Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
-Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
Real sustainable culture change is shaped by the behaviour of small groups of influential individuals from across a network. In the right conditions, these well connected individuals have the power to create a grassroots social movement for change. Look around and you and you will see examples of this type of change throughout history, and in more recent times as well.
Values in Action is a social movement in the health service committed to making the health service a better place to be; for staff and for those using the health service. Values in Action is about putting the values of care, compassion, trust and learning at the core of everything we do in the health service. As one of our Champions likes to say; ‘it’s for ourselves and it’s for our patients.’
We have identified the highly influential and highly connected people in the health service and have asked them to help. We call these people our Champions and they are busy spreading the 9 behaviours that underpin Values in Action in their workplaces. They are the ones shaping our culture by making the 9 behaviours a recognisable, visible and normal part of our everyday conversations in the health service.
So far, we have approximately over 1,000 Values in Action Champions and the Champions’ community continues to grow as the social movement spreads. Being asked to help shape the culture of the health service is, for many, a hopeful and inspiring journey. I want to share with you the practical and day-to-day actions that Champions take as they work to make the health service a better place to be.
So what exactly is a Champion’s role? The role of the Champion has six aspects:
#1 Endorse the Behaviours
What does endorse actually mean? It is a declaration of one’s public approval or support of something. It’s like pressing the “like” button on Facebook or retweeting something on Twitter. You are publically showing you endorse something or somebody. What does living and endorsing the behaviours look like? We are not saying that all of these 9 behaviours are new, and some of you might be doing them already, and that’s great. Living the behaviours will mean that these specific 9 behaviours are multiplied throughout the health service, so more people will be doing these behaviours more of the time.
#2 Engaging with peers
You meet with people every day in work. From the time you park your car, lock up your bike or walk through the door. You meet people formally and informally. We do it all the time, each work day – and “75% of work conversations, like problem solving, sharing new idea communication flow occur in the invisible, non-designed network.”
You relate to certain people in work. They might be your friends or colleagues or you have similar things in common. You also have a natural network of communications from your job: emails, letters, telephone calls, etc. You might talk to people working within your team or unit, from different parts of your workplace, or indeed from across the health service. Engaging your peers means having a conversation about the behaviours in your everyday conversations, using the language so it becomes familiar to you.
“The aim of this social movement is to get everyone in the health service to live the behaviours and our work as Champions is to recruit our peers to be Champions too.” (Kirsten Connolly)
Your conversations may be broad, but they need to refer to the nine non-negotiable behaviours. It is also about going beyond conversations, but becoming an activist by engaging new colleagues to address an issue, improve a process and/or do something practical that will help to shape the culture.
#3 Commit jointly
Do you play on a sports team? A team commits to playing together, turning up for practice. You have a shared goal; you might even want to win. The same applies here - if we can all commit individually, can you imagine the impact you can have as a group?
Imagine what can be achieved when all of us come together to create a social movement in the organisation? If we all commit jointly to individually and collectively making a change, then we will witness a tsunami of change. Small actions will all add up to major culture change.
Can you think of any other changes in your life that you have been part of? What does that feel like? Liberating? Like you are part of a community? Other social movements have taken place in the world because people felt things needed to change. Take for example the Civil Rights Movement in America in the 1950s and 1960s. Martin Luther King did many things to bring greater equality to America to ensure civil rights for all people regardless of race.
Here in Ireland, we saw the Marriage Equality Referendum, it demonstrated the power of people coming together to make a change.
#4 Multiply and bring others
“Multiplication is the key to a social movement.” (Leandro Herrero) Initially, a Champion may engage five colleagues about the nine behaviours - but the goal is that each of those peers then similarly engages a further five colleagues so the engagement of just one Champion leads to the engagement of at least 25 colleagues!
Over time, a critical mass will be created and the behaviours will flow naturally through the health service. “This is a key part to the success of the movement. This is what activists do.” (Leandro Herrero)
It’s a coming together. We will communicate with each other and support each other. The path to change is never straight, most people don’t like change. We have spoken about all the positives and how this will create a better environment for staff, patients and service users.
But you might meet the resistant colleague or the cynic. You might be asked difficult questions. However, if there are more people who are positive about creating a better culture then we will far outweigh the cynics.
It’s might not be all sweetness and light, the path to change is never straight. We need to be ready to support each other if this happens.
#6 Capture and share stories
We all know how easy it to share examples – or tell stories. We do it every day. We can do the same relating to our behaviours. As Champions, you will start to spot stories. You will collect them and then share them. Stories are social proof and will help to accelerate our social movement. We have to be open to hearing and telling stories and looking at the difference they make.
“When we see our behaviours flowing through the organisation we will know our social movement is successful. Continuing to tell stories will help sustain the social movement.” (Kirsten Connolly)
In conclusion, Champions are activists who engage with colleagues on a peer-to-peer basis in conversations and actions to spread the behaviours to affect cultural change.
If you are a Champion and reading this, thank you. If you are a health service staff member and are curious to learn more, then please get in touch.
Champions are always looking for people to join the movement and to be a part of creating change; and you can be a part of it too.
Clodagh Lawler, Values in Action Core Team