – and then plan for three years; they’re planning for a year and then thinking will there be more money and they say ‘no, there will be more money but actually it’s a bit different to what we were looking for last year, so can you do something a bit different this time…more emphasis in this direction, more emphasis in that direction’…

…um so there’s a big lack of continuity. I think how charities will try and buffer that is by using their own resources so if they have a project or a piece of work which they want to see through and if they can if they can’t continue to get statutory funding for that or maybe they can use reserves, maybe they can pull in trust funds resources

Um some of the big old charities – you know – certainly gone through the process of having reserves or having buildings they can sell, um, or setting up long-term endowments to fund long-term pieces of work

I’m thinking basically of the Scottish Association for Mental Health and it’s well documented – I think on their website and on the internet – that they set up some particular centers, there’s one in Glasgow, as a new way of delivering mental health services and being a very open accessible kind of shop front type operation and they funded that for the first two or three years I think from their own reserves and their own funding and that’s now been picked up by statutory sector funding…

…um now they’ve seen the value of it and that it does work, so… And is that wrong ? I don’t think it is. I think that’s okay, um, it’s just a fact. That wouldn’t have developed in that way without Scottish Association for Mental Health making that strategic decision and saying right if you won’t fund it we will and we’ll make it work um, and then the government kind of catching up at a later stage.

What was your question again and I’ll… I like the idea of spark points…

Alex Dunedin: How often do the funding administration systems change and do they have continuity ?

Glenn Liddall: Yeah, yeah there’s one different layer to add here, it’s just technology changes so when I started out in this sector, yeah, we were almost still writing letters, yeah. Um when I started work 16/17 years ago I remember the organization getting their first computer; so it went from – you know – written applications…

…so then applications being typed up; so then an application had been on some sort of a form, and then it being a form that you would email off to somebody and now they’re really quite sophisticated – you know – online application processes that are all similar but all a bit different, um where you’re given boxes and how many words to put into a box and add links and I did one just this week which actually was even asking for a three-minute film to be uploaded to it as well as answering the questions.

So those systems have changed as well, they have developed. The use of social media has had an impact I say no funders have said to me informally that whilst they don’t use a charitys social media activity as a kind of scoring mechanism for ‘will we give this charity funding or not’, they certainly have a look, um and they’ve certainly hinted that it does influence their thinking if they find a Twitter or a Facebook or some sort of social media or a website that is up to date, accurate – you know – engaging um kept live-update-current

…um as against finding one that was put up five years ago and left or a Twitter account that hasn’t tweeted for the last three months. So I think that’s been another layer that has been added which you could say, for some people, they would see it as a burden; other people would see it as an opportunity. It’s another way of communicating, engaging with people

I think it’s really a good thing but it is very resource intensive and I do wonder if…. I’m sure I saw something yesterday on Twitter ironically which was saying how many hours we’re all spending on social media, whether that’s personal or work and you kind of think ‘oh is that a good use of, yeah, what can easily be one, two, three hours

Um there certainly are things that I have found on the internet and Twitter I wouldn’t have found otherwise, um but if you do the kind of cost benefit analysis is it the best way of gathering information ? I don’t know, they’re just, yeah, we live in this world we have multi-channel ways of communicating; we used to just get letters through the post or someone would send us a memo where you see a poster off of a notice board or something. There’s now a whole way of different things coming at us.

Alex Dunedin: Yeah, very important considerations. Do the funding structures allow you to plan long term ?

Glenn Liddall: Okay so that’s a similar sort of follow on question in terms of continuity. I suppose you have to define what’s long term. Nowadays you could kind of argue – you know – three years is long term, it’s not really is it. You know, if you’re looking at a strategy you want to be looking at five to ten years

So if I take you take your question as long term meaning you know five to ten years then funding, statutory funding even, yeah trust funding, does not allow for that. Um the Lottery probably has been one of the best at doing that in that they have traditionally had offered people up to five years funding; now they’re reviewing everything

Just now we’re all waiting with baited breath to see what they’re going to announce in terms of their new criteria and mechanisms, maybe that will change, maybe that won’t be five years anymore; maybe that’ll change, um but they have been one that’s offered more long-term funding so people can be more…

..because I’m putting those two things together – being strategic and being long-term – if you really want to create long-term meaningful change that doesn’t happen in a six-week program or six-month piece of funding or even a year, 18 months that takes more than that. I think again to put a different perspective on it, if – you know – the volunteer sector often complains about its lot but it’s the voluntary sector, there are benefits within that

We don’t have to do anything. What the voluntary sector does is voluntary; we have to do things that are good practice, are legal, are within all those – you know – Care Commission, those kind of things but in terms of what an organization does, what service they deliver, what strategic direction they take, that’s up to them; that’s not… no government, no statutory body content can say to a voluntary organization, a charity, you have to be developing in this direction over the next five/ten years

So whilst that’s our prerogative that’s our luxury, that’s the one thing we do have. Um we can’t then expect somebody else to fund that strategy; so for me there’s a…it’s a multi-dimensional argument that whilst we want government to have long-term um…

…because again there’s… government will have long-term broad strategic plans – you know – um, we want Scotland to be the best place for a child to grow up; that’s a strategic statement. Um, how, gets to be shorter time frames and is different…more…it’s harder to define and harder to fund and what to prioritize over what. Yeah there’s a lot of threads in there I hope that’s useful for you

Alex Dunedin: Yeah, yeah. Do you feel that you have the latitude to implement the policies you feel are important

Glenn Liddall: Um yes but can I come back to that. Just to look at the last question, um, sometimes we get caught now in a bind where some non-statutory funders will say we’ll only fund you if it fits in the strategic planning of the statutory sector. And some of that’s just – you know – what is the plan and does it fit our criteria and sometimes it’s literally a signature from statutory sectors and say ‘yeah we support this funding application’ – you know – ‘we’ll work together; it fits with our strategy ‘.

So in terms of that element I was talking about in terms of voluntary sector being voluntary…but it does…those two sides do hit each other because then they’re starting…even non-statutory funders are almost imposing statutory sector strategy if that makes sense…yeah…but then I’ll go back to you; the question you just asked me was around um

Alex Dunedin: So, uh, do you feel you have the latitude to implement the policies you feel are important

Glenn Liddall: I guess that’s really the same answer in terms of – you know – the volunteer sector…yeah there’s a lot of that to just reiterate what I’ve just said but – you know – we need to… there’s a responsibility, there’s an accountability on each charity, on each part of the voluntary sector um, that they have that freedom and they have to use that freedom and that doesn’t always mean it will fit nicely with what the statutory sector wants that’s…

…there’s there’s almost um, what I’m trying to articulate is if the statutory sector and the voluntary sector was working together harmoniously, seamlessly, you know – we all saw things in the same way and it was all wonderful – this kind of Utopian vision I don’t think that would work either would it because where did you get new ideas ? where do you get – you know – new initiatives ?

Um where do you discover new practice ? It’s in the gritty bits; it’s in the bits where systems – you know – break up against each other. If everyone just agreed with everybody um that would be pretty boring, on the side and I don’t… that wouldn’t be… you would knock creativity, innovation, you’d… it wouldn’t be in the system if everyone just agreed

Um so you can’t, it can’t be seamless continue… you know, continuity funding; you can’t have all those things if we always see the world in, through different lenses, which is how we have to…if we don’t see the world through different lenses, in different ways then what’s the point, um we’re just some, yeah, we’re not some big state machine; we’ve got freedom, we’ve got our own right to look at strategy paths, initiatives that we want to look at

Alex Dunedin: Great. Are you able through existing structures to forge the connections with outside organizations that you think are important ?

Glenn Liddall: yes [he laughs]; um, does it take huge amount of time and effort ? – yes. Um, is there any other way of doing it ? I don’t think so. Um, there are so many different networks, associations, bodies, groups, distribution lists, newsletters, websites, to sign up to… but there’s no shortage of that information in those groupings and networks, and I think in terms of administration and bureaucracy – could you get could you spend all of your time just reading all the stuff that’s out there ? Yes you probably could, um, that’s kind of helpful

Alex Dunedin: Do you feel the language used in administration and outcomes and measurements culture adequately represents you and your work

Glenn Liddall: Do I feel what represents my work ?

Alex Dunedin: …the language

Glenn Liddall: …the language…

Alex Dunedin: …the language of the, in the, bureaucracy

Glenn Liddall: No I don’t think it does, um but that’s never… that’s a similar thing, it’s never going to be… there’s not a way of changing that in one – you know – ‘that’s it, we’ve got it right now; that’s the right wording, that’s the right language’…that’s an evolving thing. There’s, yeah, that idea of ever being able to sit in the room and just agree – it’s the same, it’s that same idea; so no it doesn’t but that’s the world, that’s, you know, that’s, yeah…

Alex Dunedin: Is the sector adequately funded and resourced

Glenn Liddall: The knee jerk reaction to that is no but the other side to that has to be… you’re in, um, in many ways just – you know – taking a very much bigger perspective. It’s a fact of life, there will always be more need that we can satisfy

Um I think if you look at history down the years, cultures, any system; there’s always more need that we can satisfy, um, then you have to look at the really big questions in terms of how do we distribute wealth ? Can we distribute wealth more fairly ? Um, a talk yesterday about – you know – a Fairer Scotland

Um we all know what we want is – you know – you think you can often get quite a big consensus of a group of people of the kind of society community lives they’d like us to lead but how you do that is really hard. What’s the priority ? What’s the thing that needs to be done uppermost ? Recap that question again so I keep going back to your…

Alex Dunedin: Is the sector adequately funded or resourced ?

Glenn Liddall: So yeah so to recap no but then it never could be. I think it, no matter what you put in you’d always need more um so maybe the question, better question, a different question would be do we use what resources we have in the best way ? In the most efficient way, in the most…and then you come back full circle to monitor and evaluation outcomes, strategies…

Um because how do you ensure that you’re using whatever resource you have in the best possible way; if there’s some sort of system
Alex Dunedin: Yep, right. What role should broader society play in facilitating your work ?

Glenn Liddall: Um that’s an interesting question I think. I think there’s, yeah, there’s a couple of things going on there. I suppose there’s one aspect of that answer I think, there’s actually a lot of society is very aware of the work – the work we do – in terms of the social care sector, in terms of…

…and even, you know, there’s a traditional social care sector and there’s now this sector that’s grown up of more grassroots that’s more… it’s less about projects or services or taking care of people but how do you encourage people ? How do you resource people ? How do you empower and facilitate people to do their own things, initiatives, pieces of work – small, large…

…um – you know – how do you change things in your own street ? How do you change things in the whole of Scotland ?… But it’s… there’s an American President who said something about ‘what can you do for your country rather than’, – what you know – ‘what can your country do for you ?’, and it’s…

So I think there’s a… um… I think in some ways people are very aware and I think there’s people who are very involved and actually a very vibrant charitable sector – you know – volunteering is very, very vibrant

Um could we do more ? Yes. Are there some sectors that ignore us ? Yes, probably um but even just thinking where we are right now, yeah, we’re in a bank doing this interview and the fact that we’re here is actually a recognition and their support for the work that we do and I think it’s in a genuine way not just in a way that’s nice to put on a website as sort of a Corporate Social Responsibility. Um… but is there room for improvement ? Yes

Alex Dunedin: So how might the clients or service users best support you in achieving your goals and needs ?

Glenn Liddall: Um… I think that’s about dialogue, about conversations. Um it’s about… I’ve always found that generally people who use services are very keen to feedback on those services… Um… and of course – you know – especially if they feel as if it’s really helped it’s really been beneficial

Um… there’s almost a sense of what, how can I give back ? How can I help ?… And if I can help by sharing my thoughts, opinions, my feedback and that will in turn help other people because it will mean that you continue to get your funding, that is often what it comes down to – people thinking ‘well if I fill in this questionnaire’ – you know – you can use that with your funders…

…and I think people are really well engaged in that kind of process. Um, again… there’s almost two ends to that but there can be not enough sometimes and sometimes they can be too much and I think people can feel outcomes, surveyed, questionnaired, consulted to death – there’s too much of it. There’s probably some sort of balance that needs to be struck in there somewhere and I think to make it really accessible to everybody

Um and and even – you know – I think it’s quite hard to get the negative feedback; so that’s harder to get and it’s easier to collect, you know, all 30 people came to our service and they said it was really good and blah blah blah. I think that’s easiest to collect than the three people they’re saying ‘actually it didn’t really work for me and this is why it didn’t work, this is how it could’ve been better…

…and we don’t encourage that because funders by the very nature want to hear, they want to fund things that are successful, they don’t want to fund things where people say ‘well actually we did an okay job but actually we could have done that better’. No one really wants to read that in a report [he laughs] but they should but it takes a pretty enlightened funder.

Alex Dunedin: Tell me about stress levels and what creates stress levels ?

Glenn Liddall: Um and again I’m thinking yeah what’s stress ? Not all stress is bad, we need stress, it’s just to live, to function… um so I guess it’s… the answer is about balance. the answer is about um…

….yeah nowadays we talk a lot about work-life balance, we talk a lot about burn-out; um, you know, a lot of us we carry around these little black machines wherever we go, um, so you don’t… work is no longer in a nice nine to five package it spills over
but we demand services that are – you know – we want supermarkets that are open 24 hours a day; we want health service that’s responsive 24 hours a day; we want people to work a 24/7 society and yet we all demand but we also always we want, um that clearly delineated…

…we want ‘I’m working now, I’m not working there’ and we’ve not – we’ve got a long way to go to get that balance right…and within the – you know – reducing resources, reducing budgets, that’s harder and harder to achieve I think

Alex Dunedin: Another question which was suggested… um… one person asked ‘are we really doing what matters in the sector, across, and I think that was a very intriguing question. Tell me about your reaction or your thoughts to that question.

Glenn Liddall: Are we really doing what matters ? Is there room for improvement ? Is there room to do things better ? Um… Is there room to refine things ? Yes to all of those. Um, I think the sector, is getting a lot of things right. Um, I think the way that we’re seeing people working together, collaborating, partnerships, and the ways we’re seeing the third sector and statutory sector working together, delivering services…

…there are a lot of positives in there… there’s a lot of positives. Um there are things that we’re seeing now that we take for granted and years ago just wouldn’t have happened. Um yeah, we used to talk about multi-disciplinary teams but we meant within our own organizations, within the charitable sector, within the statutory sector; not teams as in all together and we now have examples of teams within statutory and non-statutory that work together on the ground very successfully. So I think…there are changes happening. I think there are more changes to be made. I’m just trying to use that as an example.

Alex Dunedin: What questions do you think are important in working towards greater understandings

Glenn Liddall: What questions are important to…

Alex Dunedin: …towards working to towards greater understandings of the work you’re doing, of the barriers that you and your colleagues encounter, of the subtleties that may not be grappled with from afar

Glenn Liddall: Yeah I think in many ways this is what happens already and there are a lot of people that are willing and prepared to have those conversations, have those arguments, disagreements, um… to challenge things

I don’t get a sense of some big magic wand to do that. It’s a slow gradual process which I think is… um, you could track it back into history – you know – it’s that sense of movement, that sense of change, that sense of… It’s quite a political question because what’s… there’s a sense of, it depends where you’re coming from…

…it depends what you perceive as successful or well-functioning community or culture or…and that that changes. It’s political isn’t it what’s seen as, yeah, is it is it a good thing that people are house owners ? Is it a a good thing that more people own their own houses, just plucking that out…

…but different people would argue different, that question differently, um, so yeah that’s what I think it’s an ongoing debate, work, um that’s it’s never going to be finished by…if it is finished then actually we’ve failed because we’ve hit that space I was talking about where we were just sitting around agreeing with each other going all it’s all fantastic; we’ve got it all sorted out. We know we don’t want that world either

Alex Dunedin: So before I finish off the interview is there is there anything you’d like to share particularly about your encounters with bureaucracies with measures and outcomes ?

Glenn Liddall: I think it’s something about making things proportionate. So systems and processes that are proportionate to the the size of the piece of work that’s being funded or the strategic plan that’s being developed um… and that there’s enough of it when it’s required and there’s not too much of it and it’s burdensome.

Um you were sparking something else. Sorry, say the question again there was two things in my head

Alex Dunedin: So well I’m interested to ask what you…want people to be aware of in terms of the barriers that you and your colleagues encounter in trying to achieve your work in the outcomes, in the bureaucracies and the administrations systems

Glenn Liddall: I think perhaps the one of the underlying issues is the political cycle, um, because the bureaucrats respond to the political cycle. Politicians set the big frameworks, the big timelines, the big strategies and then those have to be administered. So that’s I think one of the roots of where this is flawed, in, our political system works on this four or five year cycle, at best. So the more cross-party working you can get, um, the more… and we’ve seen that in some areas of policymaking we’re actually pretty much – you know – cross-party; they’ve agreed, yet that’s the way forward…

…so it’s less of political football that gets kicked about and therefore time, money gets wasted by changing the direction. Yeah, there’s probably more there but I can’t think of anything more just now

Glenn Liddall: Thank you very very much


You can find out more about Glenn Liddall’s work by visiting the People Know How website where there is the opportunity to donate and offer your support