Campaign Kitchen

The campaign just recently attended Patient First conference where we held a Campaign Kitchen.  We had hundreds of visitors to our kitchen, enticed by cake but also enticed by the ability just to sit down and have a conversation with someone about their work, the highs and the lows and what we might be able to help in terms of just listening, or provide some ideas or advice or create connections with other people doing the same thing.  Have a look at our twitter account; @signuptosafety for comments and pictures and our amazing Campaign Kitchen Cartoon.

We were truly humbled by how many people stopped by and how willing they were to share their hopes, dreams and challenges.

I shared our work in helping people talk to each other with one or two of our kitchen guests and they asked me to write up the trio method, so here goes.

The Trio Method

The campaign team have been experimenting with holding conversations about safety.  These might focus on an incident or a programme of work or implementation of a solution or a moment of excellence.  We have written about this in other ways; here in my blog, on the campaign website and in our newsletter.  Some of our members have come to these conversations and then gone back to their organisation to do the same there – we will be sharing their stories over the coming months.

There are two suggestions that go down really well with our members:

  • holding a conversation shortly after an incident
  • holding a conversation between the organisation’s leadership and frontline staff

ONE; Holding a conversation shortly after an incident

This is where on the same day as an incident or a combination of incidents (there never is just the one thing is there)… all members of the team come together and sit in a round.  There is a facilitator who is someone who can bring the very best out of the conversation.  I have steered away from the word debriefing because I am told this has connotations of blame and people are immediately cautious when they think they are going to a debrief but they are much happier if they are joining a conversation.  This is not an interrogation, nor is not a substitute for an investigation if one is required.  There are two main reasons:

  • to explore what happened as close as possible in time – so that there can be some quick learning and maybe even pick out some immediate actions needed


  • to support everyone involved, to truly show people that they are cared for when things go wrong and not so that they end up by going home (perhaps even alone) distraught and unable to cope

It is quite fascinating how the key contributory factors that may have led to the incident happening are often identified at this time and that there are some consistent themes pretty much every time.  This feels so much more proactive that filling out an incident form.

TWO; Holding a conversation between the organisation’s leadership and frontline staff

People tell us that they feel there is a bit of a disconnect between the leadership of an organisation and the frontline.  This is one way you can address this.  It is applicable to a GP practice as much as it is to a provider trust or ambulance trust and so on (i.e. this can work for everyone).

Presuming there are around 12 people or less on your organisation Board or leadership team.  Divide the team into trios – one speaker, one active listener, one observer.  A topic or question is chosen: this could be …..

‘how safe do we think our organisation is and how do we know’ or ‘what kind of safety culture do you think we have in our organisation?’

The speaker is given a minute or two to think about what they want to say so that it isn’t a rush or jumble… then they answer the question based on their own story, their own thoughts and feelings.  They talk for around 10 minutes.

The active listener and observer sit respectfully and really listen to what is being said – only when the storyteller has finished can the active listener then ask clarifying questions (questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no)… this is not about them telling the story teller what they think or what the answer is but seeking more detail.  This usually takes no more than 5 minutes.

The observer notices what is being said, what questions are being asked and then notices the key themes that may be coming out of the story.  The three of them then talk together and agree on a metaphor or visual image that may summarise the story; e.g. it looks light a flock of starlings in flight, or it feels like we are all hitting our heads against different brick walls.  This again usually takes no more than 5 minutes.

So a total of 20 minutes to have a really important conversation.

At the end of this – depending upon the time you have, you could swap roles and do it all over again so that everyone gets their turn to share their story.  However many you do, even if its just one round, the facilitator of the group draws the themes and metaphors into the open so that all can benefit from the individual trio conversations.

This process can then be replicated with frontline teams – all over your organisation and even in really large events with hundreds of your staff.  Same process.  The exciting bit is when you gather the themes and metaphors you can start to look for similar themes and where they may be gaps between the teams and between the frontline and the leadership.

The final step is then to bring the two together and hold conversations between leaders and the frontline staff.  This all along has been your goal – to enable both sides to hear each other’s stories – and to truly listen to each other.

The ingredients you need?

  • Great facilitation
  • Time
  • Venue that can enable you to position people in trios (similar to the world café events)
  • Cakes !

Any questions just contact us at



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