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Sowing the seeds for collaboration

So, what, might you ask have I been doing since the first wave of the Greater Essex Leadership Collaborative ended in September 2017? It’s been almost five months now and when I first reflected on whether my practice had changed as a result of participating in the GELC I thought, “No, I’ve been far too busy!” Relapsing back into old reactive, silo, practices, but then I stopped (very important in collaborative practice) and reflected a bit deeper.

Actually, I have been doing things differently and I have a very simple example to share. I was asked to present on social prescribing and the Connect Well Essex innovative delivery model, at a national conference for health and care finance leaders and directors. Normally I would set about this task from my “expert” perspective, shaping my presentation in a single tunnel vision way. However, as this presentation was about integration of services and organisations, and how we need to work differently to maximise outcomes with less resources across our systems, I decided it would be prudent but also collaborative, to meet with some decision makers that perhaps normally wouldn’t have been involved at the outset of co-design and collaboration, in this case from Finance.

The discussions did help to better shape my presentation, but they didn’t give me any revolutionary solutions to how I could make social prescribing systemic and mainstream. This experience reinforced what I learned as part of the Collaborative; our wicked issues are not easily solved, but by sowing the seeds for collaboration - by opening my thinking and practice to include wider partners that often aren’t included at design stages - I can grow our capacity for successful system collaboration and unleash our potential to flourish together.

At the same conference I was very excited to hear Mark Rogers, Executive Director of Collaborate, an organisation that helps public services tackle complex social challenges and change. Having recently heard Lord Victor Adebowale speak at Innovation Talks I know that collaborative practice is at the heart of their beliefs. Mark imparted many valuable messages in the short time he spoke but one message that stood out for me is this….

Partnership and collaboration are different. When we collaborate, we must leave our baggage at the door. (Collectively) we must have personal and institutional bravery and not start where we normally start from. There should be no one leader. Start from the people and what they need and wrap around that, the values. Partnership thinking is not enough. If we align in ways we always do, then there will be no fundamental shift.

This gave me great hope and reinvigorated my energies for the programme I manage locally, Connect Well, which is a pioneering, whole population, culture change model of social prescribing. It also re-energised my drive to continue my collaborative learning and practice following on from the GELC, and to achieve my aspiration to share this learning more widely across our system, organisations and with leaders and decision makers.

Siân Brand

Lead Programme Manager

Connect Well, Mid Essex Social Prescribing Project

Page updated 01/03/18

Sian was part of the Spaced Out group of the Greater Essex Leadership Collaborative