A different way of capturing conversations

Testing, testing - an exciting Friday afternoon

This feels like a rather geeky confession... but I've had the most wonderful Friday afternoon testing out new microphones for recording conversations with people who give and receive care. It was wonderful for three reasons:

Sunset on Clapham Common

1: Testing these new microphones meant getting outside for a walk in the park. The sun was setting behind bare trees, the air was crisp and the skies were beautifully blue. A smile crossed my face as fresh air filled my lungs.

The fluffy cover is a wind protector. So cute (and practical!)

2: Success! The microphones worked in the park. What's special about these new microphones is that they're lapel microphones. This means they can clip onto your collar to record conversations. In the past I've used a large silver microphone (like on a radio programme) which needs to sit on a flat surface like a desk or table. It's meant that we've needed to sit around that desk or table to record a conversation.

3: Why this matters = these new microphones open up a world of new recording possibilities. I can now capture conversations while walking and talking, rather than sitting still at a table or desk. My hunch is that being free from tables and chairs will feel more natural for both me and the people I’m interviewing. It’ll enable everyday conversations rather than an “on record” exchange.

At the heart of my work at Spark the Difference is understanding what matters to people about health and social care. This involves building trust and rapport with individuals to hear about their experiences and perspectives. In turn, these voices bring life - humanity - to help decision makers make more empathetic decisions about the future of health and social care. It’s exciting to think that technology advances are helping to capture and share this humanity.

What's even more exciting (yes, excitement levels are VERY high today) is that I have an opportunity to put these new microphones straight into practice next Tuesday morning, when I visit The Shed in Tameside, east of Manchester.

About Men in Sheds

The Shed in Tameside is a larger version of a typical man’s shed at the bottom of the garden. It’s a place for men to come together to be socially and physically active and to have a positive outlook on life. It's about feeling at home and pursuing practical interests such as woodworking, furniture repair and beekeeping.

On Tuesday morning I'll be bringing my new microphones along when I meet a man who’s been visiting The Shed for years. His health has recently declined and it’s a challenge for him to get around. He now visits The Shed with a keyworker to help him feel safe and comfortable while he's drawing up measurements and hammering nails into wood. Who or what is a keyworker? It’s a person who works for a homecare provider to provide support for people to live independently at home.

A different model of support at home in Tameside

So, why is a keyworker from a homecare provider coming along to a Tuesday morning Men in Sheds session? Shouldn’t they be supporting care at home?

Tameside Council are working on a new model of providing support at home. The current model involves working through a list of agreed tasks in a determined period of time ('time and task'). It doesn’t leave room for finding out what a person wants - about what matters to them to be well and live well (a person centred approach).

A new person centred approach of support at home involves discussions about what is truly important to the individual about how they're living at home - and what support they need to enable this. It might be being supported to buy a new cardigan, or being supported to figure out how to access those WhatsApp messages on the device their daughter bought them this year to keep in touch with the grandchildren. Or it might be being supported to feel useful and proud when problem solving the woodworking measurements on a Tuesday morning in The Shed.

While the right pillars of care absolutely need to be in place - that care is safe, effective, caring, responsive, well-led - on top of this (or perhaps at the very heart of it), are the little things that make a difference to our days. And these little things don’t need to all take place in a person’s home to help someone feel supported.

OK, so why are there new microphones and why is Spark the Difference involved?

I'll be meeting over a dozen people next week who are involved in this different model of support at home. I'll be listening to their experiences of the new approach. What does it feel like? How is it different to support they've experienced, or seen for others, in the past? What do they look forward to?

Implementing change and capturing evidence to assess the effectiveness of any new model can be a long and challenging journey. By capturing people's stories and lived experiences through recorded conversations and photography, my aim is to shine a light on the humans - and humanity - behind the work and outcomes.

In doing so, we can provide opportunities for moments of empathy for decision makers to step into the shoes of people giving and receiving this new model of support at home.


Want to listen to the conversations?

We'll share the stories and more about the humans we meet in Tameside here on Spark the Difference’s website.