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What is professional curiosity?
Professional curiosity is where a practitioner seeks to explore and understand what is happening in someone's life, rather than making assumptions or accepting what they are told at face value. It involves looking out for signs that things are not right and seeking out the evidence of what is really happening.
Professional curiosity is vitally important. Many people cannot speak up for themselves, nor may they have someone who can speak up for them. Without professional curiosity, abuse, neglect and self-neglect can go unnoticed. Without professional curiosity, enquiries into abuse, neglect or self-neglect may not reveal what is really happening in that person's life.
Enabling professionally curious practice
Professional curiosity enables practitioners to question and challenge the information they receive, it enables them to act with persistence, to identify concerns and connections that enable a greater understanding of a person's situation.
Practitioners need to be supported in being professionally curious, this is a responsibility of front-line managers, but also senior managers who can set the culture and conditions that promote professionally curious practice. Research has identified a number of enablers for professionally curious practice. These enablers are identified here as self-reflection points for senior managers, as to whether more can be done to promote professionally curious practice within their services and organisations.
A. Do you have a culture of involving people?
Involving people with lived experience encourages professional curiosity by learning about what is important to them and how to adapt practice to meet their needs and outcomes.
Ask yourself: Can you feel assured that the voice of the person is always sought and heard?
B. Have you considered the capacity of your front-line practitioners?
Professional curiosity is challenging when the working environment is pressured and stressful. People has less time to look for signs, to act on these, to ask those extra questions.
Ask yourself: Can you feel assured that your managers and practitioners, have the time and space to exercise professionally curious practice?
C. Do your structure and working practices promote professionally curious practice?
Strengths-based approaches rely on practitioners demonstrating curiosity by finding out more about the person in their environment. Listening to individuals' stories and showing interest and curiosity can lead to new ways of uncovering potential harm and risks as well as identification of strengths and assets. This can also lead to new ways to working with risk and promote risk enablement.
With remote working becoming increasingly common, it is ever more important that policies and practices ensures that practitioners and managers receive the support for practice that they need.
Ask yourself: Can you feel assured that your structure and working practices promote professionally curious practice?
D. Recording, processes and procedures
Evidence from Safeguarding Adults Reviews nationally suggests that a performance culture which prioritises performance data collection hinders reflection and critical analysis – key ingredients for professional curiosity
Ask yourself: How are you assured that you have the right balance, to enable professional curiosity to flourish?
E. Do you have effective supervision and support systems?
Evidence indicates that reflective supervision is vital for developing and maintaining professional curiosity and that managers can be over-optimistic about the capability of their practitioners and the quality of their work. Front-line managers also need to receive effective supervision.
Ask yourself: How are you assured that your managers and front-line practitioners, receive effective reflective supervision?
F. Legal and safeguarding literacy
Evidence suggests that legal literacy is required to enable practitioners to make appropriate connections between legal rules, their professional practice, and the potential roles of other organisations.
Ask yourself: How are you assured that your teams have the required legal literacy?
G. Learning and development
The evidence suggests that programmes of learning and development directly relevant to people's professional practice roles tend to be successful, creating conditions for curiosity to be optimised. Case studies/reviews, role-play and discussions are good examples of learning opportunities that can capture imagination and stimulate curiosity
Ask yourself: How are you assured your learning and development programmes promote professionally curious practice?
H. Do you have an open culture?
Evidence suggests that an open culture within organisations encourages professional curiosity to flourish.
- Are practitioner and front-line manager views and comments encouraged by senior managers? Are senior managers visible and available?
- Do you know the views of practitioners and front-line managers?
I. Partnership work
Working in partnership enhances the likelihood that professional curiosity will flourish and conveys preventative and protective effects.
- How well does your agency engage with others? Do you speak positively about partner agencies and demonstrate that you value the role of other professionals?
- Are problems and challenges openly addressed and managed?
This guidance adapts and reproduces content from Research in Practice (2020): Strategic Briefing: Professional curiosity in safeguarding adults; which should be accredited for the content and research; and is a further source of additional information and explanation.