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Conversations, connections & collaboration

Last month, we supported large-scale cross-sector events focussing on health and care priorities in the London Boroughs of Croydon and Sutton. Below are our reflections on the value of these types of events and some critical considerations on design, delivery and follow-up.

Image by Rebecca Eligon, Associate at Collaborate CIC

We know that most determinants of good health sit outside of traditional health services. Things like nutrition, physical activity, warm homes, friendship, and a good job all contribute to our health and wellbeing and cannot be solely solved by medical specialists. If we are to truly address significant health challenges, from mental health to obesity, we must cast the net wider and work with those who both directly and indirectly influence good health. Our experience at Collaborate tells us that to do so we should value the richness of creativity and the simplicity of solutions that comes with bringing together a diverse group of people.

None of this is revelatory, but rarely is the cross-fertilisation of ideas, from CEX of a hospital to local residents, prioritised. This is why we were pleased to support the health and care events in Croydon and Sutton last month. The brief: both boroughs have significant health and care challenges, and a response to these challenges requires a collaborative effort. The health partners recognised that a deliberate conversation with residents and wider stakeholders was an essential step towards embracing cross-sector conversations and collaboration as a vehicle for change.

The events were designed to reflect the priorities and assets of the place, and all of the conversations were unique and context specific. However, through this process, and based on our experience elsewhere, we noted some fundamental components (principles, even) of cross-sector events we thought were worth sharing:

1. The energy in the room:

  • Designing an event which has an ‘art of the possible’ feel to it, draws in the usual and unusual suspects, and allows time for deep discussion is a powerful way to send the message that the focus is about conversations and connections, not presentations.
  • Reflecting the spirit of the place: inviting people from the place, e.g. schools, young people and community groups, highlights why addressing challenges is important and gives greater context to the content of the day.
  • Consider the physical environment: factors such as the room layout being conducive to group discussions, people’s ability to move around, and break-out spaces may seem like small logistical points, but they can have a huge implication on the energy in the room and the quality of the conversations.

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