About a year ago, Helen Bevan compared me to Lois Weisburg.
And, when I did a bit of research to find out who this lady was, I was at first flattered and then intrigued … and then felt a bit of fraud.
Lois was good at building connections and informal communities and, so it seems am I. But Lois managed to do this in the middle of a small town by talking to people she met whereas I have the infinite possibilities of technology and social media, and in particular the magical tool which is Twitter.
It is true that I am absolutely fascinated by making connections and have written about this before. I love meeting wonderful people, and equally pleased when I manage to connect other like-minded people and see them building their own relationships and collaborations.
This ability or gift, however you like to describe it, has led to the most amazing opportunities – but top of the list being the wonderful experiences I have had with my Australian friend Kate Swaffer (we met – you guessed it – via Twitter and blogging) culminating in a Whose Shoes? mini tour of Australia, December 2014, and co-presenting our social media story at the Opening Reception of the World Alzheimer’s conference earlier this year.
So people ask how this happens – particularly people who don’t ‘get’ Twitter.
So this is what has happened in the last few days…
Thursday and Friday were fascinating days for me and seemed a microcosm of what is happening on a much larger scale in my life. Thursday was a series of face-to-face meetings; Friday was a very similar experience but the connections came more through telephone calls and social media.
I think to put my musings in context, I need to link at this point to ‘Invisible Hordes‘, a wonderful blog this week by Richard Martin, @IndaloGenesis .
I have found this blog so fascinating it is almost haunting. It is set in a recruitment context, but to me applies to every encounter that we have. When you consider that the person that you meet is not just one person with unique skills, knowledge and attributes, but the door to their own individual and unique network of friends and connections, it is truly mind blowing. This is very much the reality for all of us, if we let it be and if we are equally prepared to share our own ‘invisible hordes’: the magic only happens through true reciprocity.
I think these thoughts and feelings have been highlighted for me because I have recently discovered a whole new community, I almost want to call it a family, of people who are passionate about maternity services.
Apart from having three children myself (an ‘expert by experience’, albeit a while ago!) this is a whole new area for me, but oh-so-familiar in terms of key challenges around all the things that I believe in and work so hard for: person centred approaches, dignity and respect for all and compassion and humanity and choice that empowers people rather than exploits vulnerability. I have been very honoured to be invited to write a chapter about this, which has now been accepted in the wonderful forthcoming book edited by Sheena Byrom and Professor Soo Downe “The Roar Behind the Silence: why kindness, compassion and respect matter in maternity care”
I will aim to write more about our Whose Shoes? maternity project when the time is right, but that is not the subject of this particular blog. It is more about the networks.
And as I sat in quite a small meeting at NHS England in London, it was as if the whole Twitter community was in the room.
There had been a huge buildup and the small team I am working with are using social media really well to build energy and bring passionate people together. This is just a flavour – honestly!
We even got sent some wooden clogs from Holland!
I am now in Twitter conversation with the Head of Midwifery in my local hospital in Coventry – indeed it looks as though we will meet! 🙂
It is fantastic to find there is so much passion and good practice around. Twitter is bringing us together in a web that is as rich and as beautiful as any spider could weave in the sunlight.
So, it is still only Thursday lunch-time and next I was meeting a school friend for lunch. I couldn’t believe the coincidence that her eldest daughter works with the people I had just met with and had come to give me a hug before the meeting started. The most senior person in the room had been to her wedding only a couple of months ago and had met my schoolfriend, the bride’s mother, and spoke highly of her. I couldn’t believe the coincidence, and again my mind went wild reflecting on how all our different personal and professional connections interplay.
It reminded me of the LinkedIn statistics where, as you link with each new person, it shows your own network expanding exponentially. Apparently I have…
- (1448)1st Connections
(398,205) 2nd Connections
and it seems you now have to pay to see how many 3rd connections 😉
And then in the afternoon I met Julian Stodd, a meeting that seemed long overdue as we have been fascinated by each other’s work for a long time. The timing on this day, when I was reflecting so intensely about connections, seemed extremely appropriate as Julian is as curious about networks as I am. We had met through Twitter but particularly through our blogs. But even that reinforced for me just how personal these matters are. Julian, as I suspected, is it very interesting guy, a real thinker and highly creative.
But for me it is his lovely pastel watercolour images that stay in my mind and bring alive the actual content.
Julian’s gold clouds, grey shadows and key words are a wonderfully simple and consistent form of communication.
I frequently post them to my Pinterest boards, and that in itself feels hugely symbolic. Those little pictures provide the gateway to the deep thinking that lies in each blog in the same way as the graphic recording that we frequently use at my own Whose Shoes? workshops.
I feel very fortunate to have the freedom to be able to be able to have such pleasant, thought-provoking meetings in the sunshine; but I’m sure meeting face-to-face builds new possibilities and is almost bound to open new doors. As our networks come closer together, we find new ways of collaborating to pursue our shared purpose of transformational change.
And Julian even let me try his brand-new GoogleGlass!
As you will read in his blog, he was like a kid at Christmas. I was very flattered that, with full directional support, he found his way down Euston Road to meet me as it must have distracted him from the mission in hand. 😉 My first reaction was to think he had a specific sight problem…
Meanwhile I had a lovely phone call from someone I really respect in Wales. Again I will blog more about this when the time is right, as I suspect it will be by the end of this year. Suffice to say that this lady is not on Twitter but builds fantastic co-production networks through more conventional channels. Perhaps she is the real Lois Weisberg? However, she does use email, whereas Lois just had the fantastic capacity to get out and talk to people. Perhaps we should all do that more.
But, as the end of the week came, I sat back in awe and watched as the ‘Invisible hordes’ appeared from all directions, but mainly Scotland…
I put a tweet out a week ago and it has now turned into a mini Whose Shoes? tour of Scotland, building on the fact that I will already be in Glasgow with Ken Howard and other friends, presenting at the European Alzheimer’s conference in October.
Thanks to my wonderful mentor, Dr Sam Majumdar, I have learned to ‘go with the flow’, an approach that really worked in Australia where harnessing local energy (my friends Andrew Coulson and Kate Swaffer, but also Alzheimer’s Victoria, TACSI and other organisations) led to vibrant, well attended events that I could never have put together myself. It feels as if Scotland has the same energy, Harnessing ‘local assets’ and letting people lead the way is central to co-produced solutions and all of my work.
I have actually done very little other than to say I am keen.
I have been overwhelmed by the way people have jumped into action, offering help and support and wanting to experience the work we do – getting people talking together… and building connections!
I have even been sent a selection of shoes and boots and suggestions for tartan shorts for Ken! I have been posting them diligently on my Pinterest boards.
The most rewarding and encouraging thing has been that, not only has this support and enthusiasm come from my friends and supporters – real life friends like Sam, Maureen, Sandra and Agnes and ‘Twitter friends,’ but from their networks – the ‘invisible hordes. People I had not heard about a week ago are offering significant support with the project and I am in awe about how these things work and am very grateful!
There have been a crazy number of tweets. You will be relieved that I will not attempt to capture them all but I love seeing the growing connections between different groups, breaking down barriers and silos. My Whose Shoes? tool has the different groups represented by different colours. Perhaps they are sitting on the different benches (the photo was taken in Scotland).
But we want to bring them ALL round one table together. As equals.
“It is time to add all the colours to your dream!” – Sam Majumdar