Marshmallow towers and strong triangles

Charlotte PiperCharlotte Piper, Assistant Director
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

My daughter is mad about science and as it was her ninth birthday recently, we concocted some exploding experiments that created lots of dramatic chemical change (i.e. fizz!) to delight the crowd.

The momentum of the fizz left me contemplating how change in organisations and in partnerships is rarely so dramatic. Instead, it is often thoughtful, collaborative, and of course, much slower. More like building towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows.

This is what the nine year-olds at the party were more focussed on anyway; aiming for dizzy heights rather than ensuring their towers were structurally sound by applying, for example, the strong structure of a triangle.

Strong triangles got me thinking again, this time about the three aspects of information sharing and how, when they are addressed together, they are more likely to achieve change, than if efforts are focussed on only one or two of them.

Three elements to information sharing: information governance (the rules), technology and culture
Three elements to information sharing: information governance (the rules), technology and culture

In its response to the Service Transformation Challenge Panel report, the Government has encouraged a focus on collaboration between frontline services to support people with complex and multiple needs. The local places we are working with are looking to transform their services, and the success of this depends, in part, on information flowing across organisational and service boundaries.

The Panel Report and the Government response both highlight the importance of information sharing in service transformation, recognising the role of tackling the cultural barriers, as well as the legal and technical ones, in order to improve outcomes for people.

Although the legal and technical aspects of information sharing can appear more alluring and tangible as solutions, we have found that the root problems are often cultural. Not to mention that legal and technical solutions themselves, also often require attention to culture if they are to be implemented successfully.

As well as supporting local places, we are also working in partnership with government departments and national agencies, to streamline approaches to information sharing and to highlight common factors that influence information sharing across a range of policy areas. In order to provide stable and lasting change on the ground, we also encourage national partners to build strong triangles around information sharing, rather than race to build high but fragile towers of technology and legislation.