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What makes a Link Up worker effective? - Inspiring Scotland


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What makes a Link Up worker effective?

Tackling societies biggest issues depends on very special types of people on the frontline.

At Link Up we have been analysing what the critical factors are that make our workers most effective in connecting the communities in which they work.  Since 2012 Inspiring Scotland’s Link Up Programme has been leading efforts in actively tackling inequality and improving the lives of people in nine of the most vulnerable communities in Scotland.

Link Up starts from the premise that the ingredients for lasting change already lie in our communities in the shape of the passion, strengths, skills, knowledge and interests of local people.

Our Link Up workers work with local people to harness these gifts to establish activities such as gardening or cooking, or arts and crafts. Really anything that members of the community want to be involved with.

Possil Map Close Up 2

Having been so successful at achieving the above to date, we wanted to understand how to continue to recruit effectively in the future. So, we commissioned Quine Time to help us understand what these factors are.

The basis of their study was to take an approach developed by psychologist Robert Biswas-Diener to provide a holistic picture of each individual by exploring six areas of positive human functioning; well-being, values, personality, capacities (including accessible support), situational and future orientation.

The conclusions are threefold:

Alignment with personal purpose, goals and values

Several elements appear to be core to Link Up workers:

  1. A concern for the welfare and interests of others over self.
  2. Non-acceptance of the status-quo combined with a readiness for change.
  3. To be instrumental in exploring and creating a better future that endures.

A high degree of self-awareness and sense of what is important in life

This self-awareness manifests itself in the worker’s ability to draw on the lessons they have gained from personal life choices, using this to inform their choices in the present – both personal and work-related. This knowledge helps them to be more effective in their Link Up role; however, it also gives them a strong sense of what is important in life. The following appear to be critical in this respect:

  • Supportive and rewarding personal relationships.
  • Growth and development of self and others.
  • Freedom to think, explore and operate independently.

The Quine Time study also highlighted that a worker’s self-awareness extends to their understanding of what it takes for them to be effective in their role with the majority of Link Up workers rating the following ‘resources’ as being the most relevant:

  • Energy & passion;
  • Social skills; and
  • Self-discipline.

The ‘right’ personality

A Link Up worker’s characteristic pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviours are integral to how they react and interact with others. In this sense, there are two dimensions that are core to the majority of workers:

• ‘Agreeableness’ – they are considerate and value getting along with other people; seeking to build trusting, co-operative and appreciative relationships and an environment that fosters this.

• ‘Low neuroticism’ – they are calm, confident and emotionally stable, not easily stressed. Additionally, they proactively seek to reduce tension for themselves and others.

Again the above traits and strengths intuitively make sense in the context of the role of a Link Up worker. It is notable however, that they are underwritten by a positive perspective on what the future holds and how that future might be achieved:

•  Being naturally inquisitive, seeking information in new and existing situations.

 Viewing challenging situations as an opportunity to grow and learn.

•  A self-belief that goals will be achieved whatever the barriers.

So, what happens next?

In addition to achieving an improved understanding of what makes a Link Up worker effective, the findings from the study and our own experience have important implications for the Link Up programme, other organisations facilitating similar work and commissioners of such work.

  • Strengthened recruitment procedures
  • Enhanced support for Link Up workers
  • Importance of connecting with other like-workers

Ultimately, our main conclusion is that Scotland’s most vulnerable communities need more workers of these qualities. After three and half years of operation, the learning from Link Up (including three independent evaluations) has led us to conclude that loneliness, low self-esteem and a lack of confidence are fundamental barriers to individual change. When these factors are prevalent across a significant proportion of a community’s population, that community’s ability to organise itself to look out for each other and to effect larger scale change for itself, and with others, is inhibited. This is more than conjecture as our evidence supports this view, but if we are correct, it has important implications for community empowerment and critically, how Scotland becomes a ‘fairer’ nation.

Further reading:

What Makes a Link Up Worker Effective – full paper

Link Up Worker’s Personal Resources and Assets – independent evaluation

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