On 5 Sept, I had an extraordinary day. To be honest, it went by in a bit of a whirl. There was just a bit too much going on at the time. And now I really want to write and finish this story before I start writing about #MatExp main stage NHS Expo this week, which was also pretty amazing! 😉
But here is a preview 😉
Early September was always going to be crazy. The #MatExp gang are paddling hard, speaking at all sorts of prestigious events. We are proud that our grassroots social movement is getting recognition and that our 'no hierarchy, just people' and 'just do it' approach is a breath of fresh air amongst all the over-complicated stuff or perceived barriers that can get in the way of passionate people wanting to make a difference.
Paddling hard... !
My lovely Mum died in July and I wasn't sure how l would cope - particularly with being committed to coming up with really creative stuff, against tight deadlines.
I was planning my Shard talk alongside planning this '#MatExp the Musical' extravaganza at NHS Expo- an organic creation, planned with military efficiency. Walking a tight rope between 'old power' and 'new power', trying to bring everyone on board as one big #MatExp #BetterBirths team. Quite a 'big ask' 😳.
When I originally got the invitation to speak at the Shard, telling the story about how I emailed my notice from a beach in Cornwall after 30 years working in local government, in order to create Whose Shoes, my first instinct was that the beginning of September was too busy. But then I realised it was the day that I was running a workshop for the Darzi Fellows at London South Bank University and the Shard was only 20 minutes away, so I thought it would all dovetail nicely together... And I said yes. 🍋
So then it was advertised. And I was very flattered. But I had to make it happen. Why do I always forget how long things take to prepare? 🍋
And before I knew it the big day had come… and everyone was arriving!
A lot of friends were there for my talk. A lot of other friends had helped me prepare for it. It was brilliant to get the chance to meet up with Sam Majumdar, a wonderful surgeon in Dundee and my friend and mentor. It is always great to bounce ideas with people who 'get' it.
In my 'previous life' as an employee, I had really enjoyed working with Marcia, Marcia had really helped me regain my confidence when I returned to work after being off for 16 months with cancer. If she hadn't left, I might never have left my 'safe' employment. Life is very arbitrary.
One of the things Marcia had got me involved in was an 'Iain Harvey Jones' type role. I was commissioned to 'sort out a failing team', as you do. But I found that most of the problems were outside their control – and the solutions were sometimes simple, if only 'the powers that be' would listen to the people trapped in systems that simply didn't work.
And how staff, who were trying to do a good job, were being completely flattened in a hierarchy, epitomised by a strong blame culture.
And then having talked about Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I think people were surprised to meet my real friend Dorothy. The one who had been flattened, trying to lead the 'failing' team. And how we have worked together since. 😉
I talked about how I became passionate about 'personalisation' and person-centred approaches. But policies were pulling in competing directions. Choice - in a totally risk averse society; prevention: with ever increasing eligibility criteria...
I talked about a conference where Caroline Tomlinson had really inspired me talking about personalisation and personal budgets and how they had helped her son Joe, who has learning disabilities. I remember standing up and asking "but what if you don't have a Caroline?" I made myself unpopular with my employer by asking the awkward (real) questions.
One of my earliest Whose Shoes slides.
I told a muted version (the session was being recorded!) of how I developed an award-winning board game and got 'disciplined' for breaking unwritten laws when I returned after the awards ceremony. My face didn't fit any more.
These were some of the pivotal factors that led to me 'jumping ship' and creating Whose Shoes.
The Shard presentation gave me an unusual opportunity to reflect on the early days, which was fun.
Finalist in 'inspirational story' entrepreneurship, 2008 for the story behind why I was launching Whose Shoes 😎 Thank you Coventry University.
Scared stiff, launching Whose Shoes on my own after zero sleep at Midland Hotel, Manchester 25/11/2008. Felt pretty emotional returning there this week for our rehearsal, preparing to rock main stage at NHS Expo with my #MatExp #BetterBirths friends!
I wish I had taken a photo of us all arriving at the base of the Shard - it felt like a big tweet up with so many people who have been part of 'my story' arriving to support me and to tell 'their part' in it.
And soon the room was packed! 👀
And of course all the naughty ones were in the back row. 😂
We were off! 😎
It felt strange having such a mix of people - fab people from Warwick Business School, many of whom previously knew nothing about Whose Shoes...
And fantastic friends like Flo Wilcock who has lived and breathed the #MatExp project with me, building it together since 2014.
So what about the intervening years? I was aware that lots of people in the room knew bits of the story ...
...social care, patient experience, working with students...
Struggling through the recession and discovering the emerging power of social media to build connections and make things happen...
Trying to find a way forward
Andrea Sutcliffe suggested crowdsourcing & kindly agreed to read a Whose Shoes poem re making it easier for people living with dementia through personalised solutions.
I was sad Sandra Springett was away on holiday. She and Alison Waters have been pivotal in the growth of Whose Shoes. We are proud of the work we have done with people living with dementia, their family carers, community members and NHS staff - all working together for positive change. Alison told the story!
And it was the Whose Shoes work on dementia care that led directly to the globally influential #MatExp project .. and now 'Nobody's patient'.
And the maternity project led to the opportunity, thanks to inspirational Kingston Hospital CEO Kate Grimes, of using Whose Shoes in other areas of the hospital – most notably getting people working across hierarchical divides in operating theatres… possibly the only time I'll ever wear scrubs. 😀
And lots of other exciting projects. I hadn't really realised how many different levels and topics and I only had time to touch on some of them…
It has been so exciting meeting up with passionate people from across the world. I loved speaking at the Quality and Safety Forum in a joint session with Zel Maikori - she and her colleagues are making a fantastic difference in Nigeria, a country struggling with the highest maternity & neonatal mortality rates in the world
I was absolutely thrilled Kath Evans could be there. Kath has been a fantastic catalyst, unblocking, enabling and making things happen. Including projects with children & young people.
Warwick Business School hosted the event and laid on wonderful food and wine. I was blown away by the love and support that filled the room as I told my story that night. Several people suggested that I did it for Mum, so I dedicate this story to her. 💜
Coming soon. My next Steller story…
Working together. Pushing the boundaries...
It was fun telling a few anecdotes along the way. There have been so many twists and turns, highs and lows. But my favourite question of the night was "Gill, is a koala heavy?" Er, yes! 😂 ( Joan Bakewell was absolutely lovely!)