You are currently browsing the Ascentum blog archives for January, 2012.
Working Lunch Seminar Series – Crowdsourcing & Employee Engagement
Thursday, January 26th, 2012
Working Lunch Seminar Series – Public Participation
Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
Improving Canadian Health Care through Public Engagement
Friday, January 20th, 2012
With last month’s announcement of the new Canadian health care funding formula, federal transfers to the provinces will continue on an annual increase of 6% until 2017, at which point increases will be tied exclusively to GDP. Without delving into the complex politics here, suffice to say this unilateral federal decision is generating both positive and negative reactions (and the manner in which it was proposed). But what I’m more interested in is how this significant change impacts the ongoing health care debate in this country.
Maclean’s “Best of 2011” featured an article entitled, “Our health care delusion, which brings to light some of the current realities around the functioning of our health care system. According to author Ken MacQueen, a 2010 Commonwealth Fund report found that when compared with the health care systems of a dozen other countries, “Canada scored well on leading ‘long, healthy productive lives,’ but it was mid-pack or worse on every other measure.” In recent years, one major issue that has come to the forefront is wait times, which are “widely regarded as the Achilles heel of the system.” MacQueen explains how these issues have emerged in ERs across the country; yet many Canadians still believe that we have the best public health care system in the world.
So why don’t we address this issue? Some argue that health care reform in Canada carries a lot of patriotic baggage with it, as “intelligent debate about what should be done has basically ground to a halt by incendiary claims that any attempt to update the system amounts to treason- a repudiation of sacred Canadian values.” However, there seems to be a definite need for change as the long-term sustainability of our health system has been questioned more and more in recent years. This presents an opportunity for all of us to reflect on our experiences with the health care system that so many of us take great pride in.
So how does public engagement fit into all of this? Before we can even determine what exactly we need to do, there needs to be opportunities for informing that discussion. In 1964, we had the first “real conversations” about health care in this country with the Royal Commission of Health Services (to get a sense of the conversation back then, check out the full November 2, 1964 broadcast on CBC’s National Farm Forum Radio). When asked about the importance of universal health care (which was only available to Saskatchewanites at the time), the Commission’s chair stated that “there is an obligation on society to be concerned with the health of its individuals.” Even though much has changed since then, the need to engage citizens in the health system will always remain. Why? Consider what citizens represent in the health care context: they “are not only interested representatives of the general public, but are also consumers of health services, patients, caregivers, advocates and representatives of various community and voluntary health organizations.”
So what has been done so far? This past year the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) engaged Canadians in a national dialogue on health care transformation, which consisted of an online consultation process and six in-person town hall meetings, which Maclean’s helped moderate. You can read their final report here.
Let’s just hope that momentum builds and that such efforts continue as we look to 2014…
Working Lunch Seminar Series – Social Media Strategies
Thursday, January 19th, 2012
Paul Born, community conversations and the secret to real dialogue
Friday, January 13th, 2012
Dialogue. We hear this word all the time in the world of community engagement. Nowadays, dialogue can prevail both in person and online. But at the core, the intent is the same: to have dialogue is to take people from all walks of life and bring them together to consider and deliberate on a topic until an understanding can be reached. Dialogue has the potential to bring connection, cohesion, and in turn, community.
Ideally, this is what dialogue is to us. Realistically, though, can it exist? Can true, honest dialogue really ensue between human beings? The reality is every person has their own set of judgments, assumptions and defenses. This was a much discussed point at a panel discussion on Civic Engagement in the Canadian and German Federations held by the Forum of Federations here in Ottawa. The ongoing question lingers: Is it possible for conflicting personalities to put aside their differences, dispel all judgments, and truly see eye to eye?
I recently stumbled across a book called Community Conversations by Paul Born, co-founder of Tamarack, an institute for community engagement. In his book, Born speaks to the concept of “community conversations”, events which take place when people from all backgrounds sit down, dispel their assumptions about one another, and truly “listen” to each other by entering a space of “unknowing.” Only with creating this special space, Born claims, can we push for real groundbreaking social change at a grassroots level. An example would be taking an issue like homelessness, gathering all the key policy makers, like politicians and social aid workers, and sitting them next to homeless individuals to talk about it. It’s fundamentally similar to the work we do here at Ascentum. It’s about putting an issue on the table, confronting it head on, finding a way to relate to it and solving it. It’s about actually listening to people different from you, not just waiting for your chance to talk.
What fascinates me so much about this idea is that it empowers a person’s ability to let themself be vulnerable. I think so many of us have this fear of inadequacy, that when faced with something we don’t know, we become assertive, defensive and aggressive with what we do know. Our opinions become searing daggers, attacking everything in their path. Dialogue becomes a battle; we are afraid of the unknown, so we defend ourselves against it.
But just like Paul Born, this is what public engagement agencies like us aim to change. At our dialogue sessions, we often post “dialogue vs. debate” posters which highlight the difference between the two . Before entering a discussion, we remind participants that “when I debate, I listen to find flaws,” but “when I dialogue, I listen to understand.”
What’s the lesson here? Well, I think we should remember it takes immense courage for an individual to truly listen, put aside their assumptions and embrace the need to learn. It comes down to this: Don’t take yourself too seriously and if you don’t understand something, be open to learning. Let it all shine through; show your weaknesses, be open to changing your views because every experience gives you knowledge, and knowledge is strength.