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IRISS, the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services, is a charitable company with a mission to:
- …promote positive outcomes for the people who use Scotland’s social services by enhancing the capacity and capability of the social services workforce to access and make use of knowledge & research for service innovation & improvement
Its vision is stated as 'A high quality, continually improving social services sector renowned for its effective use of knowledge and research-based innovation.'
IRISS was established in 2003 as SIESWE, the Scottish Institute for Excellence in Social Work Education, as a sector-wide collaboration of all nine Scottish universities teaching social work with the objective of bringing about transformational change in the education and training of Scotland's future social workers
The goals were:
- Achieving the policy objectives of the then new social work honours degree
- Strengthening the evidence-base for practice and education for practice
- Supporting the implementation of an employee development framework for the whole social services workforce
In 2007, SIESWE changed its name to IRISS which reflected an extension of the scope to include the social care workforce.
Since its inception, IRISS has sought to promote the innovative use of technology to disseminate and share information and knowledge. It employes a multidisciplinary staff group, combining a range of skills - multimedia development and design, web applications analysis, knowledge management, evidence-informed practice and service design – to harness the potential of Web 2.0 technologies. to support workforce, workplace and service development.
IRISS's work is based on three inter-related programmes:
Projects are organised under four themes:
- Integration of health and social care
- Embedding knowledge
The principles on which IRISS operates are set out in the strategy for 2012-15. In summary:
- The work of IRISS will complement rather than duplicate the work of other agencies
- The work will be responsive to a wide range of stakeholders, including Scottish Government, the IRISS Board, people who use services, unpaid careers, local authority social services staff, provider agencies, national bodies, universities, colleges and the wider community
- IRISS will capture stakeholder feedback and make that feedback visible
- The there programme areas will be interlocking
- Work will focus on the core business of the social services community
- Approaches will be varied and selected by appropriateness for the task
- IRISS will monitor impact of its projects
- Activities should create a high profile for the organisation
- All IRISS staff should feel a sense of ownership of IRISS activities
- There should be a focus on cost-effectiveness
- A range of funding streams will be accessed
- IRISS will promote the effective and appropriate use of technology, demystify it and advocate the removal barriers than prevent effective use of web-based tools and services
- IRISS will communicate effectively using a variety of social media
In 2005, IRISS launched the Learning Exchange, a digital repository of learning resources, catalogued in accordance with international metadata standards in order to allow interoperability with other systems. In particular the intention was that multimedia learning objects could be downloaded as IMS packages and uploaded into virtual learning environments in higher education institutions.
Originally the Learning Exchange was built on IntraLibrary software and access restricted to students and staff of the higher educational institutions in Scotland engaged in teaching social work. Access was password protected using the Athens Eduserve authentication system. Subsequently the Learning Exchange was added to the NHS Education Scotland (NES) portfolio of content accessible via Athens Eduserve. This made Learning Exchange available to the higher education sector and the entire social services workforce.
In practice much of the content of the Learning Exchange did not require password protection, partly because in 2008 IRISS adopted a policy of releasing its own content using Creative Commons licensing. Password protection was therefore removed and a simple search interface (OpenSearch) created which queried the database by SRU.
In 2010, the Learning Exchange was rebuilt using Drupal, an open source content management system.
The ability to allow metadata harvesting by third parties means that Learning Exchange content is automatically searchable by Social Services Knowledge Scotland (SSKS), a portal to social service knowledge and information created by NHS Education for Scotland (NES) in partnership with IRISS, Scottish Social Services Learning Networks and the Social Care Institute for Excellence.
Beginning in 2005, IRISS began creating web-based multimedia learning objects based on scenarios devised by social work educators. The scenarios were scripted, professional actors cast, and then filmed by professional filmmakers.
For example Children, Families and Child Protection is a case study focussing on the legal, ethical and practice issues emerging from a child protection case scenario.
The Assessment Triangle is a different kind of learning resource, being more text based. In Scotland, the Assessment Triangle has been adopted within the development of the Integrated Assessment Framework of GIRFEC.
The Golden Bridge represents yet another kind of learning resource. It began as a project to 'virtualise' an existing social work museum exhibition on the migration of Home Children from Scotland to Canada in the late 19th and early 20th century. The exhibition used text, images, video, and a blend of social historical analyses with witness testimony accounts to describe this complex human story, including the real-world stories of some Canadian elders in their 80s and 90s. The exhibition included artefacts from Quarriers organisation, a major voluntary sector childcare agency. These included a selection of 'Narratives of Facts', annual reports which detailed stories and images of children migrated to Canada. There was also a collection of photographic images from the 1860s depicting children and staff at different stages of the migration journey.
Audio and Video
The convenience of ‘listening again’ to radio programmes has become well established in recent years. In 2006, IRISS began a programme of recording research seminars and other events as an effective and inexpensive way of capturing and sharing knowledge.
These recordings are available as a podcast either direct from the IRISS website or from the iTunes Store. As an example, the launch of the National Residential Child Care Initiative in December 2009 was recorded, including a short dramatisation by ‘Who Cares? Scotland’ in which young people imagine how residential child care might look in 2014.
IRISS uses Vimeo, a video streaming and sharing service to organise videoclips into albums for different events and present, for those unable to attend the event, short overviews of the key points. A powerful example of this technique is illustrated by the stories told at the Forgotten Citizens conference held in Glasgow in 2008.
Knowledge Management Strategy
IRISS collaborated with NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and other stakeholders to create The Knowledge Management Strategy for the Social Services which was derived from Changing Lives. The Strategy stresses the importance of a workforce confident and competent in the use of the technologies that allow them to access and share knowledge.
The Knowledge Management Strategy for the Social Services was revised and new edition  published by the Scottish Government in November 2012
As the ubiquity of the web has grown, new skills are required, known collectively as information literacy: ‘the ability to find, evaluate and use digital information effectively, efficiently and ethically'. In collaboration with NHS Education for Scotland IRISS developed a series of manuals aimed at helping social services practitioners develop their information literacy skills, as well as a simple interactive web-based introductory tutorial.
Evidence informed practice
IRISS has developed a number of tools and services to promote and foster the use of evidence to inform practice. Confidence through Evidence is a toolkit designed to help practitioners acquire, assess, adapt and apply evidence in practice. A complementary library of evidence summaries has been created within the Learning Exchange.
A Champions Network has been established to foster links between IRISS and social services workforce in both the statutory and voluntary sectors.
The Research Advice Service was set up to support the social care workers carrying out their own research.
Innovation and improvement
The Innovation and Improvement programme promotes new thinking for social services in Scotland. The programme develops tools, training and interventions that will support and enable the sustainable transformation of social services in Scotland.
Learning and knowledge sharing in the workplace is severely hampered in the public sector by corporate policies that block access to social media and social networking services such as Twitter, Delicious, Vimeo and Youtube. A further barrier is Internet Explorer version 6, which, despite its inability to handle many modern web sites and services and Microsoft's own efforts to encourage migration to later and more useful versions, remains in widespread use in the public sector.
In January 2010, SOCITIM published a report urging public authorities to ‘embrace social media and not be party to moves to block staff from using these important new tools for business’. In support of this initiative IRISS commissioned a report, Social Media in the Social Services which was published as an interactive document inviting comment and discussion. IRISS continues (partly though the Just Do It! blog) to urge public bodies to open up access to social media and trust professional staff to act responsibly.
- IRISS - about us accessed 24 March 2011
- Neil Ballantyne 2006, Issues emerging from a large-scale learning object repository roll-out, presentation at Collaborative e-Learning: Sustaining communities, supporting processes, Cambridge Symposium 22–23 June 2006, Accessed 23 March 2011
- For fuller description see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0
- Designs for the future: IRISS strategy 2012-2015 - http://www.iriss.org.uk/sites/default/files/iriss-designs-for-the-future.pdf
- Dublin Core - http://dublincore.org, and Learning Object Metadata - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_object_metadata
- IMS is a non-profit standards organisation concerned with establishing interoperability for learning systems and learning content - http://www.imsglobal.org
- IntraLibrary - http://www.intrallect.com
- Athens Eduserve is a widely used access and identity management system - http://www.athensams.net
- Creative Commons is a world wide licensing system which allows copyright holders to specify the purposes for which their work may be used or copied without seeking permission. Use of this system greatly simplifies the sharing and re-use of information - http://creativecommons.org
- Children, Families and Child Protection - http://www.iriss.org.uk/childprotection, accessed 10 March 2011
- The Assessment Triangle - http://www.iriss.org.uk/opencontent/assessment, accessed 10 March 2011
- Go to itunes and search for ‘social work’
- Who Cares? Scotland is a voluntary organisation working with and for children & young people in care - http://www.whocaresscotland.org/
- Scottish Executive (2006) Report of the recommendations made by the 21st Century Social Work Review Group for the future of social services in Scotland. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2006/02/02094408/0, Accessed 29 December 2009
- A Strategy and Action Plan for Embedding Knowledge in Practice in Scotland's Social Services http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/10/4809
- For more definitions see http://www.informationliteracy.org.uk/Information_literacy_definitions/Definitions.aspx
- SOCITM, 2010, "Social media. Why ICT management should lead their organisations to embrace it" - http://www.socitm.net/downloads/download/255/social_media-why_ict_management_should_lead_their_organisations_to_embrace_it, accessed 20 April 2010
- Focused on Learning (2010), "Social Media in the Social Services", accessed 20 March 2011
- Just Do It! http://blogs.iriss.org.uk/socialmedia