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Collaborate with us on communities – Week 3!


We’re looking to you to tell us where we should take the project lift communities in 2019.

This week’s key theme is  Stories of Dissent


We’ve created our emergent, evolving, slightly messy but exciting  project lift communities page and we’d like you to tell us what you think, what you want to explore and how you’d like to do it. We are open to ideas and inspiration and this hub is open to everyone who wants to connect with our communities and community thinking.

Following up on our previous update on the Winter Gatherings, this week we are thinking about Stories of Dissent.

What about Stories of Dissent did we explore?

At the winter gatherings we explored Stories of Dissent – views that differ from a dominant narrative – and how to begin to open up the space to explore these.  A dominant narrative is described by Julian Stodd as:

‘A dominant narrative is a story that takes on a life of it’s own: it becomes the accepted norm’
Julian Stodd, ‘Fallout: The Failure of Dominant Narratives, 31st October 2018

At the gatherings, participants experienced an activity together to explore their understanding of different views and beliefs, whilst being supported by others in the group.  This was a very different type of exercise to try and involved people physically standing in particular spaces in the room to indicate their point of view, e.g  in support of the ‘story’ (a view),  in opposition to the view, a chance to stand quietly to show you didn’t feel you could or wanted to contribute, and the chance to show support for those in the previous space, by standing in silence beside them.  We saw both perceived dominant narratives and ‘stories of dissent’ used as the ‘story’.  We explored 10 such stories across the 4 gatherings and these ranged from ‘All change in the NHS should be driven from the top down’ to ‘Cycling should be made a way of life for everyone in Scotland’ and sparked a range of responses.

 What did we find out?

In his research report Julian Stodd notes these as the most interesting observations from the 4 exercises:

  • ‘The strength of feeling when your ‘supporter’ group swelled, or diminished’
  • ‘The number of people who felt disengaged or overheated’
  • ‘The emergence of conciliatory voices that sought to make us ‘safe’, but not ‘resolved’’
  • ‘The tension that was only lightly buried, within a seemingly coherent group.’

We noticed how opposing views quickly emerged and how large numbers of participants felt disengaged or uncomfortable voicing a different view. We have been wondering to what extent this could be an initial indication of the broader change required in the system. More importantly, we are thoughtful about how we can invite the mix of views and voices in an open, honest and respectful way and how to have more of these conversations. Your thoughts and ideas for this are crucial to us being able to create, or support the creation of, these spaces.

As one participant offered:

“the stories of dissent exercise was really fascinating… just how quickly people took up different positions in the zones, how quickly some moved into the ‘voiceless’ spaces given the topic discussed.  Isn’t it fascinating when you think how this resonates in the workplace, is it ok to have a different perspective?  Is it ok to change your mind? Do we move too quickly to resolve an issue rather than really understand it?  It’s great to notice it and reflect on it, makes me thoughtful about evolving conversations on back at base instead of being stuck in the same old conversational patterns”

From the data from the communities exercise we know that a shared, initial reflection was the realisation that shared values and beliefs are highlighted as a way of being included in the community with different views and beliefs being a method of exclusion. We mentioned this in our Communities post two weeks ago and it has strong links for us here too.

Last month’s feedback survey indicated that while some participants were energised by the opportunity to engage with this exercise, others felt it was too much, too soon.  This has left us mindful of the range of readiness across the Health and Social Care system for exploring dissent openly for individuals and groups.

Looking wider to learn

We recognise how important it is to hear all voices and be respectful of different perspectives. Again, Julian explored this through his working out loud  approach when writing about stories of difference.  We are curious to understand how we create spaces where all can come together and engage, confident in voicing their views, especially if they feel their views may be considered different, even dissenting.

The individual and collective contributions from the events were a great starting point, however we’re conscious that this was a relatively small group from our wider population and naturally this means there were voices missing. We really want to create the space where voices from a wider range of levels, roles and, most importantly, views can be shared and heard.

So what now?

This is the third and final theme from the Communities event series and we really want to hear from you.

Yes, you! We want to practice what we preach and open up the communities’ space to different voices, to create a forum where you feel included regardless of your views, because every voice should be heard.

Our public communities survey is open from today – take 5-10 minutes to tell us what you think about events, topics, themes, approach – even timing! It’s a short, quick, survey, anonymous unless you want to include your name and contact details, and it’s open until the 25th April 2019.  We’ll be back online with an update once the survey completes and we can’t wait to see what comes through.  So, click here and be heard!

In the meantime, we love to hear your thoughts and how you think we could use some of this thinking about leadership for our communities. Tweetemail or share your story with us!

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Thank you!