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Change happens at the speed of trust

Written by: Sarah Dew - 5th June 2023

“Change happens at the speed of trust” is a phrase I use too often, but it doesn’t feel diminished or less relevant from overuse.

It’s a sign of how obviously true it feels as a phrase that I don’t remember where I first ‘learnt’ or heard it. In looking to attribute the quote (originally from Stephen M.R. Covey’s book The Speed of Trust) I found two useful builds:

From Rev Jennifer Bailey that “relationships are built at the speed of trust, and social change happens at the speed of relationships”.

And from Covey that in organisations or systems, trust affects two key outcomes: speed and cost (I’d argue it affects many more too).

The central importance of trust and relationships are things I’ve been acutely aware of in the first six months of my role as Programme Director of the South Yorkshire Innovation Hub. The Innovation Hub is a partnership between Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) and South Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (ICB), and we help the South Yorkshire Integrated Care System to:

  • Deliver innovation projects
  • Identify unmet needs and relevant evidence and innovation that can help address these needs;
  • Develop a culture of innovation

In essence the Hub helps South Yorkshire ICB to bring innovation to bear on meeting its key priorities and challenges. From supporting new ideas and partnerships to grow, to spreading best practice across the system, the Hub works in partnership with our NHS colleagues, academia, innovators and other organisations part of the South Yorkshire ICS to help innovation to flourish and support progress towards our integrated care priorities.

I’m new to working in the South Yorkshire system, having lived here for a few years but working elsewhere.  But in the short time I have been in post, I have been impressed by the enthusiasm and passion I have seen for innovation. One of my ambitions is to harness this passion by bringing together colleagues across the region from health and care providers, researchers and innovators to community groups and voluntary organisations who share the same vision to create a health and care system where everyone has access to the right care, at the right time, in the right place.

There’s a lot of people you can meet within six months, but it’s not a long time to build the deep trusting relationships you need to help drive the system change we would like to see over the next decade. South Yorkshire’s Integrated Care Strategy sets out a bold vision that ‘everyone in our diverse communities lives a happy, healthier life for longer’, achieving that vision will require acting in some radically different ways.

Too often innovation is seen as rapid flash in the pan projects that don’t lead to sustained change, and research as slow enquiries that don’t get you the answers you need when you need them. Developing a system approach to research and innovation that avoids the pitfalls of both of these (at times true) misgivings is my focus in my role over the coming years.

The foundational relationships I’ve established in the last six months with the networks at the South Yorkshire ICB, from our research and innovation forum, academic partners and professional networks to our colleagues at the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN and science and innovation partners, are the key ingredients to making our Innovation Hub succeed and support system change over the long term.

In these first months in post, I’ve experienced that relationships, trust and therefore change happen faster when you root the relationship in practical work together. Since I have joined the South Yorkshire Innovation Hub, we’ve been busy with:

  • The second phase of an innovation grant with the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Cancer Alliance, which is funding projects to address inequalities in access to care, co-designing new solutions with communities, and testing the role of new technologically enabled models of care
  • The design and delivery of an innovation grant to address health inequalities in our workforce, which aims to invite and fund innovative new ideas to close the gap in health outcomes for the South Yorkshire health and care workforce – recognising the important role we play as an employer in influencing the health of our local population
  • Scoping new research partnerships to understand the impact of remote monitoring tools in social care, address population health challenges identified in our Integrated Care strategy
  • Convening a research and innovation forum that brings together health and care practitioners, research leads and innovation partners to discuss ideas and foster partnerships around key areas of clinical priority
  • Establishing a new system partnership governance forum for digital, research and innovation

None of this work happens within the Hub alone – but rather with colleagues across the ICB and our research and innovation partners. Working together has built stronger relationships, made us more aware of each other’s strengths, and helped to build our trust in the other so that together we can work through a problem to get to an answer.

Over time, these relationships we build as a Hub with our wider system will help us, as Covey says, to “act faster to turn challenges into innovative solutions, and be more efficient and effective in how we do so”. In turn, we hope that the bets we place on innovation will over time improve outcomes for the South Yorkshire population, save our system money, help us to work more effectively and focus our energy on where it can have most impact.

If you’d like to be part of making this change happen, I’d love to chat and get to know you, so that we can start to build the trust we need to make the change happen together.