Year in review: Shining brightly in uncertain times

Joy MacKeith, one of Triangle’s directors and co-founders, and co-author of the Outcomes Stars, explores her year in review, and shares her thoughts on the impact and successes of 2019, including the new Star Online and new Stars.

It’s week one back in the office after my new year’s break. My inbox is surprisingly full and the office is already buzzing with activity. Not everyone has taken two weeks off it seems. Before taking a deep breath and diving into the patiently waiting emails I allow myself the luxury of a moment to reflect on a very busy 2019 and anticipate what 2020 has in store.

Star Online 2 is unveiled

For me 2019 will always be the year that we built our new, improved software system and 2020 will be the year that the one thousand organisations working with the Star Online started to use it. The initial feedback from those who helped us test it in development has been amazing. I know many of our clients will be particularly excited about the reporting capability, with new visuals, new customisation and new time period reporting options. Other new features will make it much easier to manage implementation and data quality.  The fact that we now have a state-of-the-art platform for further developments is also very exciting. An off-line app is high on the list of new features we have planned. The new system is now live for new clients.  A massive thanks goes to Sarah Owen, our team member, who has led the project and QES our software development partners.

Making an impact

I will also remember 2019 as the year we conducted our strategic review. Thirteen years since the publication of the first Star it was time to look at how well the suite of tools had stood the test of time and how Triangle and the Star need to develop to stay at the cutting edge of practice. As part of the review we carried out a summer survey of our clients to find out what difference the Star makes. I know that people love the Star, so I was expecting broadly positive findings, but the level of appreciation and impact took me by surprise. Here are a few highlights:

  • 87% of Star users report that their keywork is more effective as a result of using the Star
  • 81% said that Star data reports enabled them to monitor and report on their outcomes more effectively
  • 95% say that the Star supports good conversations and collaboration between staff and service users
  • 92% say that helps service users to get an overview of their situation
  • 93% say that the Star supports person-centered, strengths-based working
  • 92% say that the Star is motivating for staff and service users because it makes change visible.

There were so many stand-out findings that it is hard not to keep adding more, but you get the idea. Of course there are always things that can be improved, but it was heartening to hear that many of the developments people were asking for focused around the Star Online so it was wonderful to know that in just a few months those needs would be met.

Not only do the findings underline the positive way that the Star helps workers take an enabling, strengths-based approach, but they are also a powerful affirmation of Triangle’s decision to invest heavily in implementation support through our client services team, our trainers and our regionally based implementation leads.

Research shows that better results are obtained from good implementation of a poor tool than from poor implementation of a good one. We aim to provide both an excellent tool and excellent implementation support. It is so affirming to see that this powerful combination is really making a difference. 

The strategic review concluded that the Star is a tool whose time has now come because of the increasing recognition of the importance of person-centred, outcomes focused collaborative working. Although it is well known in some sectors and regions, it is still largely unknown in many others so the potential for further impact is substantial. A key theme for 2020 and beyond will therefore be doing more to communicate what the Star is, the way that it can transform service delivery and the wealth of research behind it.

An organisation with a mission

As well as fact finding, our strategic review also involved some deep reflection and soul searching on Triangle’s role in the current service delivery climate. We are painfully aware that the service delivery landscape has changed since 2006 when the first version of the Star was published. Assumptions that if someone is motivated to change then the services will be there to support them no longer hold. Many services are now much lighter touch and can find it challenging to make the time for an in-depth conversation about needs and plans. This has resulted in requests for ‘lighter touch’ or self-completion Stars.

Should the Star stick to its original formulation as a comprehensive and reflective tool or adapt to new realities? There are no easy answers, but we have re-affirmed and sharpened our mission as an organisation that is committed to both advocating for an enabling approach to service delivery and helping service providers make this a reality in practice.

We now begin a new strand of work to shape the debate around what matters in service delivery through research, blogs, conference presentations and making links with the many others advocating for this kind of approach.

Drawing together the evidence base

The Outcomes Star was born out of practice rather than research and quickly took root because many organisations were hungry for a tool that would evidence the effectiveness of their work without getting in the way. When they discovered that the Star positively helped them achieve their outcomes, there was no stopping it. 

As a result, the formal research evidence for the Star lagged behind its use. 2019 was the year that changed and we were finally able to draw together a decade of work on validation to publish psychometric factsheets on nearly all versions (we are still collecting the data on very recently published Stars). 2020 will see the publication of a paper in a peer-reviewed journal setting out the psychometric properties of the Family Star Plus, the most widely used of the suite of Stars. This is an incredibly important landmark for us in establishing the Outcomes Star as a different kind of tool that straddles the aims of both promoting and evidencing change.

Hello and goodbye

Closer to home, 2019 has been an important year of hellos and goodbyes. Hello to our first Managing Director, Graham Randles, who joined us from the New Economics Foundation consultancy service, and goodbye to Paul Muir, our Operations Director who pioneered our work on implementation support and much else besides. Hello to Tamara Hamilton who will be covering Sarah Owen’s maternity leave this year and goodbye to Susan Goodbrand who covered Emily Lamont’s maternity leave. Goodbye also to Roxanne Timmis who has moved on to an exciting new role with Think Ahead, a charity that supports graduates into mental health social work. Best of all, we have said hello to four new babies including Ziya Nisi born on 28th December to Giorgia, one of the staff at Unique Outcomes, our Australian implementation partner.

And finally

Triangle also gave birth to five new Stars in 2019 in a year of unprecedented Star development activity. We now have a Star for preparing for the end of life. Together with our Parent and Baby Star this means the Stars really can take you from cradle to grave.  2020 sees the publication of our new 3-5 year plan, a project to build on interest in the Star in the USA, the full implementation of our new software system and much more besides. 

It is incredible to see how something that started as an approach for one organisation in one sector has evolved and flourished over so many sectors and countries around the world. As we approach a very uncertain new decade, it gives me hope that when people collaborate to address specific issues with commitment, persistence, flexibility and creativity, we really can make a difference.

Graphic introducing the Planning Star - linking to the Planning Star webpage
Image introducting the Preparation Star - linking to the Preparation Star webpage
Image introducing the Pathway Star with a graphic linking to a blog on how the Pathway Star is a person-centered tool
Graphic introducing the Recovery Star Fourth Edition, linking to a blog post on the new Star
Image linking to a blog post introducing the new My Mind Star for use with organisations supporting young people's mental health and well-being

If you have any questions about our new Stars, or would like any information on the new Star Online, or anything else, please contact us on info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44 (0) 207 272 8765.

Christmas newsletter round-up

Our December 2019 newsletter round-up included news on the new and improved Star Online system, as well as new and upcoming Outcomes Stars. Our directors have recently attended several conferences and share their thoughts and reflections on the events: Sara Burns shares her thoughts on Hospice UK’s annual conference while Joy MacKeith shares her reflections on the Mental Health Conference. We also included information on our new Stars.

Other updates included

  • The new Star Online system is now live for new clients, find out more about the system and watch a short video of it in action: the new Star Online
  • We have recently published the Pathway Star, a new Star for the employment sector: read our blog exploring how it can help vulnerable service users in overcoming challenges and taking steps towards the world of work.
  • We have recently published two more new Stars: the Planning Star which is a vital new tool for organisations working with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and the Preparation Star, a new Outcomes Star to support individuals in living well right to the end.

Read the full newsletter here.

Contact Triangle at info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44(0) 20 7272 8765 for more information on our Outcomes Stars, the new Star Online and our licence and training options. Sign up for our newsletter here.

Pathway Star points the way for person-centred employment services

For people who are unemployed and struggling with mental illness, addiction, homelessness, family difficulties, trauma or other complex issues, the idea of finding a job can seem very far away. Traditional employment support often fails these people, and no wonder. If your life is upside down, classes in CV writing or job search can feel irrelevant, out of reach or even downright insulting.

That’s why “person-centred” support – a term widely used in care services – is becoming more widespread in employment services. A number of innovative programmes now offer bespoke one-to-one help for people with complex needs, with advocates focusing on helping individuals to overcome the specific challenges they face. It takes a high level of investment, but it’s increasingly seen as the best way to help vulnerable people take steps towards the world of work.

An outcomes tool for vulnerable people

The Pathway Star has been created for services and programmes like this. Launched this month by Triangle Consulting Social Enterprise, it’s an outcomes tool that helps guide keywork and conversations, with the focus on helping people move towards work rather than necessarily finding a job. Above all, it’s person-centred. It’s structured around the individual and the barriers they face to employment – things like stability at home, household finances, family and relationships and emotional well-being.

People who have been out of work for years may be facing multiple issues, from mental health problems to abuse. For a person with high anxiety, perhaps facing the threat of eviction, it’s hard to find the energy or motivation to attend an appointment, let alone take part in a group class – even if failing to turn up means losing benefits. Being required to search for work can add to an already huge burden of worries.

Using the Pathway Star, a worker can start with any area the person feels able to talk about. It’s completed collaboratively, and the person is free to place themselves on the scales, with the worker supporting, asking questions or challenging if that feels appropriate.

“It’s not a question of ticking boxes,” says Triangle director Sara Burns, who developed the Pathway Star in partnership with Liverpool Households into Work (HiW). “It’s a conversation, and as people get some of the support they desperately need, they’re more able to engage with it and see where they are now and how their lives can improve.” 

At the beginning of each of the Pathway Star’s eight scales, people are held back by issues such as poor health, poor housing, money problems or family culture, and are not able to talk about them. At the top of each scale they have been able to address the problem, with support, and while it may still be there, it no longer represents a barrier to work for that individual.

For service users, seeing their situation and their progress in a simple visual form can be powerful. “I got a surprise regarding my progress over the last few months,” said one person on the HiW pilot. “I’m pleased I’ve got some change in my life where I wanted help.”

Work Star™ or Pathway Star™?

Many employment support services already use the Work Star to support people to return to work or to find a job for the first time. It covers the traditional areas of employment support – skills and experience, aspiration and motivation, job search skills and the like, but also has two areas for drilling down into the person’s context – their health and well-being and the level of stability they have in their life.

“The Work Star is ideal for mainstream services or for people who need help with navigating job search or brushing up on skills,” says Juliet Kemp, Star implementation lead at Triangle.  “But if you’re a service working with people who are far from being job-ready and you’re offering in-depth, holistic support, take a look at the Pathway Star. From what we’ve seen so far, it’s a really persuasive tool in helping people to change.”

Triangle recently presented the Pathway Star at the British Association for Supported Employment’s annual conference, along with a workshop to demonstrate the benefits of using the tool. The Pathway Star and the Work Star are available to all organisations with a Star licence and full training can be given for workers and managers. Find out how to get started .

If you have any questions about our new Stars, any queries about the Pathway Star, or you would just like find out more about how the Stars can support your service users, keyworkers and organisation, please contact us on info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44 (0) 207 272 8765.


September newsletter round-up

Our September newsletter included updates on the Star Online system. We also introduced two new Outcomes Stars for mental health, the My Mind Star and the new and improved edition of the Recovery Star as well as updated research for the new edition of the Recovery Star™

Find out more

  • My Mind Star™ is an Outcomes Star for building and tracking well-being and resilience in young people and is for young people’s mental health and well-beining
  • The new and improved edition of the Recovery Star™: the Outcomes Star for mental health and well-being. This Star has been designed to support and measure progress towards recovery for adults experiencing mental health issues and contains changes to make the Star more appropriate, accessible and effective.
  • The updated Psychometric validation of the Recovery Star.

Read the full newsletter here.

Contact Triangle at info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44(0) 20 7272 8765 for more information on our Outcomes Stars or to find out more about how the Star can empower service users and keyworkers to make and measure positive change. Sign up for our newsletter here.

Think holistically: Act holistically

Joy MacKeith, Co-Founder and Director of Triangle, and one of the authors of the Outcomes Stars reflects on the Mental Health 2019 conference.

By Joy MacKeith, Director and Co-Founder of Triangle.

This was my second time at this conference bringing together senior NHS policy makers and service providers to chew over the state of the nation’s mental health. There certainly was a lot to think about….

Integration, integration, integration

The strongest message throughout the day was to think holistically about mental health. Duncan Selbie, CEO of Public Health England kicked things off by reminding us that the biggest determinants of mental health are income, housing, work and social connection. This was then driven home by Andrew Herd from the Department of Health and Social Care who is engaged in the mammoth task of rallying all government departments around the cause of mental health and inspiring, cajoling and sometimes requiring them to factor mental health into their policy-making. It was refreshing to hear this holistic drum being banged, music to my ears as one engaged in creating tools which attempt to provide a map for the person’s whole life, not just the problem that brought them through the door.

Young people on the top of the agenda

Most of the conversations that we had on our Outcomes Star stand were about My Mind Star – our newly published tool for early intervention with young people with mental health issues. There was real excitement about the strengths-based focus and intuitive visuals. The fact that it also provides service-wide distance travelled information was usually not the focus of the conversation, but nevertheless seen as an important plus. There is a big scale of up services for this group, Phoebe Robinson, Health of Mental Health for NHS England told us. That isn’t surprising given that a shocking one in three children and young people now have a diagnosable mental health issue.

Get ready for growth in social prescribing

GP, David Smart shared his experience of creating an integrated depression pathway in Northampton. What inspired me about this case study was seeing just how much difference can be made when people step out of their normal ways of doing things and look at a problem freshly. Social prescribing plays an important part in their approach and is an example of integration in action. It was mentioned often through the day as an approach that is on the rise. I was extra pleased when I heard that they are exploring the use of the Well-being Star to collaboratively assess needs and the measure outcomes of their social prescribing work.

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Interested in finding out more about the Outcomes Stars for mental health and well-being?

The Recovery Star Fourth Edition is a new edition of the Outcomes Star for working with mental health and well-being. My Mind Star is the new Outcomes Star for young people young people’s mental health and well-being. Find out more here. To find out more about which which other Outcomes Stars are suitable for organisations working with mental health and well-being, please take a look at our sector page. For more information on the Outcomes Stars and our licensing and training options please contact us: email Triangle at info@triangleconsulting.co.uk, or call on +44 (0) 202  7272 8765.

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Joy MacKeith: Joy is a co-creator of the Outcomes Stars. She leads on innovation, data, research and the theory behind the Star. For more information on the evidence and research that underpins the Outcomes Stars visit our evidence and research library. Please contact us for any further information: email Triangle at info@triangleconsulting.co.uk.

New Outcomes Stars for mental health

Introducing the new My Mind Star and a new, improved edition of the Recovery Star

My Mind Star – a much needed and timely tool for early intervention with young people

My Mind Star was developed in collaboration with managers, service users and professionals at leading UK children’s charity, Action for Children. It was also piloted by:

The results of the pilot were very positive, with 94% of young people agreeing that their complete Star was ‘a good summary of my life right now”.

94% of practitioners agreed that My Mind Star gave them a better idea of the support needs of the young people they support.

“Often young people have not been listened to or given control: completing the Star gives them space and lets them take the lead.” 

 Grainne Hart, Manager of the Choices Service, part of the My Mind Star pilot

Find out more about the My Mind Star here.

The Recovery Star (4th Edition)

This is a new and improved edition, drawing on independent research and feedback from service users, keyworkers and organisations.

The new edition retains the person-centred, strengths based approach of previous editions but with even more accessible language, incorporating trauma-informed thinking and fuller acknowledgement of the impact of external factors.

There is fuller recognition of the necessity of on-going support for enduring and severe conditions. It is backed by a report on independent research into the psychometric properties and a review of literature supporting the Journey of Change and choice of outcome areas.

Find out more about the new Recovery Star here.

Both Stars were launched at the Govconnect Mental Health 2019 Conference at the Royal Society of Medicine on 26th September.

If you have any questions about our new Stars, any queries about transitioning between the Recovery Star 3rd Edition and the new Edition, or you would just like find out more about how the Stars can support your service users, keyworkers and organisation, please contact us on info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44 (0) 207 272 8765.

An update on our redevelopment of the Star Online

Our progress so far and what we’re learning along the way

By Sarah Owen, Product Manager at Triangle

As we explained in our last blog post in June 2019, we’re currently in the middle of a big project to redevelop our widely used online system for the Outcomes Star, working with our partners QES.

With the bulk of the project kicking off at the start of this year, we now have just under 3 months before the new product will go live for those new to the Star Online (existing accounts will be migrated from the old system to the new between January and March 2020).

Work-in-progress preview of the new design and interface for the Star Online – with a streamlined homepage featuring easy-to-access actions and notifications

Making progress

During the last 9 months, we’ve made some significant progress:

  • Establishing an Agile process – using the iterative, user-focused development approach but in a way that fits with redeveloping an existing, established product already on the market
  • Weekly (and sometimes daily) sessions between Triangle and QES, to flesh out the specification and turn it into well over 100 user stories – a simple way of capturing what the system needs to do from the point of view of its users 
  • A high-level prototype of the key elements of the system, to ensure a shared understanding between everyone working on the development and to iron out key design decisions
  • A work in progress site, developed with over 10 sprints so far (a sprint is a two or three week chunk of time with planned goals and tasks) – iterated and improved as we go
  • Ongoing input and direction from a Think Tank made up of practitioners, managers and data analysts – reviewing key decisions and the prototype as it developed
Work-in-progress screen from the Star Online prototype – with a new Summary page for each person being supported with the Star

You can see screenshots of the work-in-progress prototype dotted throughout this blog – or download our new PDF ‘Coming soon…Introducing the new Outcomes Star Online’ here.

A work-in-progress example of the new Star data reports that will be available through the new system – focusing on distance travelled and the outcomes being achieved

What we’re learning

It has been a fascinating project for us so far.  As a social enterprise our expertise is not in software development, but in building tools that help organisations to create change and help people to achieve the outcomes that matter to them.  We knew that building an effective relationship with our new partner QES was vital both for the short and long term.

In the early stages, we had to learn how best to communicate our ideas and requirements. Taking the time to do this has paid dividends now that we are in the thick of the detailed development, with greater understanding from both sides. Our experience of working closely with our existing partners, Jellymould and TappetyClick, has also proved invaluable, especially as we balance continuing to support the current system and preparing for the new one.

Next steps

We are running a period of testing with practitioners, managers and commissioners, as well as our team across Triangle, into October.  We’ll then be busy incorporating that feedback and finishing the development up to the end of November.   

In parallel, our Helpdesk team will be working closely with organisations already using the Star Online, to share information and plan the migration of each account.

If you have any questions about the new system, please contact us on info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44(0)20 272 8765.

June newsletter round-up

Our June newsletter included news on our upcoming new Star Online system, news on our new Outcomes Star: the New Mum’s Star, as well as updates on our new resources, reports and a short blog on our social enterprise model.

New resources and reports

Some of the new resources which were highlighted in the newsletter included:

  • Welsh translations of our Family Stars (available for licenced Star users on request)
  • A new evaluation report created with Chiltern Music Therapy examining the benefits of the Music Therapy Star which specifically highlighted that 95% of people engaging in music therapy significantly made improvements in at least two outcome areas.

Read the full newsletter here.

Contact Triangle at info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44(0) 20 7272 8765 for more information on our Outcomes Stars or to find out more about how the Star can empower service users and keyworkers to make and measure positive change. Sign up for our newsletter here.

Exciting news about the Star Online system

Introducing our new vision for the digital home of outcomes-focused keywork

By Sarah Owen, Product Manager at Triangle

Screenshot of the existing Star Online system showing a Star visual with 2 sets of ‘completion lines’ representing 2 Stars completed with a service user over time

The Star Online web application for the Outcomes Star was first launched by Triangle in 2011. As the Star has grown in popularity and in use across different sectors and services, so has the Star Online. 

Today the system is used by over 800 organisations and 45,000 frontline practitioners, to support over half a million people and to record nearly 900,000 completed Stars.

Listening and responding to feedback

Over the last 8 years, we have heard from many of the practitioners, managers and commissioners that use the system.  You told us that, although many aspects of the original design still hit the mark, there are frustrations with the system, such as the limited range of reports available and the lack of flexibility in how services can be configured.

Alongside this feedback, technology has improved exponentially since the original development, with digital service design now utilising cutting edge, user focused tools and programming approaches.   

To respond to this, we have committed to a significant level of investment in the Star Online, and since last year, we have been working with QES to completely redevelop the system. 

Collaborating with specialists and practitioners

Logo for QES – specialist developer of web based and offline apps

QES is a specialist developer of web based and offline apps, supporting secure digital data solutions to a diverse range of public and private sector clients. Other QES developments include the eCDOP (online recording, casework and reporting for child deaths) and Holistix Early Help case management system.

The development of the new system is well underway.  We’re retaining a focus on intuitive, simple design whilst also radically improving what is on offer – for example, with a complete overhaul of reports and tools for analysing Star data, and by introducing more options for how services, teams and people can be configured.  Throughout the process, we are collaborating with a small group of practitioners, managers and Star Leads – also known as our Think Tank – who represent a broad selection of organisations using the current system in the UK and in Australia, and who are reviewing our plans and testing out the system.  

Timings and next steps

Our timeline is to launch at the end of November 2019 for new users, and to support existing clients using the current Star Online to migrate over to the new system by March 2020.  We will have more information for existing clients soon and are working to make the migration from old to new as straightforward as possible.  We will of course be providing guidance and support throughout the process.

For more information

If you have any questions or any ideas you’d like to share with us, contact us on info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44(0)20 272 8765.

Spring newsletter round-up

Our March newsletter round-up includes updates on our licensing options, an introduction to our new Managing Director, and a call for interest and views on a Star for Neurodevelopment as well as updates on our new resources and reports.

New resources and reports

Triangle continues to publish new resources to support organisations in creating positive change by promoting an effective outcomes approach and providing sector-wide solutions:

Read the full newsletter here.

 

Contact Triangle at info@triangleconsulting.co.uk or +44(0) 20 7272 8765 for more information on our Outcomes Stars or to find out more about how the Star can empower service users and keyworkers to make and measure positive change. Sign up for our newsletter here.