Head of Dissemination,
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing
I have a confession. On a Saturday night, after a long week at the Centre, there is nothing I like more than to become a fifth judge on X-Factor. As a singer myself, who failed miserably to qualify for the programme many years ago (yes that really did happen!), I feel I am suitably qualified to shout at the TV and provide ‘expert’ comment on the ‘talent’ that is presented before me.
This year, however, I have found myself being more critical than usual with the introduction of Honey G! My argument has been that rap music isn’t just about the ability to string the lyrics together in time with the beat, but actually the talent of the artist to create their own prose and perform them in a way that has you believe in what they are performing. Rap to me is a form of poetry and the value comes from the words that are articulated.
You might ask what on earth this has to do with information sharing. This year our work has, for me, uncovered the same revelation – that language and how it is communicated is an essential enabler to empowering people and communities to share information.
As a communicator, joining the Centre two years ago, I could see the value positive communications could bring to a local place’s information sharing journey. But, as we have become more involved with local places, it has been encouraging to experience the true value good communications actually brings.
Information sharing is a delicate subject. We are dealing with people’s personal information, and understandably with that comes fear and trepidation from both service users and service providers.
Engaging people in an authentic conversation about how and why that information is used is essential to create understanding and build trust. This takes leadership and authenticity, using examples, language and approaches that truly resonate with them. Not having someone read a script or sing someone else’s words (much like Honey G), but to genuinely be able to engage with and get under the skin of the issues and concerns that are being presented before them, in order to shape a solution that is unique to that person or place.
On the converse, tokenistic engagement – whether within and organisation or with a service user – has the ability to not only switch people off (like I did on a number of occasions when that woman in glasses hit the stage), but actually stop them from actively engaging and trusting in anything that is presented before them in future.
This is why the Centre works the way it does. We don’t provide a toolkit or hymn sheet for people to read from, instead we coach and support our local places to collaboratively develop their own information sharing story – their own song, that is sung from the heart using inspiration from their service users and workforce.