Months of connecting: What I have learned

You have all heard me talk about—and write about—my travels over the last 15 months. You have listened to my stories about successful programs, heard me report about what’s working and what’s not working as well, and helped me start to shape this fledgling organization. I have listened to what you have said and acted on your very good advice.

All of this listening came together for me this month as we prepared for an important meeting with our funders. Clearly, National Center is breaking new ground and doing things that haven’t been done before. We have learned a lot, and we summarized those “lessons learned” for our colleagues at the meeting.

The first lesson we have learned can be summed up by the word “hunger” – hunger for leadership and engagement, hunger for “how to” information about integrating education and care, hunger for connections to others with similar interests and issues. What has surprised me is the requests we are receiving from practices about how to implement team-based care, and more importantly, what is the evidence to guide us to do so.

We are responding with a number of strategies.  Our National Advisory Council is very interested in working with us to showcase practices that are exemplary. We’ve also ramped up communication, building our website and Resource Exchange, helping you connect 1:1, delivering webinars and training, and expanding our resources. Last week our staff managed three webinars in which over 450 participated.  We know that the hunger is outstripping our current capabilities, but we are well on our way to meeting that demand.

The second lesson we have learned is how important our “connecting” role is. We had no idea that our connection role would take on a life of its own.   On average 5 – 10 new individuals and/or organizations contact us each week.  Many of these want to share their own work and ask us to get out the word or want to know if their approach is the right one.   It’s more important that you learn from each other than telling us about your own needs, requests and work. The power of technology today can support our work together in new and exciting ways. 

And the third lesson is the affirmation that our focus on information, evidence and data is exactly where we need to be. We’ve been questioned aggressively by vocal skeptics about this focus, but again and again we are seeing that we will need hard data–not opinion–to convince our stakeholders that team-based care and education can truly make a difference in the health of patients, families and communities. Therefore, it’s about helping people finding common ground in the complexity and chaos of the work. I have seen many examples of people not knowing about a parallel program in their own community. I have introduced professionals to each other who I would have assumed already knew each other. I have experienced first hand that the field is hampered by a lack of common language and definitions. What is most striking is that each sector sees the field from its own perspective rather than seeing the whole–much like the story about the blind men describing the elephant.

To some, this is taking the long view without attending to the here and now.  My answer is that it is a “both / and”. We are very close to launching the National Center Data Repository work with the “pioneer” members of the Nexus Innovations Incubator Network. These colleagues all have the need for evidence now for their own funders. They are pushing our thinking about strategies for outcomes assessment of all of this work and investments. Our network of collaborators will be ever expanding.

We continue to learn. And we continue to break new ground. That will never end.

We are working hard to manage the tension between doing it NOW and doing it RIGHT.

We are opting for doing it right, but in a timely way!