Taking time to reflect and build relationships will support improved information sharing

Stuart Bolton, Engagement Manager
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

Following a recent workshop in Surrey where key transformation partners came together to explore information sharing challenges, I was struck by how valuable the time was that they had spent together. Such opportunities are increasingly rare in the pressurised world of public services, particularly a full workshop in which attendees are able to spend time making new connections and sharing common experiences.

The focus of the workshop in Surrey was for partners from a range of services, including the police, mental health providers and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), to reflect on the progress of their own collaborative information sharing experiences.

Surrey has recognised the importance for staff and partners to have the opportunity to collaborate and develop working cultures that are conducive to improved information sharing, and this has evolved as an innovative working environment called SHIFT. SHIFT is a substantial contribution from Surrey which also adds value to where the Centre has been providing support around collaboration and information sharing.

The workshop consisted of a number of exercises designed to further identify successful enablers, as well as continued challenges to information sharing and its role in transforming services.

Despite the collaborative environment and desire of the partners involved to continue to work together, a number of ongoing concerns about information sharing were on the table for discussion during the day, including:

  • How to continue to develop professional working relationships;
  • How to develop and embed trust;  and
  • How staff can be supported to develop the confidence to share.

Colleagues and I worked alongside Surrey to facilitate discussions around these issues and in the final session, we focussed on solutions to the key concerns. The ideas came thick and fast from the range of partners and provided a solid base from which Surrey is going to build.

Adding to my initial reflections around the difficulties in taking time to collaborate and build relationships, I was just as struck by the energy, passion and commitment from partners to share and learn from one another.

This was most evident in the information sharing speed-dating session! The success of this exercise showed that building networks and relationships doesn’t have to be onerous, time consuming or at the detriment of existing work-loads.

It is clear that staff and service providers need opportunities to build relationships and trust with one another, and conferences or networking events should not be the only opportunity to do this. I saw for myself that if leaders and managers can empower staff to build short sessions like these into their professional development, relationships could improve and in turn, support better information sharing.

An ideal example of what the workshop was trying to achieve played out during the day when a participant had the opportunity that they had been trying to initiate for a number of weeks, to discuss a critical matter with a police representative.

Following the workshop, I was left in no doubt that taking time to reflect and build relationships, and be supported in doing this, will empower staff and providers to continue to information share and improve outcomes across services in Surrey.