The Do Good Better List - 5 things I've loved this week

It’s been another busy week, with lots of content, strategy, conversations, and opportunities.

Here are my highlights:

1. The Power of Conversation

I’ve realised, this week, how the simplest things can make a huge difference in life.

Through my consultancy work with the health research community in Greater Manchester, I’ve had a few conversations with some professionals (both academic, and front-line practitioners), discussing some projects they’re trialling to improve the quality of life for people recovering from or managing a serious or long term illness; and carers of patients with terminal conditions.

What really struck me was how incredibly simple and effective these new innovations were. They were really focused on helping community and clinical practitioners to have structured conversations with patients and carers to assess their needs. Sometimes these needs can be as apparently simple as “having a proper night’s sleep” or “having my toe nails clipped”.

Sounds simple? Well, yes, but when practitioners have such incredibly busy workloads, every second counts when with a patient; and such simple conversations can either not happen or open up a range of issues that the practitioner might not have a straightforward answer to. So, within the region, a number of NHS organisations are introducing and trialling a number of “toolkits” to help both patients and practitioners with this conversation (more of which another time).

If a patient or carer’s needs are more effectively captured and resolved, that keeps them feeling supported, physically and mentally in better shape; opening up many more opportunities in life. And if that’s the case for one individual, it got me thinking about what the potential benefit could be across the system and for the welfare of the country as a whole…

Leaving that example to one side for a moment…

I’ve mentioned on this blog about the brilliant work people in comms are doing to support colleagues with their mental health. Leanne Ehren, in particular, has written and presented really honestly and eloquently on this subject recently.

In our incredibly busy lives as communicators, some of us come across some really difficult situations: dealing with crisis comms in tragic human situations, fighting off the online troll army, being pulled in a million of un-focused directions all at the same time. All these things are hard to deal with, are really stressful, and left un-dealt-with can have a real impact on us.

As with much about life in Britain; we don’t like to complain. We don’t like to be seen to need other people. We like to answer “oh, fine”, “not too bad” or “I’m OK for now ta” to “how are you?” or “is there anything you need any help with?”.

And continuing this perpetual vicious circle that has come to define our national character, we stop asking after a while too. We assume that “not too bad” or “fine” are adequate responses, and move on to our next cup of slightly too-milky and ultimately disappointing tea (not that we’d ever complain about that either), with sub-conscious relief that we’ve avoided a potentially awkward and time-consuming conversation.

(Oh, and Men of Britain: I’m particularly looking in your direction here….)

We have to stop this.

We’re making ourselves physically and mentally ill and poorer in order to avoid having difficult conversations.

In professional and care settings we need evidence-based interventions to assist us in having these conversations. In personal situations we just need to be better at asking how our friends and colleagues are doing. And we also need to be better at answering them honestly and constructively.

Let’s just imagine what would happen if we did this.

Imagine that one more carer had their needs met more effectively and were able to more effectively deal with the emotional stress of the situation they’re in and are better supported physically. There’s a better chance of a healthier, happier more fulfilling life for them. Multiply that by the millions of carers in the UK, and see what happens: a more financially sustainable system, less people getting sick and needing more serious intervention.

Imagine that you ask every colleague how they’re doing. And imagine you get an honest answer. And multiply that by all the comms people and organisations across the country.

The result: a profession where people learn more effectively off each other, a happy community, and a career that the best and brightest flock to.

When you think of it like that: a meaningful human conversation can be an incredibly powerful thing.

Try one today and see where it leads you…

2. The incredible world of Digital Citizenship

I’m loving working with one particular client working in the “Digital Citizenship” space.

If, like me, you’re too old to be a millennial, your experience of “computers” or “technology” at school, was probably something like this:

A “Computer Room” with a load of huge beige boxes with clunky brown keyboards with tiny dark screens with green text. Occasionally they might do a satisfying “bleep” when you got a sum right.

It’s not like that anymore.

We hear a lot about kids staying safe online, and teaching them how to avoid pernicious stuff like cyber-bullying. And it’s brilliant to hear about how savvy school kids are becoming around online tech.

But what really interests me about the area of “digital citizenship” though is about going beyond just safety, and what not to do, and into actually into encouraging students to be responsible contributors to an online world. When we do this, it opens up a global community of respectful, constructive collaborators.

I wrote this blog post about the amazing Marialice BFX Curran this week, and was blown away by not just her incredible passion but by how kids are using online collaboration tools to support each other and increase their knowledge.

At a time when the national conversation is about the dangers and future of challenges of AI and an online interconnected global village; it’s amazing and heartening to see educators and students really grasping its possibilities.

3. Old friends, new projects and new opportunities

It’s been a week where I’ve been doing a lot of work and having discussions with some of my favourite former colleagues about some exciting new opportunities.

I’m really excited to be working and collaborating with them again. I’ve said it over and over again, but this really is one of my favourite things about being a freelance comms person.

Long may the collaboration continue.

4. Podcast of the week

I think it’s the 3rd or 4th time the RSA Events podcast has appeared on this blog, but here it is again.

In The Perils of Perception: Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything, Bobby Duffy from Ipsos Mori goes through survey and statistical data to demonstrate that a lot of the things we take for granted are simply wrong.

It’s an important reminder that, as comms people, our job is to challenge assumptions and bring evidence to the table to help us make the right creative decisions.

What percentage of teenage girls give birth, every year in the UK?

What percentage of the UK identifies as Muslim?

Have a think about these two questions, and then give the podcast a listen. If you’ll forgive the clickbait-language: the results will ASTOUND you….

5. Blog post of the week

There have been a few contenders this week, but in the end of plugged for a masterclass in sarcastic parody, from an unexpected source…

Firstly, a quick note: this post is actually from May! But a colleague from a client organisation shared it with me this week. I’d suggest the sentiments in it are pretty universal and appropriate for whatever time period you read it.

Thinkful Change on the NHS Networks blog is an absolute must-read, absolutely skewering the culture of buzz-phrases and BS-bingo (polite term) that pervades in the world of “change”.

That said, I have now changed my job title to “Head of Disruptive Horizon Scanning and New Futures Curation” so it’s not entirely silly.