In March 2020, when offices began to close and the health and social care world sharply pivoted to focus on the pandemic, we took the decision to postpone our upcoming face-to-face events with Project Lift exploring different topics around leadership. The world was changing and the way we approached leadership had to shift to reflect the new world we’re working in. We’re proud to that we developed, and have now run, a programme of digital events that reflects what the Project Lift community told us is important to them, especially during the pandemic.
At the end of our session on putting wellbeing and resilience at the heart of leadership, we asked participants for ”one practical step they will take away to help put wellbeing at the heart of leadership”. One of the most striking responses was: ‘To take care of me. Brilliant event, just what I needed today’.
These sorts of comments show the power of conversation, and the value of deliberately creating these spaces to reflect. However, it is important to us that impact like this far outlast the exciting (and valuable) buzz from an event. We’re proud of the spaces we create, but we know that focusing on your wellbeing and exploring the complex issues of leadership shouldn’t just be something you do in a Project Lift event, but something we do as part of our everyday work.
‘To take care of me. Brilliant event, just what I needed today’.
Attendee, Putting Wellbeing and Resilience at the heart of leadership.
So, as part of the extensible offer of the community event series, we offer you the tools to create spaces for these conversations in your own teams, workplaces and networks. Our Community-Hosted Conversation series has been about bringing people together from across health and social care in Scotland to connect, share stories and discuss important topics around leadership, encouraging leaders to host their own conversations wherever they are.
Whether you’ve attended one of our events already and want to share the learnings with your team, or you want to set up your very own event, here are our five steps to creating your online conversation:
How many times have we gone round and round in circles about certain topics in health and social care? It’s important that the topic you choose to bring people together around is what is important to you – something which is front of mind and which you want to explore with others. What are those sticky issues that affect the system or the way you work? It’s okay to be a bit bold and specific about the topic – you might not be able to solve everything, but these conversations should invite fresh thinking and perspectives, and progress. A little nudge forwards for all involved in the conversation too, think about everyday practices and formation of good habits.
Introducing people from a diverse range of backgrounds, who otherwise wouldn’t meet in their day-to-day work, is the aim. But it’s totally up to you to define your audience! We find 40 people works well digitally – too few means not enough voices, and too many not enough time for all of them to be heard!
We like lunchtimes to give a more relaxed feel, and we try to avoid Mondays and Fridays. They’re usually 60 minutes, but no longer than 90 minutes, and we’re quite firm about them finishing on time! We know time is at a premium, but even with this amount of time you will leave people wanting more… Start the conversation, and empower others to own it and continue it in their own networks.
For each event, the host will kick-off the conversation on the chosen topic, and (optionally) write a short blog to get people thinking beforehand. We circulate this by email the week before, and you can also ask all attendees to introduce themselves by email (if they want to) to start to build connections before you’ve met.
We’ve created this resource [insert link to one pager] to explain how we run the event in an hour and the questions we like to use. Have you tried something similar? Let us know what works for you!
5. And then what?
Evaluation and learning are critical. We use a short feedback survey so we can make things better next time. For example our first community-hosted event, we learnt the importance of keeping the session simple to enable the best conversations, so we’ve stripped back the agenda from two breakout rooms to one in order to make the most out of the time together.
Encourage people to continue the conversation outside of the event. We send around ‘insights packs’ after the event [link to example from previous events], which provide a write up and overview of the discussions. We keep the content of this focused on what is generated in the event, in order to jog people’s memories about not only what they said during the event, but also how they felt during it.
And sometimes just creating this space is where powerful things can happen.
Let’s face it, we’re not going to solve the wicked and complex problems in a one-hour session. But what we can do is start the conversation, open up new questions and invite fresh perspectives. And sometimes just creating this space is where powerful things can happen.
Resources and support:
We have also created a handy ‘cheat sheet’ which outlines the steps for hosting a 1 hour
conversation in your community.
We hope that these tips are useful for you. Do get in touch if you try it out, we’d love to hear your own tips for creating spaces like this.
Our thanks to Rose for this guest blog!