Engagement is discovery. It’s the not-yet-known stuff. We engage because we don’t already have the answer and our work is incomplete without it. — Helen Glover
When we were asked by the Queensland Mental Health Commission to tender for a project to develop best practice engagement guidelines for the mental health, alcohol and other drug sectors, we knew we wanted to approach it in a new way.
I can clearly remember the day Melody Edwardson, Rebecca MacBean and I started imagining the process. We began very early in the morning and ended very late at night and always we were thinking: what can we do that won’t just land on services’ shelves and stay there? What will be genuinely useful?
We’ve been working in mental health for a long time and possibly like you, we have seen other initiatives like this over the years. We wanted Stretch2Engage to literally stretch our thinking and be a pathway for health services to creatively re-think how they currently engage with people. We wanted it to be innovative, practical and inspiring.
But how to do it? In our own studies, we are interested in leadership and organizational change and we started to wonder. What if we could shake up our traditional approaches by casting our net into other sectors to learn from the best thinkers in business and the arts?
There are some amazing things happening in other sectors that we can adapt. If businesses don’t get engagement right, they don’t survive so they’re highly invested in exploring how new technologies, methodologies and clever thinking. We decided to create a forum where their experiences and wisdom would spark conversations to re-vitalise our own sectors.
So, that’s how Stretch2Engage was born. It’s essentially a series of vibrant, provocative engagement opportunities, online and off. I call them percolation hubs and through these hubs we will develop the guidelines together. In the final exciting phase, we’ll test these principles with services across Queensland.
Why do we need new thinking?
I love Einstein’s quote that the ‘definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results’. In the past, our sectors haven’t been forced into new thinking. We haven’t had to rely on people’s feedback to the extent that we need to now. With new changes though where our customers are buying our services, the challenge we face is to make sure our services are truly relevant to people’s lives and needs.
Who knows better what people want and need than people themselves?
I’d like all of us to suspend preconceived ideas of how we’ve ‘done engagement’ before and dare to think, is there another way? Let’s not privilege old thinking but keep open. I can say, hand on my heart, that we haven’t guessed yet what these principles could read like, look like, sound like, feel like and this excites me. Though of course, it’s always daunting!
We need the most innovative thinkers, the most curious thinkers to participate in this online forum and also to come to our face-to-face think tanks. New voices are very welcome here. It’s not about your title or role but your passion, brain and values.
My best hope is that when we finally go out and test the principles with services, they’ll say: ‘Oh yes, we can use that…it will help us operate at our best …I see it’s at the core of our work.’
We hope you will be actively involved in this discovery and find something each week, to fire you to comment, tweet and share with your networks.
Thanks for joining us.