Align Participants in Shared Purpose of Case Conferencing

November 18, 2019

From the Case Conferencing Action Pack

Get clear on meeting objectives

  • Crowd-source objectives: Start one meeting by facilitating a 10-minute conversation about your case conferencing practice’s goals and objectives. Ask each participant to share one value they receive (or would like to receive) from case conferencing. What results do they want to see? Synthesize answers, including yours, into a handful of objectives that can be written, shared, and committed to. Consider adding the new objectives to the recurring calendar invitation or placing them on the agenda to remind the team of your shared purpose.
    • If you run multiple case conferencing-style meetings, define a set of objectives for each one.
  • Expand the vision: Prepare participants for change by leading a brief conversation about how case conferencing could provide more value to your team and your clients. Ask what currently works well, then present a few new ideas to expand the group’s imagination. Illustrate the outcome of making a change—how it would make someone’s job easier or house someone faster. Steal ideas from this guide! Once your team glimpses the benefit to changing case conferencing, they’ll be more game to test ideas.
  • Define un-success: Ask the room to describe a bad meeting, and record their responses on a white board or flipchart. Now ask what actions you can take as a group to avoid each outcome. Agree as a team to take these actions. As a team, periodically review the commitments to monitor your progress in making it a useful, engaging meeting.
  • Loop in your Improvement Advisor: Once your team sets case conferencing objectives, send them to your BFZ Improvement Advisor to open the conversation about optimizing your practice.

Assemble a team that can get things done

  • Check if the right people are at the table: You need people in the room who hold key information about clients on your by-name list and can take action to house them faster. Aim for critical mass, not perfection. If you have providers who work with 70%+ of the clients on your BNL, you are at a place where you can effect change.
    • Make a quick action plan to bring the right people to the table, considering participation from multiple systems. Make a list of who needs to be at the table (e.g. for youth, you may need child welfare, juvenile justice, education, adult and family system representatives); barriers keeping each party away from the table (e.g. political issues, lack of time, etc.), and what actions can be taken to get them to the table (e.g., sending other stakeholders to request attendance, working with funders to require attendance, etc.).
  • The more people you have in the room, the tighter facilitation must be. Generally speaking, it’s easier to make decisions with fewer people in the room.
  • Make a splashy restart: Once you make some successful changes, make a big deal about them! The attention will help refocus your regular attendees and bring others back to the table. For important stakeholders who had stopped attending, send a colorful email letting them know that change is afoot and the meeting is newly valuable. Include a couple of specifics.
  • Develop an orientation guide to the programs and providers at the table so that new attendees can get up to speed quickly. When there’s staff turnover or a new stakeholder, you’ll be ready.

Develop a problem-solving, client-centered culture

  • Facilitate so that everybody talks: Most attendees should speak in most meetings! (Or maybe you have too many people there, and it’s become an updates meeting.)
  • Make facilitation client-centered: Ask questions that invite team members to speak specifically about the client, quote the client, or adopt the client’s point of view. Ask follow-up questions that cause the room to calculate the impact of a decision on the client; it is always the right time to ask, How will this affect the client? When you notice that conversation is dwelling on staff experience or an agency’s rules, pivot back to a client-centered question!
  • Make language client-centered: Establish norms about how this team will speak about clients. Consider language as well as tone. Challenge the team to speak about barriers as existing within the system you’ve created, not within a client. Check for paternalistic language. Encourage strengths-based language. Rather than saying that a client is not a good fit for a program, ask what kind of program would best serve that client.
  • Frame for problem-solving: Periodically start the meeting with a reminder that the best way to show up for clients is to creatively problem-solve around serving them rather than focus on what’s going wrong. Consider facilitating a discussion around what it would mean for the meeting to be solution-focused. Take care not to blame the client for challenges or center their behavior as the ‘problem.’
  • Frame for collaboration: At the beginning of meetings, talk about the meeting as a place where participants can share the responsibility of housing clients and use the team’s collective brain power to house clients faster. When given an update about a client that is brief or protective such as “We’re working with them,” ask gentle questions to elicit more details and invite others into the discussion. Smash through agencies’ isolation and take steps to act as one team.
  • Create a culture of support: Periodically check in with attendees to find out how they’re feeling about their work. If you notice that a participant seems burnt out or drained, ask how the group can support them. Signs of burnout may include problem-saturated narratives, frustration with clients, or low participation in the meetings.

Connect system-wide goals to case conferencing

  • Start with a goals report: Take the first five minutes of the meeting to share your team’s current big goal, progress, and what you need to accomplish during today’s meeting in order to reach the goal.
  • Set a small goal and quickly meet it: Set a concrete, near-term goal, such as “6 housing placements this month.” Toward the end of the meeting, check together if you are on track to meet the goal. Did you identify 6 clients with target move-in dates set for this month? If no, look back through the by-name list together. Press the team to find and record new commitments that will reach the goal—or identify what about your system (not your clients!) can change in order to help you reach the goal
    • Ramp up to impact: Start with a modest, achievable goal then ramp up to a more ambitious one next month.
  • Share results per agency: Share length-of-time statistics for each participating agency and facilitate discussion about outliers. Ask questions to model curiosity. If one agency’s numbers are notably higher performing, ask what they’re doing differently so that others can learn from it. If one agency’s numbers are lower performing, ask that agency’s representatives about what they’re seeing and how others in the room can support them in removing obstacles in order to house people faster. Remind everyone that it’s data for improvement, not judgment!
  • Celebrate progress: Whenever you see the team’s work paying off, let them know! Never assume that everyone already noticed. Did your number of housing placements increase since the last meeting, or did you reach a milestone number on your by-name list? Celebrate it! Get granular: Did someone house a particularly long stayer, or together did you figure out housing plans for 75% of people on the chronic list? Spot the improvement and call it out!