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Five lessons on bringing people together

These are our five top lessons on bringing people together. We believe that the first step in making a change is collaborating, and hope that folk can learn from our experiences of working with lots of different groups.

Why bring people together?

The Fit for the Future project believes in co-design. Co-design is about bringing the people who deliver care and support and the people who experience care and support together to collaborate. Our experience on this project was that co-design can make a huge impact:

“We were all equals, no rank”
—Participant, Care Home Lab

“It’s about working together on new ideas”
—Participant, Primecare Redesign

“Sharing your opinions made you feel valued”
—Participant, Primecare Redesign

Over the last 16 months, Fit for the Future has supported providers in the independent sector to bring people together. We worked with strategic managers, middle management, frontline care staff, people who use support and families/members of the community in lots of different settings. We didn’t always get it right, and we wanted to share the top five lessons we have learnt.

Who?

We found it most useful to work with people who wanted to work with us. Opening up invitations to whole teams helped people self-select themselves to take part, and these were usually the people with passion for the subject. We found that it was important to answer two questions when recruiting co-design members:

  • Will this person be able to share relevant experience?
  • Will this person be able to make changes based on what the group decides? (This was sometimes more relevant for professionals)
  • Will this person benefit from participating in the group? (Are we using people ‘tokenistically’ or will they gain something from taking part?)

How many cooks in the kitchen?

We found that too many people in the room makes the co-design process more difficult. It might be useful to go with the ‘two pizza rule’ (Choi, 2014) when bringing groups together. Make the group small enough that two pizzas would feed them (never more than 10 people for each facilitator). When this isn’t possible or you’re hosting a larger event, splitting people into groups to work together can be just as effective. We found that when we worked with people with dementia and sensory impairments, they preferred smaller groups, so always check out what size of group makes sense to the people you’re working with.

Do something!

We had the most success when people came together with a specific purpose. People don’t respond well to ‘talking shops’ and reported the most positive outcomes when they were able to actually build and create things together. Setting out a goal for each session and using design tools to bring people from different backgrounds together seemed to make people feel like they were achieving more. There are lots of design tools and facilitation guides online, but we urge that people think of what they want to achieve from the activity to make sure that it is a relevant approach.

See seedsforchange.org.uk/tools.pdf for some simple ideas.

Relationships

One of the brilliant parts of co-design is that it can help develop relationships. So we learned that it shouldn’t be all work and no play. People should be given the opportunity to connect, maybe by having a cup of coffee and some cake together. There are also some great ways to help people get to know each other that go beyond professional roles and titles.

We quite like this approach using mirrors: blogs.iriss.org.uk/innovate/2014/05/14/mirrors/

Get it wrong

Part of the learning process is acknowledging when we aren’t getting it right. We try to create environments where getting it wrong is OK, and even celebrated. There’s nothing more powerful than changing our minds after hearing other peoples’ experiences as this can be the first step in acknowledging that things might need to change.

Have a look at this inspiring talk on wrong-ness: www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_on_being_wrong

References

Choi, J (2014). The Science Behind Why Jeff Bezos’s Two-Pizza Team Rule Works. iDoneThis

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