Fire Starter Festival in Orkney

As part of Fire Starter Festival, the Scottish Health Council held Voices Scotland workshops across the country. Today’s guest blog is from Gerd Peters, Local Officer at Scottish Health Council Orkney.


Under an angry grey sky on an icy January morning in Kirkwall my colleague Kevin Ward and I carefully pick our way into fierce headwinds towards the Pickaquoy leisure centre for today’s Fire Starter taster session. We’re looking forward to the day, feeling slightly apprehensive now that this weather might well persuade some in our audience to stay away.


Our aim for the day is to inspire a diverse audience with a shared interest in health and social care to work and learn together in a supportive environment. Besides, Kevin and I are determined to make the most of the potential for team based interactive learning that is the hallmark of Voices Scotland, and with luck ‘spark’ new ideas as to how the public and services can work together well in Orkney.


By 1pm Karen from our Stromness office has arrived and we’ve finished setting up the venue for the session. As Karen welcomes our first guests, we can see others arriving through the panoramic window that looks out over the car park and Kirkwall Bay. By 1.30pm the sky is brightening up with the sun pushing through the clouds, and there are now 11 attendees in the room seated café style around three team stations. Among them volunteers and staff from Orkney College/University Highlands & Islands, the Health & Social Care Partnership, NHS Orkney, Third sector and community groups.


Working from the Voices Scotland course template, Kevin and I had decided to focus on three activities, including working with emotional touch points; thinking about what is effective public engagement; and working together with members of the public and health and social care professionals. This, we figured, would allow everyone to contribute on their terms whilst enjoying themselves and learning something new.


voices 1Keeping our introduction to a minimum, we begin the session by inviting individual participants to reflect on a recent experience of health and social care. Together with saying a few words about themselves, participants are asked to choose an emotional touch point card, and using this as a prop, share their experience with the group. Everyone does and at the end of the exercise a degree of familiarity among participants has developed that sets the mood for the entire session. It also makes everyone aware that beyond our respective roles, occupations and background we are all users of health and social care service in our own right.


voices 2For our second activity we call on the groups to lend support as Kevin charts the organisational structure of health and social care in Scotland on the wall. For this he uses a comprehensive set of logo cards with concise explanations on their flip sides. With the professionals in the room momentarily identifying their place in the structure, the activity inevitably develops a competitive element, which draws everyone into the excitement. Looking at the completed chart we all become aware of the complexity of the Scottish health and care landscape, and there isn’t one among us who hasn’t learned something new.


Our third and final activity consists of a brainstorming session. For this we split into three groups again, each group in turn identifying traits they believe separate health and care professionals from public representatives, and naming benefits and barriers of working together. The task is soon accomplished and the results shared. With participants having worked together so well throughout the session in spite of their differing backgrounds and interests, it now doesn’t take much for everyone to realise that looking out for differences and obstacles is mostly dealing in presumptions and preconceptions.


Calling this into focus we wrap up the session to laughter and an unexpected round of applause!

voices 3
We have achieved what we set out to do: demonstrating the potential of Voices Scotland to empower people who have experienced health and care services to become contributors to making services better


When we say our farewells, the message seemed to have taken hold. Everyone clearly has enjoyed the content and interactive nature of the session, and we have our first taker for the full Voices Scotland session.


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