Operation Modulus sought to address problems including gang violence, crime and anti-social behaviour in Grobals, Glasgow.
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Problems and Purpose
Operation Modulus was a highly successful intervention targeted at a gang of young people, and exploring why it was such a success. Police Scotland initiated Operation Modulus in order to target a serious problem of gang violence, crime and anti-social behaviour in 2013 involving eleven young people in Gorbals. The aim of the operation was to utilize co-production and partnership working to achieve successful outcomes. The young people who were the subject of the operation already had multiple convictions, however no agency seemed to be taking responsibility, and previous attempts to address the situation had failed. Paul Blackwood, who was tasked with leading the operation, believed that ‘this group of young people had fallen between the cracks of the competing organisations’ and ‘Community Planning principles legitimated a different way of working’. Operation Modulus aimed to bring those organisations together to solve an issue which impacts a number of them in different ways.
Operation Modulus was selected as the subject of a What Works Scotland case study because it was an exemplar. The purpose of the operation itself was to engage the participants in a programme in which they were architects in co-producing the outcomes. Whilst the programme was targeted at crime prevention, the learning from the What Works Scotland case study is intended to inform the work of public services in Scotland across all areas of policy and practice. The aim of this case study was therefore not just to focus on how best to tackle issues related to these young people and the specific crimes they were committing, but rather to show how the principles of public service reform as highlighted by the Christie Commission can best be operationalised. Partnership, co-production and an outcome-focused approach are among the foundational elements of the Christie Commission and were the primary focus of this case study.
Background History and Context
Operation Modulus was a violence and anti-social behaviour initiative which was operationalised in response to the findings of the Christie Commission about the future delivery of public services. The young people who were targeted by Operation Modulus were responsible for a range of crimes and anti-social behaviours which were disrupting the quality of life of the local community and which previous interventions had failed to resolve. These gang members were therefore known to multiple agencies prior to the operation, and their consultation was sought before commencement. It was implemented without additional funding by partners, but by partners working in a different and planned way together. It demonstrates how, by taking this approach, public money can be saved.
The project was overseen by Paul Blackwood of the Scottish Fire Service (SFRS). The SFRS, through Paul, played a leadership role in Operation Modulus, drawing together partners from across the Community Planning Partnership (CPP) to tackle this problem, including public services, the third sector and the private sector. Five of the eleven individuals approached to take part in the project had committed fire-related offences, and the authorities had been aware of them for some time.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Modulus Operation was a collaboration between multiple agencies. Although it was led by the Scottish Fire and Rescue service; agencies invited included Jobs & Business Glasgow, Police Scotland and Gorbals Police, Skills Development Scotland, Glasgow Education Services, North Glasgow College, Glasgow Community Planning Partnership, Glasgow Social Work, Glasgow Community Justice Authority, the building company Sir Robert McAlpine, and three third sector organisations that work with vulnerable young people: Prince's Trust, Venture Trust and Includem. Not all agencies chose to be involved from the beginning, some joined part-way through, and some withdrew support before its completion.
The case study was undertaken by What Works Scotland, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Scottish Government.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The participants were members of gangs in the Gorbals area who were already well known to authorities. Early in the process, the organisers decided to focus on the leading members of the gang. The justification behind this was that if the leaders engaged, others would be motivated to do the same. The concurrent decision to allow the participants to define their own desired outcomes and activities formed part of the recruitment process itself. Of the eleven gang members who were identified and approached, six took part. Two of the members were unable to participate due to being convicted for crimes before commencement.
Methods and Tools Used
Operation Modulus was a was a violence and anti-social behaviour initiative using a community planning partnership approach which focussed on collaboration and co-production. Desicions about the process and the desired outcomes were taken jointly between participants and organisers, leading to collective action on social outcomes. The case study by WWS primarily used interviews. What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Operation Modulus was a community planning partnership initiative which bought in partners and NGOs to produce positive outcomes in Gorbals using the following methods, asset-based approaches, co-production, partnership and preventative spending. A tailored four-week 7 programme was co-produced with gang members that were prepared to take part, including the leading gang members, delivered by a range of CPP partners. Mentors worked intensively with the young people involved, during and after the programme.
Decisions about what the programme would entail and what the desired outcomes for participants would be were taken jointly between participants and organisers. The SFRS led the project, but through collaborative leadership and dialogue other partner were able to actively participate and to lead in their own areas of expertise. This resulted in collective action, seeking to improve a social outcome. The process of planning enabled the partners to have time to talk together and work out their roles before starting the intervention.
During the case study, What Works Scotland interviewed a range of professionals drawn from the partner organisations involved in commissioning, developing and delivering Operation Modulus. This included representatives from Fire and Rescue Scotland, Glasgow Community Planning Partnership, Community Safety Glasgow and New Gorbals Housing Association. Interviews were utilized to find out how Community Planning structures were used to coordinate this partnership intervention, and to specify the features which contributed to the outcomes of Operation Modulus. The research focus was therefore on the professionals involved, rather than on the young people who were subject to the intervention. All of the interviews were recorded and transcribed for interpretation with standard qualitative methodology framing the analysis.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The intervention prioritised prevention and resulted in the reduction of costs, with very significant savings to be expected in housing, criminal justice, health and other public services. These savings were due, in large part, to the 80 per cent reduction in crime related to the individuals in the gang. Further, there were better outcomes for the community; notably, there was a significant reduction in complaints related to the gang. The gang members themselves spoke very positively about the programme, with positive outcomes including gaining trades, qualifications and employment. Four of the participants gained professional trade certificates, and one of them won an award with Jobs & Business Glasgow for Inspiring Learner of the Year. They had all started employment, but this had not been sustained due to a mix of lack of secure opportunities, and lack of fit with their needs at the time.
Beyond the direct consequences of the operation, the experience left a legacy among the partners involved. This success of Operation Modulus was founded on having a range of different expertise in the partnership, none of whom could have provided the required breadth of interventions on their own. This single collaboration involving city-wide and area-based CPP partners resulted in changed partnership working practices for organisations involved. New relationships are developing beyond Operation Modulus, opening up potential for achieving better outcomes from future planned interventions. The success of the operation meant that it was subsequently revised and implemented in Govan and Castlefern.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The success of Operation Modulus was founded on having a range of different expertise in the partnership, none of whom could have provided the required breadth of interventions on their own. A key lesson presented by the What Works Scotland case study is that the role of leadership, and leadership style, has been understated in relation to the challenges of putting the results of the Christie Commission into practice. The project was initiated and led by the Fire Service and incorporated numerous agencies – but not the police or other criminal justice services as would be expected. This showed how occupational jurisdictions may be challenged in innovative partnerships and that the most effective leader may not be from the agency traditionally tasked with tackling the issue. Leaders and partners should be aware, however, that partnerships are dynamic; as programmes unfold, some partners drop out and new partners join in, and getting the private sector engaged with partnerships can prove to be especially challenging.
The benefits of co-producing the programme with the participants are ascertained when they are treated as asset-holders. The co-productive element is compatible with nurturing responsibility and so helps with the sustainability of interventions. When combined with asset-driven working, it helps to develop alternatives that are meaningful to people, supporting them to improve their circumstances. The outcome-focused approach was important for participants and organisers. It was credited with unifying partnerships, and actively facilitating meaningful alternatives to peoples’ current circumstances. Further, focusing on improving outcomes for some members of a community can, and in this case did, benefit all members of a community.
There were tensions between agencies and their specialisms, and there is a need to recognise professional autonomy and distinctive funding priorities. When these tensions are overcome, the partnerships are able to achieve more than they would separately. Creating the space to work through disagreement and conflict was a key component of what made the intervention effective. However, there is a need for a better articulation of the role of the private sector within community planning partnership interventions, to maximise their contribution.
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