Welcome to
Collaborative Helping:
A Simple Map to Transform
Relational Positioning
Bill Madsen
Family-Centered Services Project
[email protected]
Plan for our Time Together
Examining the Terrain of Frontline Work
Collaborative Helping Maps to Enhance
Worker Thinking
Collaborative Helping Maps to Enhance
Conversations with Families
Collaborative Helping Maps to Supervisory
Summary and Wrap-up
Overview of Collaborative Helping
An integrative principle-based practice
framework for helping
Emphasizes the relational stance we take
with the people we serve
Grounded in a story metaphor
Organized around inquiry – our expertise
is the ability to ask compelling questions
Collaborative Helping
Draws from:
 Appreciative Inquiry
 Motivational Interviewing
 Narrative, Solution-Focused, and
Collaborative Therapy Approaches
 “Signs of Safety” work in CPS
 The reported experiences of families.
The Terrain of our Work and the
Usefulness of Principle-Based
Practice Frameworks
Decision-Making in FamilyCentered Practice
This work is messy. It often demands that we focus on
the exception rather than the rule. At the same time, it
is important that helping responses are grounded in a
clearly articulated set of assumptions and principles.
Efforts to bring order and certainty to work characterized
by unpredictability run the risk of “missing the point.”
We need to (re)discover our traditional strengths in
working with ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity.
(Parton and O’Byrne; 2000)
Two approaches along a
continuum of managing the
inherent uncertainty of this work
Command and control social work,
reactive managerialism, blame prevention
engineering and “protocolization.”
Development of reflective judgment and
principle-based embracing of ambiguity,
uncertainty and complexity.
Technical and Adaptive Problems
(Ronald Heifetz – Leadership without Easy Answers)
A technical problem yields a right answer through the
application of an appropriate and pre-made plan. Most
textbook problem sets in mathematics, science,
engineering, or business feature technical problems that
have right answers that “fit” the problem.
An adaptive problem doesn’t have a clear, pre-made
particular or certain answer. Adaptive problems are real
world problems where data is conflicting or ambiguous,
where disputants reasonably disagree about appropriate
actions to resolve the problem, or where values are in
Technical Problems
do you transport large quantities of food to
impoverished areas of the world?
•How do you fix a clutch for a car?
•How do you take care of a broken leg?
How do you collect demographic information on
people served?
With technical problems, the solution is, for the
most part, already known. Technical problems
were once adaptive problems that now have clear
answers. The process here is knowing what
technical solution is needed and putting into action.
Adaptive Problems
How will we get the economy moving again?
How can/should we respond to terrorism today?
How should I respond to my son or daughter
being teased at school?
How do you respond to a teenage girl who
alleges incest and then recants?
With adaptive problems, the “terrain” of the
problem may be shifting, and an approach to
learning about the problem may be as important
as anything else. Encouraging an environment
of learning and experimentation is key.
A Common Error
Confusing technical and adaptive problems
and attempting to apply technical
solutions to adaptive problems.
Disciplined Improvisation
Responding to the “messiness” of everyday practice
often requires on-going learning with flexibility and
“Improvisation is too important to be left to chance” –
Paul Simon
Disciplined Improvisation – Developing flexible maps to
operationalize family-centered values and principles the
everyday “messiness” of practice
Usefulness of Maps
Conceptual maps can focus and organize
workers’ thinking about complex situations
Conceptual maps can serve as a vehicle
for constructive conversations between
workers and families
Collaborative Helping Map
Organizing Vision
Where do you want to be headed in your life?
What gets in the way?
What supports you ?
What needs to happen?
Drawing on Supports to address Obstacles
to get to Vision
Beginning with a Foundation of
Engagement and Connection
Relational Stance
The Nucleus of our Work
Helping Practices –
What we do with people
Conceptual Maps –
How we think about
people and problems
Relational stance –
How we are with people
Building a Foundation of
Family Engagement
Getting to know family members in ways
that humanize them, build connection with
them and encourage hope for shared
work, while keeping important issues on
the table.
Using Collaborative Helping Maps
to Enhance Worker Thinking
Community-based work is often
characterized by ambiguity, uncertainty
and complexity with significant messiness
and little external structure.
Collaborative Helping maps can provide a
simple way to help organize and focus our
thinking about complex situations.
Organizing Vision
Clear, proactive, meaningful vision
Foundation of motivation, resourcefulness, community
Individual, relational, and
socio-cultural levels
Framed to Separate
problems from people
Individual, relational and
socio-cultural levels
Framed to Connect
people to intentions and
sense of agency
Clear, proactive, meaningful plan
Engaging natural community to support plan
Organizing Vision
Where do you want to be headed
in your life?
Helping People Envision Preferred Directions
in Life
Envisioning a non-problematic future.
Focusing on preferred coping in a difficult
Important Aspects of
Organizing Vision
It is important that:
We help families develop a clear, proactive,
mutually shared, concrete vision.
We help to build a foundation of motivation,
resourcefulness and community for this vision.
Questions to Help People
Develop an Organizing Vision
Beginning at the end
Appreciative Inquiry questions
Complaint to commitment questions
Story in 20 years question
Finding a vision that is important when
nothing else is.
Vision Statements
in CPS Contexts
When your kids are 25, what do you hope
that they will be saying about their
childhood and about you as their parent if
someone asked about their upbringing?
Questions to Build a Foundation of
Motivation, Resourcefulness and
Why is this vision important to you?
When have you been more able to ground
your work in this vision?
Who in your life might appreciate and
support you in pursuing this vision?
Organizing Vision
Mutually shared, proactive, meaningful and concrete
Foundation of motivation, resourcefulness, community
What gets in the way
of the vision?
What contributes to
the vision?
What do we need to do next?
Some Examples of
Obstacles and Supports
 Problems
 Abilities, Skills and
 Experiences and feelings
 Counter habits and
 Old Habits and practices
 Constraining
interpersonal interactions  Sustaining interpersonal
interactions (virtuous
(vicious cycles)
 Beliefs, lifestyles, life
 Intentions, values, hopes,
and commitments
 Dilemmas and difficult
 Supportive community
 Broader constraining
 Broader sustaining
cultural expectations
cultural expectations
Important Aspects of
Obstacles and Supports
Eliciting obstacles at
individual, relational,
and socio-cultural
Describing obstacles
in a way that
separates problems
from people
Eliciting supports at
individual, relational
and socio-cultural
Describing supports in
a way that connects
people to their
intentions and sense
of agency
Viewing People as Being in a
Relationship with Obstacles
People are in an on-going and changeable
relationship with Obstacles.
The Person is not problematic. The
Obstacle or the Person’s with the Obstacle
is problematic.
Re-Thinking Obstacles and
Questions around Obstacles
What are some things that can get in the way of or pull
you away from your preferred direction in life?
How do you notice it when those things show up in your
What effects can those things have on your life and
What do you think about those effects? How do they
suit you? Would you prefer that they are more present
in your life or more absent from it?
Questions around Supports
What are some of the things that support you in moving
towards your preferred direction in life?
When things are going better in your family, what does
that look like? If we had a videotape of you folks at
your best, what would we see?
What strengths, capacities, resources do you bring that
might be helpful in pursuing this vision?
How do you put those into practice in your life? What
helps you do that?
Organizing Vision
Mutually shared, proactive, meaningful and concrete
Foundation of motivation, resourcefulness, community
Individual, relational, and
socio-cultural levels
Externalizes problems
Individual, relational and
socio-cultural levels
Internalizes agency
Clear, proactive, mutually agreed upon plan
Concretely specifies who will do what
Engages natural community to support plan
Important Aspects of
It is important that:
We help families develop a clear, proactive,
mutually shared plan that clearly specifies who
will do what.
We work to identify and engage families’ natural
communities to support that plan.
Some Questions to Help
Develop a Plan
As you remember the vision that you developed,
what makes that particular vision important to
As you look at the various obstacles and
supports we’ve identified, which ones seem like
the best ones to start with? Would you prefer to
begin by addressing particular obstacles,
drawing on particular supports of some
combination of both?
If Beginning with Obstacles:
As you think about this particular obstacles, are there
times when you have been more successful in
responding to it, coping with it, resisting it?
How did you do that and what helped you to do that?
What thoughts do you have about the next concrete
steps that you might take?
Who might be available to help and support you in that
If Beginning with Supports:
As you think about this particular support, how
has it sustained you? How have you drawn on
it? What steps did you take to do that?
What does that suggest to you about possible
next steps?
Who might be available to help and support you
in that process?
Using Collaborative Helping Maps
to Enhance Conversations with
Collaborative Helping maps can also guide
conversations between workers and
families about challenging issues in ways
that minimize polarization and
defensiveness and opens space for
reflection and consideration of alternative
Use of Collaborative Helping
Map with a Reluctant Family
Comments from a CPS
Worker on Utility of CH maps
for Conversations with
reluctant families
Usefulness of Beginning w/ Vision
I think it offers opportunities for them to see that this is
actually possible, so that there’s a possibility out there
for you to get to where you want to be. And then when
you start talking about what’s getting in the way of
getting to that, then people can kind of get their head
around well this obstacle is in my way and what do we
need to do to address that obstacle and what supports
you in addressing that – I think this becomes do-able to
them. Starting with the end in mind. When you’re
having these kinds of conversations with families and
you’re serious, they’re not saying I want to live in a 5
million dollar home and own a yacht. They’re saying, I
want my kids to be happy and healthy and stable.
That’s do-able.
Effects on Family
My guess is . . . calm. The word calm came to
mind when you asked that question. It calmed
them down. I mean the Dad’s vision is of his
siblings being taken away and put in foster care
from his youth. And so I think everybody
calmed down when we started talking about
what do you want for your kids and what is your
vision for your kids and how can I help you get
there? It didn’t involve taking kids out of the
home. I think it just helped them simplify and
calm down.
Effects on Engagement
Personally, as much as I can in my work, I do try
to see this as a collaboration with the family and
not something I’m doing to them. So, when
you’re talking about their hope and where they
want to be headed and how they’re going to get
there and who can help them and what’s the
plan for that – what’s getting in the way and
how are we going to address that - we’re
working together and we’re collaborating on
reaching a goal. This never came across to
them as something I was doing to them.
Sample Letter that documented a
conversation with a family and was
sent to the parents after initial
conversation. A letter was sent to
Mother and Father. Sample following is
sample of Father’s letter.
Dear Tom,
I am writing this letter to share back with you some of the
things we talked about in our meeting yesterday. Hopefully
this letter will help to support the vision you have for your
family's future and encourage you down that path.
We talked about your upbringing and how being involved
with CPS and watching your siblings being taken away
really messed with your head. You stated that your mom
had a terrible gambling problem and because of this, she
was unable to meet her children's needs. You talked about
how you want to flip around your experience as a kid and
do the exact opposite with your own kids. You said that
your upbringing with your mom was negative, but your
upbringing with your dad was positive. You said that
because of your experience, you became very independent
and motivated to not be like your mom. You said that you
don't want your kids not knowing if they will have
electricity or clothing.
You stated that fifteen years from now,
you hope your kids will say that they
had fun while growing up, that they
had everything they needed, they had
support from their parents and always
knew that their parents would be there.
You talked about wanting them to
know about hard work and discipline,
and you want them to be successful
adults some day.
You talked about how your dad has been very
supportive of you and that you first started seeing
him when you were about 13 years old. You talked
about how he said he was disappointed in your
bad decision making (in the current situation), but
he isn't mad at you. You talked about how you and
“Mom” and the kids see him weekly for dinner if
not more often. You also talked about how your
grandma is a support to you and the kids and you
have regular contact with her as well. You said
that everything about your situation is out on the
table, and your family and friends know
everything. You talked about being motivated
because of your past.
Tom, you said that your main obstacles
to your vision/hope are the bad
decisions that you have made, and you
are experiencing a “big bump in the
road.” You said you realize the
obstacles are inconsistent with your
hopes for your kids.
I am hoping that our next step will be to develop a
plan for overcoming obstacles, maximizing your
supports and moving forward in your vision for your
family. Typically what we do here in our department is
have meetings with people's support networks so the
extended family can come up with a plan to help the
kids in a time of need. You are way ahead already
because you have shared everything with your family
and friends, and everyone knows what is going on.
I look forward to our next meeting on Friday at 9:00.
Usefulness of Letter Writing
I could see people thinking that, but I think the result of
putting the little extra time in that was worth it because
I didn’t have to spend the next two months trying to
build trust with these guys. I did it in one meeting and
one letter (actually two letters because I wrote one to
each of them). Far less work if you ask me, however, I
like to write. I love writing and so if writing is a chore to
somebody, I could see the resistance there to do that if
it’s a lot of work. For me, it comes pretty easily and I
enjoy doing it. But I bet that was worth two months of
Really, two months?
I do, I do think that, particularly because of the history
Next Steps
Safety Network Meeting w/ Great Grandma, Dad,
Roommate, Friend, Sister, Friend, Friend, and a number
of neighbors.
Beth put up 4 sheets of flip chart paper with Vision –
Obstacles – Supports – Plan and wrote down network
Beth sent write up to everyone in the network (with
family permission)
Helping People Develop a Community
of Support for New Lives
It takes a village to raise a new story
If identity is created in social action, it is
important to find an appreciative audience for
Recruiting communities of support can
counteract the isolating effects of problems and
help people stay in touch with preferred versions
of who they are in life.
Developing Communities
of Support
Using re-membering conversations to evoke the
presence of potential allies.
Using reflecting teams or witnessing groups to
engage actual audiences
Using written documents to support witnessing
Helping people identify, utilize and sustain actual
allies in their daily lives.
Using Collaborative Helping Maps to
Guide Supervisory Conversations
Collaborative Helping maps can also
provide a useful framework for supervision
and consultation conversations.
Supervision as Inquiry
We can think of supervision as an opportunity to
help workers develop “habits of thought” that
enable them to think their way through complex
The Collaborative Helping Map can provide
supervisors with questions to accomplish this.
Three Stages of
Supervisory Conversations
Developing a Shared Focus for a
Supervisory Conversation
Content Of a Supervisory Conversation
Feedback / Reflection on a Supervisory
Questions to Develop a Shared Focus
for a Supervisory Conversation
What do you hope to get out of today’s
What might be getting in the way of you
being fully present here today?
In the midst of everything else going on,
how can we make this time as useful as
possible for you?
Content Of Supervisory
Introduction of the Family
Agreed Upon Focus
Obstacles / Supports
Plan – What needs to happen next?
Questions to Introduce the Family
Who is in this family?
How do you think they would like you to introduce them
to us?
What do you particularly respect and appreciate about
them as a family?
What do they particularly appreciate about working with
What other concerns would be important for us to keep
in mind here?
Questions to Elicit the
Agreed upon Focus
In 25 words or less, what might different members of
this family say their work with you is heading towards?
What might other helpers involved with the family say?
What would you say?
What similarities and differences do you notice in these
different descriptions?
On a scale of 0-10, how would family members, you,
and other helpers rate progress towards these goals?
What similarities and differences do you notice in these
different descriptions?
Questions to Elicit
Obstacles / Supports
What might different family
members and other helpers
say gets in way of things
going better towards agreed
upon focus?
What would you say gets in
the way of things going
better towards agreed upon
What similarities and
differences do you notice?
What might family members
and others helpers say have
contributed to things going
as well as they have
towards agreed upon focus?
What would you say has
contributed to things going
as well as they have
towards agreed upon focus?
What similarities and
differences do you notice?
Questions to Elicit Plan - Next Steps
Based on what you’ve heard yourself saying
about vision, obstacles, and supports , what do
you think is the next step to help this family
draw on supports to address obstacles to “live
into” vision?
Who will do what, when and with whom?
Who else needs to involved?
Feedback / Reflection on
Supervisory Conversation
Plus +
What well in our
meeting today?
What could we do to
improve it next time?
Wrap Up
FCS represents a shift in how we serve families
CH maps help workers think through complex
problems and provide a structure for honest,
respectful conversations b/t workers and families
Use of CH maps over time promotes a shift in
relational positioning
That shift in relational positioning supports the
enactment of different life stories and opens up
new possibilities for families
What from today do you want to
remember and carry back into your work?
What will help you to do that?

Collaborative Helping – TCX Workshop Handout