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Visit to Westminster for the National Changing Futures Event...

Louise Patmore our Systems Change lead writes….

Our visit to the national Changing Futures event went ahead on a cold but still and sunny January day in Westminster.

Contingents from Surrey, Bristol, Essex, Westminster, and us from Sussex arrived on the 19th floor of City hall, Westminster. Wrapped around us was the sight of a chilly London from height, for me an oddness of being opposite a building I had used 30 years ago in the backdrop of the stunning view that wowed us all day all the way through to sunset.

Meeting familiar online colleagues for the first time is always like opening a door to some new kind of clarity. Sometimes the recognition of someone, takes a little time. Smiling faces, coffee, biscuits and gentle conversation and catch-up made way for the work ahead, sharing where we are at in our regions and thinking about our remit to change systems.

I really love these spaces, learning and connecting together. Rachelle welcomed us, and began framing the thinking and sharing space and set out our objectives for the day.

First up was Bristol sharing some great insights into their work. Already I was scribbling frantically to make notes of things that were resonating, that we could align. The creation of a ‘Creative Solutions Board’ sounded interesting. ‘My Team Around Me’, was similarly intriguing.

Westminster produced a really good discussion point. I found the idea of asking ‘Why this hasn’t been fixed yet?’ Rather than ‘How do we fix this?’ interesting in that it opened up discussions about barriers and blockers that prevent us from making meaningful systems change.

This is a controversial one for me. System change requires sensitivity but also challenge. In a world where it might be difficult to ensure the safety of those who challenge, this needs to be an open rather than direct question. However, we loop around the why and the what then struggle in the denseness of the forest of how. We stumble over the pebbles, the lack of surety. A lot of people liked this idea in general. The spectre of long term and lasting change was also in the room. How to leave a lasting legacy.

Essex resonated with the barriers of mental health access and had some valuable insights into A&E interaction and how they are improving things for people with multiple complex needs and reducing pressures on A&E.

We broke for lunch and everyone was very occupied with the view and connecting over lovely sandwiches. Frantic searching for the person you want to get a deeper understanding of or connect to.

Surrey was up next with some good ideas about data and connectivity, partnership working and progress made.

Then it was our turn to present on our progress. I was reflecting on the last time I was in London presenting and what a privilege it is to be able to share on behalf of such an amazing team assembled in Sussex to make the difference that is needed. In the online world it is sometimes difficult to see the team in its entirety, going around the circuit of online meetings, from home or in other places that are emptier than pre-covid but today, sat in front of me, Lyndsay, Nisha, Holly, Martin, Andree, Alex, Sally in spirit if not in body and next to me Jo who kicked off our presentation with context and an overview.

It gave me a great feeling of pride that I had to fight off in order to concentrate. The legacy of covid on me is increased fatigue and this was starting to encroach. Words can fly away in the darkness of my mind. Keeping track of concept is harder, but it was my turn. We talked about the hyper-complexity and some of the human factors and anxiety that get in the way of change and how we need to tackle the challenges of stuckness and tradition, more importantly fear and risk aversion in the system. In the end the client more often than not becomes the holder of that.

We moved to questions and answers panel with all the presenters to wrap what had been a very useful and inspiring day. We drilled a little further for clarity, how are we going to craft our case for change, how are we going to use compelling stories to shift into better ways of working to create flourishing local systems. How do we use evidence and how do we convince people to use data in different ways to understand prevention and challenges in this arena. How do we move systems to safety, positive risk taking, proper partnership working and data sharing. How to ensure we don’t over promise and under deliver, spread too thin. Plenty of ongoing conversations be had. My next one on the horizon is about holding a vision then creating values-based commissioning, not to mention trauma informed care and practice.

Watching the sun go down on a great day with passionate and dedicated people we journeyed home and had to swap out the serenity of our day for the logistical survival of Victoria being shut down and getting home on very crowded and slow trains, testing our resilience and spirit

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