Saturday, 29 March 2014

What can you learn from the disruptive innovators?

It’s impossible to live in Scotland just now and not experience the impact of being told all the things you can’t do if we vote for independence. Undoubtedly there are a variety of responses to this and the polls would suggest relentless negativity is perhaps having a perverse effect than that desired. But there is no doubt it creates a sense of burden, a weariness, an undermining worry that could feed the poverty of hope we see in so many of our isolated communities. The Independence referendum is tapping in to the call for change I see in so much of my work and a campaign that  fosters a sense of helplessness can’t fail to have an impact.
The diversity of work I do in organisations and in health and social care and the people I work with make my life hugely interesting. And what I notice too is there are threads that join them all. The threads mainly are about how do we reach for more humanity in our work, how do we bring our values and work with integrity, how do we effect change as although we know the system is broken but it just feels too big. It’s probably at the core of all the conversations I have.
These are big questions and the danger of feeling something is too big is that we just set it aside. We put it off, we tell ourselves it can’t be done, we distance ourselves from those who think it can. We are flattened by the elephant rather than able to find ways to eat it. But history tells us we do evolve, we adapt to small changes all the time and even the big ones often awaken untapped resources and potential. But still it can be scary-what if we fail being a common question-especially in blame cultures.
Even if we haven’t heard the quote that “each system is perfectly designed to create the outcomes it produces” we know in our hearts that doing more of the same or indeed just trying harder (being sat on by the elephant?) is never going to be enough. But the sense of the scale of the challenge can stop us having the confidence to try even something small.
What I also see every day however are those who do create something new, who challenge the system to see another perspective, who see solutions in other places and aren’t too scared to give them a go. I heard the phrase disruptive innovation this week and it’s stayed with me. Many of those third sector organisations I work with have started as disruptive innovators, the people who are outside of the system but see a fresh perspective and approach that enables change to happen. I see those with lived experience bring their innovation and experience to shift a system from inertia. I see the mavericks within systems go around them and find new approaches that improve the outcomes for all.
In many ways social media is a disruptive innovation in health and social care. Seeing organisations like Patient Opinion and now CareOpinion putting influence into the hands of those who use the service, NHS Changeday emerge though social media and create a social movement, blogging communities like the breast cancer one I belong to being a global force for change, twitter connecting and empowering ; these are all exciting shifts we need to tap into.
Maybe the most important thing we can all do is listen to the disruptive innovators, learn from them and understand that we each of us have influence and not be afraid to use it.
Reasons to be mindful
This is an outstanding time in my country, with the possibility of constitutional change creating huge tensions and excitement too. My plea is that all sides of the argument treat people who live here with respect and sensitivity and listen to the call for change in our communities, that is cultural as much as its political. Whoever listens and responds to that, gets my vote.

Friday, 21 March 2014

In search of selfie

Even the dogs are at it!

Well who would have thought it, women (and men) are proudly taking their own photos of themselves without makeup and posting it on “tinternet”. What next I wonder? You need to get up early for a photo of me without makeup I admit. I’ve seen some views pros and against this latest social media trend and it has made me ponder on both.
I believe it started with celebrities in solidarity for an older woman (and it would be a woman of course) criticised for her looks at the Oscars. But it changed (perhaps in protest to the selfie indulgence?!) to do the #nomakeupselfie in support of breast cancer. Cancer Research UK and the other breast cancer charities Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Campaign have all benefited too in this social media/community led campaign. I have seen my exceptionally beautiful friends and family take part, post breast awareness information and text money too. They are awesome! I still haven’t posted mine and wasn’t sure I would until my friend Jackie posted hers-after week 5 of chemotherapy following her recent re-diagnosis with breast cancer. That’s when I realised, well yes it’s a bit of a fun gimmick but really its raising money for research into how to stop this happening to fine women like Jackie and that’s good enough for me. 
But I also wondered how it must feel for others who must struggle everyday with other cancers, other long term conditions, who live with chronic pain, chronic  fatigue or struggle with mental well-being: who will do selfies for them? So many too will face the day with unknown and unrecognised challenges, they will do their utmost to hold down jobs in challenging financial times, they will suffer the impact of benefit changes, they will produce bucket lists and hope to fulfill them. My selfie therefore is for all of them too, sans makeup, in solidarity with all whose life has been affected by ill-health ;mental and physical. I salute your courage and maybe we need solidarity for everyone-an unselfie to say; I hear you and commit to supporting what matters to you. But what would an unselfie look like?
Reasons to be cheerful.
I had great family weekend recently culminating in a concert that included the rather wonderful Dixie Chicks. Regular readers will know my musical taste leans to the soulful singer song writer but I have an open mind and honestly love a sing along to a Dixie Chicks track. They were wonderful and in tribute to the fact later this year I’m off to see James Taylor, here’s amagical track of them playing together.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The crocus, the symbol of hope.

 A visit to Edinburgh's Botanic gardens and three lovely days of sunshine inspired these photos and the poem. I was recently clearing out and found a lapel pin with a crocus. When I first worked with Breakthrough Breast Cancer  the crocus was an emblem they used. The crocus being the first flower of spring was a symbol of hope that the charity adopted.The emblem always moved me especially every spring when I saw my first crocus. The promise of better times to come.

Hope of Spring 

Relentless grey of winter
Then the sun so,so welcome
The sky blue and full of promise
Warmth swiftly lost to frost
Sunsets promising more to come

Faces up turned and smiling
Streets and gardens life abounding
Parks of barking dogs
Screams too of childish excitement
Can winter be gone at last?

The crocus, first flower of spring
A bed of colour emerging from
The grey grey winter
A symbol of hope
After hard times

Flowers bloom again
The sun brings its warmth
Smiles return to faces
Life promises new beginnings
Things will be better again.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Another week ,another controversy for breast cancer....

Another week ;another breast cancer controversy.  This week it involves page 3 of The Sun which is guaranteed to raise my irritation levels at best. But it is to raise awareness of breast cancer so that’s makes it all right? Really? It’s a dilemma on many levels and represents the kind of moral and ethical dilemmas charities often face. Balancing opportunity to meet important objectives with what could be seen as a moral or ethical thin line.
With a social movement called “No more Page 3” in the UK any charity  working with the newspaper will be aware that many women ( and men too) are offended by the use of topless models to sell newspapers. Many are concerned that our children and young people  grow up accepting that woman’s bodies are fair game for any marketing ploy; that it potentially diminishes and disrespects women in our society and perhaps even contributes to growing trends of violence against women. But it is to raise awareness of the importance of checking your boobs for breast cancer so that’s OK, right?
The charity Coppafeel is using it to promote breastawareness and I absolutely admire their drive to make a difference. Like so many charities it is about taking a personal experience and passionately wanting to make things different for others. They are also willing to push boundaries and have engaged younger people very effectively. It is admirable. And the models desire to support fellow women (and men too) to be breast aware and to increase the number of people diagnosed early is not in doubt.
And then there is the motivation of the newspaper, mmmmm, now that’s where it gets fishy. I would say this sketch summarised it for me. Didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I watched it.
And what about the public perception of breast cancer? Is it really helping to risk further sexualising of breast cancer? Cancer is not sexy-even if there is a pair of pert breasts involved. Let’s just repeat that-no cancer is sexy. It is hellish. Treatment for breast cancer is not a way to get a boob job, the reality for most of us, is it leaves you with both physical and emotional scars that often damage your self-image and wellbeing for good. The incidence of depression following a cancer diagnosis is over 50% and that’s the diagnosis rate, much goes unreported. Don’t think a campaign like this won’t hurt anyone, because I’m fairly sure it will impact on many a tender family affected by breast cancer.
So I have two pieces of advice for the Sun newspaper (I have deleted a few;-0). In September 2012 I helped to launch the Scottish Government’sBreast cancer Detect Cancer Early Campaign with actress Elaine C Smith. It’s a successful, well evaluated campaign which helps women learn the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. I suggest you include that campaign in your work to really get the message out to high risk groups. Also by way of reinforcement of the message that breast cancer is not a pink ribbon take a look at the Scarproject, maybe you could even put it on Page 3 to reinforce the devastating impact of breast cancer on women, men and their loved ones.
Reasons to be grateful
Well it has made us talk about breast awareness, that’s good isn’t it? Here’s information about the app developed by Breakthrough BreastCancer which can also support you to be breast aware. But please make sure you are also aware of the impact of breast cancer and whatever you do don’t let people trivialise it, the 1.5 million people in the world each year diagnosed with breast cancer deserve better.
And finally its international women's day so here is a wee google doodle to warm the heart.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Kindness: a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

I heard this poem at the weekend and wanted to share it with you. It speaks to me in such a profound way. May we all know kindness when we need it.


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Saturday, 1 March 2014

People and relationships and a beautiful journey back in time.

I was a teenager when I first visited Argyll. I was entranced. A week in Lochgoilhead won me over, although I confess to falling in the loch and moaning on my way up the Cobbler! So when many years late as an adult I moved to Helensburgh, on the doorstep of the beauty I was delighted to return. For several years I worked in service redesign in the area and it took me all over. I remember sometimes having my breath taken away by the scenery, even with the frustrations of driving around including log lorries and caravans doing emergency castle stops!

It's years since I worked in Argyll but in my new role I’m delighted to have the opportunity to be working there again.  The team working across health and social care have an impressive commitment to wanting to improve care and to make it more person-centred. They have looked at what has happened around the world and close to home and now want to make it a reality in Argyll and Bute. This is terrain that covers more than 20 inhabited islands, remote mainland towns and roads that make travel a variable feast. This is a part of Scotland where ferry times can define your day, where serious illnesses can be complicated by geography, where you can meet four seasons in one day and they all have their own beauty.
Next week over one hundred people gather in Arrochar with a view of the Cobbler( I won't be climbing it this time) and the work will begin in earnest to build a network that puts the principles of person centred care at its core. It's such an honour to work with such committed, hardworking people from all sectors  and really exciting to see it take shape. People who use services locally too are an important group and will ensure that whatever is shaped is right for them.
This is challenging work, it will need the focus and commitment to follow it though, no cultural change happens overnight but it's got all the right ingredients for success-more than anything it's the drive to improve care and services to benefit all. We know what people want to see are joined up services where people listen, show compassion and flexibility.Its about people in realtionship, to enable wellbeing thats at the heart of the network.
When you live in rural areas you know some things can't be on your door step, like the woman I met who was having treatment for breast cancer and lived on one of the islands. She accepted her treatment would mean she needed to be away for home at times. What she did need though was support not just from family and friends but also the services. There was no Maggie’s centre or similar to provide support and kindness and people who have been there too. Like many it's not that people expect too much when we ask what matters to them; it’s simply to be heard, it's to express their fears, it's to get the best treatment of course but it’s also to be helped through the ups and downs. A network can really support this kind of joined up, compassionate care.
Reasons to be cheerful
I'm hoping there will be a bit of snow on the hills of Argyll. And maybe if we are lucky we will get a repeat of the wonderful show of the northern lights like this over the Clannish stones earlier this week.