‘15 Days’ – a story about collaborative problem solving in public services

How do you involve a range of busy public servants in something which aims to make an impact on a complex problem in a short space of time?

This was the challenge faced by the Youth Mental Health Pathfinder Team. The Pathfinder is one of nine projects underway in the Goal Programme on Public Service Reform in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Youth mental health is a serious concern for policy makers around the world, including Ireland and Northern Ireland. Approaches to challenges like youth mental health involve different departments, service providers and stakeholders, and require collaboration if they are to have any chance of succeeding.

The Youth Mental Health Pathfinder introduced new ways of working in the Department of Health, based on collaborative problem solving. 15 Days, a report just published  by CES tells the story of how the team attempted to get to the heart of the problem, came up with some practical actions, and engaged leadership in the public service with their proposals. You will find information about tools and processes which were used to support collaboration and problem solving all in the report.

The Pathfinder process which involved a team of twelve people was facilitated by Peter Thomas and Andrew Templeman, both of whom brought extensive experience of working with government in the UK. CES was part of the Pathfinder team. Our role involved providing knowledge of how the issue has been approached in other jurisdictions, along with practical support in using and analysing data.

A toolkit to accompany this report will also be available in the coming weeks. While the Pathfinder process focused on youth mental health, both the report and the toolkit offer practical guidance and invaluable resources for any public servant involved in tackling complex problems which require a collaborative approach.