Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Network Casebook

Tonight marks the launch of The Network Casebook at the Kings Fund. I always love events like this, because it is often a chance to catch up with old colleagues and friends, but mostly because these occasions give me a burst of energy and enthusiasm for some of the things that I am trying to do.

But this event isn't really about my personal utility - the message is something much broader. The Casebook is a collection of quality improvement projects that have been submitted by doctors from around the country, outlining their own experiences of service improvement projects they've worked on.

The Network is all about sharing this kind of experience, but one has to wonder whether it is yet part of our routine. Much of the emphasis that I think we come out of medical school and junior doctor training is quite positivist in its slant - that there is only a message worth sharing, if your project worked, or delivered what you hoped it would.

In compiling the Casebook, we took a slightly different approach, and purposefully chose some projects that failed to deliver. We think that these projects are worth celebrating for a number of reasons: firstly, even though they fell short of the hopes that their authors had for them, they often showed great commitment in trying to drive them forwards. Furthermore, these projects often include some really important learning about how to approach service development that are worth sharing with others new to the field, that you won't find in projects that succeeded.

I remember some of the projects reflecting on the need for senior champions supporting their projects, or on the importance of multi-disciplinary input, or on the need for the project to have relevance to all the people involved in it, not just one professional group. Those are just a few examples - there are many more. Reading peoples' reflections on what worked and what didn't is a powerful experience. Some of the authors of submissions that I read clearly bore the scars of their efforts, and the frustration at having fallen short of their often ambitious goals.

And hearing it first-hand gives it a salience and power that you often don't get from reading it in a how-to guide.

We're quite good at celebrating success, but perhaps not good enough. We're definitely not good enough at celebrating endeavour, regardless of outcome, so perhaps The Network Casebook can contribute to a constructive change.

We received about 250 submissions to the Casebook, and included 50 in the final selection. I salute every one who took the time to send us their projects, but in particular I give an extra wave to those of you who didn't create a lasting change: at least you had the courage to give it a go.

And please, don't give up - if those around you don't recognise what you've tried to do, there's a whole heap of people at The Network who do.

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