Words by Mary Freer
You can pretend that uncertainty doesn’t exist and try to escape it in every possible way, but a much richer way of living is to embrace it. That’s what edgework is all about: Edgeworkers embrace risk rather than escape it.
Twelve days ago I was deep in the Gathering of Kindness in the lush and gentle surrounds of Mount Macedon where we were surrounded by allies – even the blue sky and the white tent were on our side. I’m very grateful to every one of the 100 people who shared those two days with me.
I’m now in Gothenburg*, Sweden but I feel I have slipped the Gathering of Kindness (GoK) throughCustoms and have it with me. The idea of how we change the way we work and how we show up and become a full citizen of kindness and respect has captured me. We rarely sit together and talk about how we can do the ‘work’ of healthcare without becoming distracted by the science of improvement and the business of operational efficiency.
I’m thinking about the model that my friend and colleague Dr Catherine Crock and I developed to hold the GoK and I think it might be “edgework”. It certainly felt like work right at the growing edge, a place where the system intersected with a possible future. A place that required a fearless connection with risk. A conversation between the current state and a possible future.
I’m attending the IHI International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare in Gothenburg along with 3,200 other delegates. What I’m seeing and hearing tells me that there is deep longing for stronger and more meaningful connection. I’m not a big conference lover. What I do love are the moments where you can connect with people, over a coffee and really talk. So yesterday morning I spent two incredible hours in conversation with Dr Soma Stout, Executive Lead for IHI 100 Million Healthier Lives. Yes you read that right! 100 Million Healthier Lives (no less).
100 Million Healthier Lives is an unprecedented collaboration of change agents pursuing an unprecedented result: 100 million people living healthier lives by 2020. Together we are fundamentally transforming the way the world thinks and acts to improve health. //ihi.org/100millionLives
It is the unprecedented collaboration and conversation that will hold the key to this system wide global transformation. I was struck by Soma’s question “Whose life is getting better because I’m doing the work I do?” It is a powerful question and one I’m going to ask myself every day as I grow at this edge. How might this question bring us into a closer and more courageous relationship with our patients, clients, communities and our colleagues?
Then what would it mean to ask this simple question of those people we provide services to and for:
What is your dream for your own health and wellbeing?
As I was figuring out how it might be possible to help the people who depend on health and social care services live into the dream they hold for their own health and wellbeing I remembered Don Berwick’s opening plenary. One line has stayed with me: Start with trust and be infinitely respectful of each others spirit.
And so the thread continued. The wonderful Rebel Leader Lois Kelly connected with the audience on the importance of making the workplace safe, creative and innovative. We are more energised and feel more engaged in our work when our managers can name our strengths. It’s that simple. We ignore strengths at our peril.
Lois cautioned us that if we don’t want a brave, creative and curious workforce we will end up with a spineless, complacent and conforming workforce. Then she introduced this quote from the book Character Strengths and Virtues.
The more people surrounding us who are kind, or curious, or full of hope, the greater our own likelihood of acting in these ways. All are winners when someone acts in accordance with his or her strengths and virtues.
Martin Selegman and Christopher Peterson
So you see the spirit of the Gathering of Kindness has run through the first week of my fellowship travels. Tomorrow I head to Stockhom. Bring a beanie – it’s cold over here.
* This blog is the first in a series I will posting while traveling as a Westpac Bicentennial Social Change Fellow. I hope you enjoy traveling with me.