In a drive to improve the flow of sensitive patient information between the NHS, Social Care providers and GPs, all using separate IT platforms, the Department of Health funded a pilot initiative through Westminster Council to connect the various systems together. WAND (Westminster Action on Disability) was also represented on the project board to give a service user perspective.
As we mapped the various processes across the different IT systems, it became evident from WAND that the actual services that we were mapping were not fit for purpose. This created challenges of understanding and acceptance between the groups on the project team; a stalemate ensued.
We suggested that a World Café event be organised to bring stakeholders together in an environment of enquiry through the sharing of experiences and stories.
Initially, we defined the context. We clarified the purpose and broad parameters within which the conversations would be held. This included who would be invited to the Café? What did they aim to achieve from the Café and what where the well-defined goals?
The environment is also a key feature of the Word Café. The space is set up to look like a Café and given a name to reflect the purpose – in this case ‘The Ideas Exchange Café’. We also had service user stories on the walls reflecting their experiences.
During the ‘Context Setting’ phase of the process, a number of critically important questions emerged and were developed so that each table would have one question each. Once the allotted time for discussion was over, participants would move to the next table. (It is important that delegates mix and mingle rather than move tables together. This aids cross-pollination).
We then harvested and shared the insights from each of the tables through graphical representations done by an on-site cartoonist. At the end of the session, each of the table hosts fed back to the whole Café.
After the Café event, there was a re-evaluation of services for disabled people, ensuring IT information sharing as an enabler for those services rather than an act in itself. All of the parties – the NHS, Social Care and Pressure Group vowed to work together to develop and improve services rather than functioning in silos as before.