The Spark: Igniting a burning ambition for scaling changes in the ways we are caring for ourselves and each other

Out of the Ordinary

Joan Pons Laplana, RGN Proud Nurse, NHS Change Day Hubbie and Care Maker

What isThe Spark?

Since the 'Making a difference is 6csy' event last January,  a question has been on my mind:

How do we maintain our balance and build our resilience so that we can continue to offer compassion under duress?

How can I help people, especially front line staff, to develop personal, team and organisational, practices which enable a more consistently compassionate response to be embodied?

We know that when we are feeling persistently threatened with overwhelming workloads, our ability to show consistent compassion is compromised – when our threat and drive systems are out of balance with our safety (soothing) system, we over-produce adrenaline, cortisol and testosterone and under produce oxytocin. As a result, we may lose the capacity to maintain empathy and to respond flexibly to respond to individual need (both our own and others)

So many of us are moving too fast without time to reflect, pause, take a breath and connect with each other. Working in fast paced clinical caring environments these are the conditions in which those who are giving the care may themselves become unwell suffering with stress and burnout.

Compassion is present within us – it is (literally) carried in the body so the challenge is to create the conditions in which our compassion can come to the surface and drive our action and behaviour.

Self-care is integral to sustaining compassion for others and that some simple time efficient practices in the way we meet with each other and think about leadership can make lasting impacts on culture and collective well-being.

With the support of HC Voices and in partnership with Frameworks for Change we have come up with the concept of The Spark; an event on 5 cities in 5 days to give tools and techniques to increase staff resilience and self caring and close the compassionate gap.

What are the aims of The Spark?

  • to ignite a burning personal and collective ambition for changes in the ways we care for ourselves and each other
  • to share personal and collective resilience and self care practices
  • to give space to hear the voices of catalysts for change in health and social care
  • to inspire and enable local people and groups to build momentum and share stories of change in health and social care
  • to lead to the development of connected communities of practice

Why is The Spark important?

The people behind The Spark initiative are interested in the potential power and positive change to be found in a shift to Neighbourhood Health Services.

As Simon Stevens, the CEO of NHS England has said ‘continuing as we are us not an option’ – the way we think about our health needs to radically and rapidly change – we need to see an activation of self-care so that collectively we become healthier and happier.

The five year forward view makes a compelling case for:-

  • a radical upgrade in prevention and public health
  • patients having far more control of their own care
  • breaking down barriers between family doctors and hospitals, physical and mental health and between health and social care.

But if these changes were easy we would have made them already – the ability to make these changes is centred on people looking both inwards and outwards, and building and balancing the sources of energy that are integral to first imagining and then sustaining change efforts.

Our conviction is that with a modest well targeted investment of resources many small changes can be triggered which can create the beginning of a real shift from an unhealthy and destructive environment for many who work in health and social care to healthy happier workplaces and enriched communities.

How does the Spark work?

The Spark is beginning with two intensive high energy weeks of activity in which an inspirational speaker and an experienced facilitator will travel to five of our major cities in a week to speak about the urgent need for change and to make space for dialogue on self-care and the changes people wish to see in the ways we are caring for ourselves and each other.

The events will be hosted and promoted by local catalysts for change in health and social care and will be aimed at people who are committed to inner change and passionate about making the places they live in healthier and happier.

The Spark week 1 is planned for 2nd to 6th November 2015

Leeds                             2nd November

Manchester                  3rd of November

Bristol                            4th of November

London                          5th of November

Brighton                        6th of November

The Spark week 2 is planned for 11th to the 15th April 2016 – at same locations with the idea to evaluate the impact of the Spark and collect stories.

What happens at a Spark event?

A Spark event is designed around three principles:-

  • meeting as a compassionate community
  • safe space for contemplation
  • making a fierce commitment to act

A warm welcome is followed by shared mindfulness so that everyone can join with each other in becoming present and ready to be and think together. Short talks by an inspirational speaker and a local catalyst for change will be followed by reflective period in which participants will have space to think about their self-care, what is preventing health and well-being in the system and what will grow our collective health and happiness. Open space will give an opportunity for invitations, announcements and connections to be made and communities of practice to be proposed.

The participants at The Spark will then eat together in a spirit of companionship.

Where will the Spark events take place?

In spaces which can easily accommodate 80 – 120 people – community centres or halls as opposed to expensive hotels with audio visual facilities and ideally a stage, access to refreshments and suitability for a sharing supper.

What roles are required to make a Spark event a success?

A local host

A local speaker

Inspirational speaker - Joan Pons Laplana, Proud Nurse, Care Maker and Catalyst for Change

Event facilitator - Andy Bradley, Founder of Frameworks 4 Change and ‘Britain’s New Radical’

Further information can be found at:

Spark and the NHS

We have been overwhelmed by the support and passion shown to this project. As we all know, staff in all professions are stretched to the limits meaning that we have to start looking after ourselves and for each other.

With The Spark our intention is to give the tools to the frontline staff to start self compassion and create a ripple effect and starting to create a more caring culture and communities.

We are also intending to measure the impact and capture personal stories from people attending The Spark and gather evidence and data to convince that is worth it to invest in compassion and on the long term will save money by reducing illness and stress and creating happy staff and consequently happy patients.

The Spark is taking shape...

2nd Nov:

Thanks to the generosity of NHS Employers who have sponsor the event in Leeds, The Spark It will take place at Horizons.

I am extremely pleased and excited that Angela Green and Liz Watson have agreed to be our local hosts and we will be launching the Co Creation Networks The idea is to established a Network where staff can refer if they want to improve their knowledge about Mindfulness, creating abetter care culture with the ultimate aim to improve patient care.

3rd Nov:

Manchester (Venue still to be confirm).

Our local host in Manchester will be Helen Sanderson Associates

The focus in Manchester will be about how to create a culture of person centered practices and how can this benefit the staff and patient well being.

4th Nov:

Birmingham (Venue to be confirmed shortly)

Our local host will be Teresa Chinn MBE

The focus in Bristol will be the positive impact that Social Media can have on our well being and the potential of forming virtual communities.

5th Nov:

London. The event will take place at Ghandi Hall

Our local host will be announce very soon.

6th Nov:

Brighton (Venue to be confirm shortly)

Our local host will be announce shortly.

The evnts are free of charge, so why not come along?!