Published on May 9, 2014

Houda’s reflections on NHS Citizen Leeds Design Workshop

NHS Citizen

By Houda Davis

Houda Davis is a Research Assistant at Involve interested in participation in health, the environment and science and technology.

IMG_1377Firstly I wanted to say what a great bunch of people participated in the Leeds workshop. It was challenging, inspiring and fun. I feel very privileged to be involved in genuine co-design of such an exciting project.

The NHS Citizen team agreed to give 10 reflections, mine are ‘extended’ reflections and probably overlap with others so I am going back on that agreement and am only going to give 5. Hope this is not cheating. Here goes…

  1. Designing assembly membership – Patient voice and special interest representatives bring their lived experiences and agendas to discussions. This is totally understandable – of course their experiences affect their perceptions, understandings and opinions especially since they have invested a great deal in improving health services. Seeing the effect this had on discussions at the workshop in Leeds has reinforced my thinking, based on recent research on other deliberative public engagement exercises, that an ‘open door’ assembly would create a membership that is dominated by individuals with vested interests and agendas. The assembly would feel more like a traditional ‘stakeholder’ exercise. This is certainly not to discount the contributions, or indeed disallow, the involvement of these groups. They have made, and will continue to make, an essential contribution to NHS Citizen, but we need to think about the roles they play, perhaps as ‘experts’ or as ‘community connectors’ in Discover and Gather.
  2. Reaching beyond those already engaged – A theme that kept emerging in this workshop and also in past workshops is how to reach people who do not usually participate (minority groups, homeless people, those with disabilities, for example). This is clearly a really important ambition of the project. There are no magic bullet solutions but there is an opportunity to draw and build on the great work done by all sorts of organisations that engage with marginalised communities and make use of ‘networks of networks’ mapped in Discover. We need to learn from best practice here.
  3. The Vision Document – This was far too long and although it is a useful document for the NHS Citizen team, we should not expect participants and other interested people to read it in full to understand the system. We really need to think about how we are presenting the model to people, making it easy, accessible and visual.
  4. Testing the assembly format – The assembly meeting test on Day 2 showed that a traditional assembly format, with the Board on a stage with question and answer type sessions will not work. We need the Board and the members to form proper connections with smaller groups and fully participate in a CONVERSATION. The Board need to be fully engaged and immersed in the process for NHS Citizen to do something different and new. That said, testing something that did not work was truly illuminating and people were really vocal about what they did not want – this is co-design at its best!
  5. 5.       Levelling the playing field – I noted discussions, especially in larger groups, were dominated by a handful of voices and often these voices were male. Whilst not everyone feels comfortable talking in large groups, I wonder if there is anything we could do to make the workshops feel safer for people to speak out.
  6. 6.       It was going to be 5 reflections but there is of course one more vital point… last but definitely not least I am always impressed and humbled by the time, energy and commitment people put into participating in these events. NHS Citizen would not happen without you! So a huge thanks to participants.

These workshops help the NHS Citizen team and participants genuinely co-create this system and I always come out thinking differently about things than when I went in. As always, great fun working with all the project team, including those that did the leg work in making the event happen but weren’t there. Very much looking forward to seeing you all in Bristol in July.

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