We help health and social care decision makers understand and act on what matters to people who give or receive care. We do this by supporting decision makers and their teams to use a range of person centred engagement strategies, tools and techniques. You can read about our approach below.
We show up in the world by being curious, creative, courageous and consistently working towards our mission. We light up when igniting passion and possibilities in people about care.
What gets us out of bed in the mornings and keeps us going is a dream to bring humanity into every interaction in health and social care.
If there’s one thing we’ve heard consistently over the last three years of our work, it’s this: it’s the little things that matter.
The small sparks that can – and do – make all the difference.
Our approach: Spark’s 4Cs of engagement
No two people, teams, organisations or communities are the same and we don't offer an 'off the shelf' engagement template with a series of checklist tasks.
Rather, over the past three years we’ve found there are four principles that we keep returning to. We’ve tested these with 12 different teams and found that while every problem and context is different, there are similarities and learning that we can share.
We’ve brought these principles together in Spark’s 4Cs of engagement. Decision makers we’ve worked with have found the 4Cs to be a useful framework that they can adapt details and processes within, to address the problems they’re facing.
Spark’s 4Cs of engagement are:
This first C (“Converse genuinely”) is about creating connections and conversations to understand what matters to people. This means taking the time to listen and understand people's lived experiences of giving and receiving care.
There are many ways to do this. It helps to have conversations in a supportive, independent and impartial space so that people can reflect and share what matters to them about their experiences of care. In these conversations, check your understanding and test your assumptions of what you think people are saying. It can be tempting to jump ahead to the solution you think is best, but time invested in these conversations will add so much value in the long run.
The second C (“Capture sensitively”) is about recording and sharing what people think, feel and say in a positive and constructive way. Much like having conversations, there are many ways to do this. You might want to consider how to capture these conversations creatively. For example, you could use visual minutes, portrait photography, audio recording, written stories or written insights. Having this creative output can help to authentically bring people's voices into rooms and places they wouldn't usually be heard. Leaders often expect to just see a PDF report. Seeing or hearing something in addition to this helps create a different tone and space for discussions.
This can be a very visual phase with some really exciting outputs. People love listening to and sharing these stories - they feel real, personal and different. You don't need to be an award winning artist to do this! Sometimes a best effort attempt captures the spirit and sentiment perfectly. Don't underestimate the impact you can have on someone by deeply listening to them and capturing their words and feelings with care and attention. It might be the first time this has ever happened for them.
The third C (“Small changes”) is about bringing insights together to help decision makers understand what matters to people and act on what’s important. This ‘change project’ part can be one of the most confusing, frustrating and challenging parts of broader engagement (but also one of the most rewarding and impactful!). There are lots of processes, tools and techniques out there. You might have heard of PDSA cycles (Plan-Do-Study-Act), Experience Based Co-Design (EBCD), Patient Experience Toolkits (PET), the Lean Start-up methodology, Prince 2 project management (and more).
There’s many ways of doing this and this can be where a lot of projects get stuck. Choose a process/methodology that works for you and your team. Starting small and changing things little by little can help. It's often easier and a lot less demoralising to build on something small that works, rather than to create a giant plan and have it fail at step one.
The fourth and final C is celebration! This is about shining a light on the impact of your work and moments of humanity in care. In order to celebrate, you need to know what you're celebrating - how do you know things have changed for people, systems, organisations and communities?
What have you noticed? What have you seen, heard and felt? What differences have you sparked? Hopefully you'll have looked at how to identify and measures these changes in the work underpinning the 'Small changes' principle. Remember to share both the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ measures. While it can seem more substantive to an organisation that bed days reduced by X% which saved £Xs (the "quantitative" measures), don't underestimate the importance of sharing some of the softer changes, such as how a patient and their family felt when the patient knew what was happening next week in their care (the "qualitative" measures). What feedback have you heard from patients, their families and staff about the difference this work made to them? What difference did it make to be listened to, and involved, in the first place?
What do you think of Spark’s 4Cs of engagement? What questions does it raise for you? We’re working on creating a series of posts that dive deeper into some of the practicalities, so please do let us know your thoughts and feedback.
If we can help you think through or work on your engagement strategy, tools or techniques further, please get in touch. Your messages go straight to our Founder, Sam Meikle. We can arrange some time to chat (over coffee, by email, phone or Zoom/Skype) about your health and social care engagement ideas and activities.