The following excerpt comes from the article by Lindsey Alexander, Pedja Stojicic, and Rebecca Niles published on September 22, 2017, on ReThink Health.
Several years back, Atul Gawande, a surgeon, public health researcher, and staff writer for the New Yorker, wrote an article on how good ideas spread. In his piece, Gawande detailed the BetterBirth Project, which strives to spread safer childbirth practices in parts of rural India. Gawande wrote:
To create new norms, you have to understand people’s existing norms and barriers to change. You have to understand what’s getting in their way. So what about just working with health-care workers, one by one, to do just that? With the BetterBirth Project, we wondered, in particular, what would happen if we hired a cadre of childbirth-improvement workers to visit birth attendants and hospital leaders, show them why and how to follow a checklist of essential practices, understand their difficulties and objections, and help them practice doing things differently. In essence, we’d give them mentors.
Gawande’s article suggests that the heart of any real transformation is, quite simply, relationships. While in recent years we’ve become enamored with spreading ideas at the speed of light (think TED talks and the quest for the next viral video), the bottom line is this: effective relationships, which take time, are incredibly powerful. For those of us engaged in the art of regional health transformation, it’s imperative that we step back and reevaluate our relationships, considering both their quality and their quantity; pondering the extent to which they are productive and whether anyone important is missing from the table.
Given the imperative of building relationships, we decided to take a look at just how multisector partnerships experience relationships in each of ReThink Health’s three practice areas of stewardship, strategy, and sustainable financing. What do effective relationships look like and what do these relationships enable partnerships to do?
Stewardship: Building Relationships is More Than Networking
Stewardship occurs when regional stakeholders–leaders, community members, organizations, and others across multiple sectors–align and act around shared priorities, strategies, and vision for fostering healthy people and thriving communities. Effective stewardship is often the key to addressing the core challenges facing multisector partnerships as they strive to transform regional health. In this process of alignment, relationships are critical.
Let’s be clear about what we mean by “relationships.” We’ve found that some people confuse building relationships with networking. While networking is done to connect and get informed, building meaningful relationships requires commitment and some degree of openness and vulnerability. Unlike networking, relationships are open-ended, creating the opportunity for growth. It’s similar to the difference between checking how your friends are doing on Facebook and getting together in person for a coffee or dinner. The former will get you informed, but the latter helps you truly connect (and may even take you on an adventure!).
Through ReThink Health’s work with regional transformation efforts, we’ve observed that multisector partnerships and integrator organizations with effective stewardship practices form relationships with at least three critical characteristics:
- Shared values – Shared values is about finding common ground; the areas where you agree. It does not necessarily mean everyone has to think or behave the same way. Instead, you can agree on a few foundational elements: that you want to improve health outcomes or increase economic vitality; or that achieving true systems change requires working together. The best way to create shared values is to explore and share stories that motivate us to act, such as deep personal stories that inspired us to do this work or collective stories that bind us as a community. Our Story of Self and Story of Now tools can help you do that effectively.
- Clear commitment – Clear commitment is the glue in any relationship. Taking action and following through demonstrate that you care and that you are committed to collaboration. These are indicators that a relationship exists. We often see stakeholders coming together around the partnership table and participating in meetings or networking without actually taking any action between meetings. Without commitment to each other to meet common goals, there is no relationship.
- A spirit of co-creation – Co-creation of new things is a sure sign of a meaningful relationship. Groups that have good relationships tend to be very productive. They might create a Value Proposition for Health System Transformation, implement successful campaigns to improve population health, or develop new guides or manuals for their partners. If you are not producing anything together, soon you will discover that you are not in an effective relationship. You are just playing it safe–because creating something new requires courage, collaborative energy, and creativity.
Read the full article.