Outcomes Star: 10 years on
Blog posted by: Paul Muir Friday, 24 November 2017.
The original Outcomes Star launched in the homelessness sector over ten years ago. Paul Muir, Director of Operations at Triangle Consulting explains the top five things we’ve learnt during that time.
The Outcomes Stars are a set of tools for tracking the difference you are making with people at the same time as providing a robust key working framework. There are now 30 versions of the Star ranging from the original Homelessness Star, through to Stars for young people with life-threatening illnesses.
It looks simple but it isn’t always as easy as it looks…
At first glance, the Star looks simple but it does need thought and time to use it well. The key is understanding the ‘Journey of Change’ set out in the User Guide. The Journey of Change is based on well-founded practice and theory, helping to break big change into bite-sized chunks. It provides a framework for supportive but challenging discussions and limits subjectivity.
Over 10 years, it has become clear that workers benefit from Star training before they even know there is a User Guide. For example, on a course last year for experienced outreach workers who had used the Star for years it became clear that they had never used, or even seen the User Guide. As we got to the part of the training where we discuss the Journey of Change and shared the User Guide, all of them said, “we have never seen this before - now the Star makes sense!” One worker later reported that using the Star properly with someone they had known for over a year meant she found out critical information for the first time.
Stars work when embedded in practice
The Outcomes Star is a useful tool if it fits with the way you work and visa-versa. In too many cases, we have seen the Star bolted on as an extra task to existing practice, paperwork, or patching up a creaky process.
What does work is thinking creatively about how the Star can be used to help streamline workflows and reduce paperwork. We have good examples of how the Star has added value to the client’s experience of assessment and review.
A provider of services for people with complex needs in community and hostel settings started by introducing the Star as an add-on to complex assessment and review processes with predictable results.
After some reflection, their 20-page assessment was replaced by the Star and a single sheet for personal data. The rich intelligence generated by doing the Star well meant that 80% of the paperwork was completed using the Star and 20% was collected via a quick follow up session.
Team and project managers are crucial to good Star practice
It seems obvious but the role of managers is critical, particularly in helping staff build confidence and consistency.
It helps if managers attend Star training with their teams – equipping them to help others get started and to use the Star in supervision. ‘Quality checking’ Star readings make sure the Star is a meaningful activity for clients and staff and that Star data can be used with confidence to report on outcomes.
Star data can be used in interesting ways
Recently we have started to look more carefully at how people use the data captured by the Star. The first thing to note is that if things above are not in place then there is a significant chance the data will not be useful. Once a service is confident that the data is robust, then a whole range of options opens up.
We are developing useful insights into how data can be presented and used. Some organisations’ clients use the data in sophisticated ways linked to Outcome-Based Accountability structures to payment by outcomes and as evidence of the difference they are making when they are tendering for new contracts.
The value of bringing practice and measurement together
This learning leads us to the conclusion that although getting it right can be hard work, the Star can and does work for a range of people, services and sectors. The insight that sparked the first Outcomes Star over 10 years ago is still relevant – that better tools are made when you bring together outcomes measurement with positive practice and make it work for the people who use it.
We know there’s more to do to help people get the most out of the Outcomes Star and we’re always open to feedback – if you want to add to our top five, please let us know! For more information go to www.outcomesstar.org.uk.
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