Self-Efficacy Explained

10th February 2017 Blog

At Osca we’ve been thinking a lot about self-efficacy, but what does it mean and how is it useful? We’ve given a very, very brief introduction to our current thinking below.


What is self-efficacy?

The phrase was coined by Stanford Professor Albert Bandura in the 60s. He defined self-efficacy as one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task.


The self-efficacy field of research

Today, self-efficacy is the primary way of measuring the extent people believe they can create change. Self-efficacy research is still active today across fields as diverse as organisational design, exercise and parenting. Vast quantities of research have been undertaken about how to create the support – or “scaffolding” – for people to have self-efficacy for any given activity. Despite this, self-efficacy theory and practice has failed to have a significant influence on public service design thinking outside health.


The emergence of the ‘self-efficacy practices’

The vast majority of projects and methods that create self-efficacy have been developed without any knowledge of formal self-efficacy theory. They have been developed because they work in practice. There is therefore a growing collection of theories and practices being used to create the new breed of people powered services (PPS). At Osca we call these the ‘self-efficacy practices’. We group these practices under the following headings:

Locus of authority: transactional analysis, public participation

Operating context: assemblage theory, systems thinking

Self-efficacy support: scaffolding theory, motivational theory

Service quality: impact measurement, design thinking

Organisational design: network theory, distributed leadership

User control: self-efficacy, empowerment.


Examples & opportunities for self-efficacy based PPS

We have identified two primary applications of self-efficacy for the improvement of public services:

  • Enable individuals to directly take more control of their lives – for example their health or job prospects.
  • Create organisations that give their staff radical levels of autonomy to improve organisational effectiveness.
User EmpowermentDelivery Staff Empowerment
Groundswell (UK) health for the homelessESBZ School Berlin  (Germany) schooling
Spice (UK) time-creditsOffice of Chief Information Officer (USA) central government
Club Soda (UK) addiction supportSheffield Microsystem Academy (UK) health
South Yorkshire Housing Association (UK) housingWest Suffolk Social Care (UK) social care
Community Catalysts (UK) social careMedium (USA), social media
Self Management UK (UK) Self care in healthMatt Black Systems (UK) aeronautics
Smart Recovery (UK) addiction supportZappos (USA) online retailer
Public service challengePossible PPS Intervention
Long term unemployed‘Coaching for jobs centres’ creating efficacy in job seekers.
Youth unemploymentMentoring and network creation to school, FE and HE leavers.
High dependency social careBespoke autonomy focussed care delivered by autonomous staff.
Low efficacy in secondary schoolEarly stage coaching and mentoring provision for students.
Squeezed public sector workforcePractical set of principles for any public service organisation.
Low dependency social service usersGoal setting and problem solving for low dependency users.


For details about Osca’s work in this area, see our blog on why we’re focussing on self-efficacy in 2017.