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The Revised National Performance Framework – A New Vision for Scotland?

Mon 25th June 2018 - News

The Launch of the Revised National Performance Framework

Kirsten Leask, member of Learning for Sustainability Scotland and co-vice chair of our Steering Group attended the launch of the National Performance Framework earlier this month. Here she provides a detailed report on the launch event and discusses the positive impact the values and language of the revised framework will have on Scotland.

The National Performance Framework – introduction to the changes.

It wasn’t headline news – in fact, it barely registered amongst the claims, counter-claims and general noise that dominated the national and international media last week. But Monday 11th June 2018 may just go down in history as the day when Scotland nailed its colours to the mast in terms of a politically-accountable commitment to putting humanity, wellbeing and sustainability at the heart of national policy-making.

Redefining and refreshing your mission statement and the direction of travel every so often is generally good practice for organisations, but the Scottish Government’s revised National Performance Framework (launched last week) is to be commended for its ‘optimistic and inherently positive approach’.

The sixteen National Outcomes of the old Framework have been whittled down to a user-friendly eleven; accompanied by a revised national vision and definition of government purpose.

The National Performance Framework & The UN Sustainable Development Goals

So far, so good; but two key things set this Framework apart from its predecessor. Firstly, an explicit and high-profile commitment to blending the vision for Scotland with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each of the eleven Outcomes is aligned to several of the seventeen SDGs; with Goal 5: Gender Equality as a common thread across each.

Secondly – and perhaps most hearteningly – is the language used.

‘kindness’, ‘wellbeing’, ‘loved’, ‘dignity’, and ‘compassion’ are words rarely used in top-level Government policy. Combined with references from key speakers to delivering change through ‘collective, collaborative and distributive leadership’ which ‘empowers others’; a recognition that ‘GDP does not measure intangibles’ and that ‘inequality is not just about income’ might just deliver on the Scottish Government’s vision to ‘craft, create and support policy that reflects people’s real lives’ that ‘reflect the non-linear outcomes that emerge from complex systems’.

Consultation & Co-design in the National Performance Framework

It’s clear that consultation and co-design have been at the heart of this: indeed, members of the Learning for Sustainability Scotland Steering Group were invited to participate in workshops earlier this year which gathered thoughts and opinions on the proposed Outcomes and their subsequent Indicators from across the third, public, private, and community sectors.

And with the SDGs as a core element of this new Framework, an international flavour is also evident: with contributions and thinking from policy-makers and academics from Slovenia, Canada, Estonia, Wales and UNITAR forming part of the launch event.

Joined-up thinking and engagement with expertise from across society will be central to making this vision a reality.

An outline of how this is to be achieved was summarised by senior civil servants as follows:

  1. Leadership – and ownership – is critical.
  2. Policy is only one part of the picture. We need to focus on how change happens; using an asset-based, co-productive approach that empowers communities to enable that change.
  3. How will ‘we’ know it’s working? ‘Lived experience’ will be vital. Subjectivity, stories and other qualitative data are as important as quantitative.
  4. Accountability remains important: scrutiny of progress and analysis of ‘value for money’ remain key.
  5. We will move from ‘abstraction’ to ‘application’: making policy and procedure meaningful and empowering at the front line for people and communities. We want to see values in action.

Values and Inclusion in the National Performance Framework.

It is refreshing to see the values embedded on the Mace, and those which have been inherent in much of key educational thinking for so long (e.g. Getting it Right for Every Child; the Professional Standards from the GTCS; the reference to ‘tests of change’ from the Children & Young People’s Improvement Collaborative; and the aspirations of the One Planet Schools report and subsequent documents such as Vision 2030+) being echoed so strongly across the whole of Government strategy.

At a time when the political, economic, environmental and social future of the UK – let alone the wider world – stands at a crossroads, it is encouraging to see a vision where human rights, community empowerment, creativity & cultural diversity and a commitment to an international outlook is articulated in this way.

We know that there will be those who will scoff at an approach which puts people, peace, partnerships, prosperity and planet on a par with profits. The devil is in the detail. Many eyes will be on this as it’s implemented and scrutiny will be rigorous.

But in a world where uncertainty has become the only certainty; where change is accelerating at a rate hitherto unknown in human history and where environmental degradation, human rights abuses and political incompetence have become the norm rather than the exception, surely a vision such as this is to be welcomed and celebrated?

Dan Millman wrote that ‘the secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but building the new’ – and this vision is a challenge to the whole of Scotland. The Scottish Government will be held accountable, but every element of Scottish society has a part to play in making it a reality.

What kind of Scotland do we want? Scotland, it’s up to you.

Useful resources relating to the National Performance Framework

First Minister’s Speech at the launch of the revised national performance framework.

Scottish Government National Performance Framework – purpose and strategic objectives