Hardwiring Kindness and Compassion into Service-Delivery

Did you ever get that feeling that what you do has suddenly become a lot more personally relevant? I’ve always believed in “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Since my cancer diagnosis this adage seems all the more pertinent. And then the coronavirus panic set in and all of a sudden I realise that I am in a vulnerable category. So the reality is, that I am self-isolating. And yet I have to travel from my home in Huddersfield to Leeds every weekday for radiotherapy. A dilemma. I am so grateful for the NHS transport which gets me there and back every day.

If you read this blog regularly and follow my work elsewhere, you will know that I am an advocate of kindness and human compassion in everything we do, in public services and in all our inter-actions. And I’ve written in the past how these qualities get emphasised during incidents such as heavy snow and flooding and at times of the year like Christmas. The advent of Coronavirus has brought all this to the fore again, especially with the emphasis on older people and people with longterm sickness being more vulnerable. Social media, TV, radio and newspapers are filled with exhortations to look out for vulnerable people who might be self-isolating. Now supermarkets are having protected times for older customers to visit so they can avoid the panic-buying crowds. Heart-warming, isn’t it?

But how long will this public compassion survive the end of this crisis? Can we bake humanity into the actions of our organisations, institutions and policies. What if every single person evaluated their every action at work to see how they would feel if it was being done to them? What if their organisations supported them in making the changes necessary to make this a reality?

Let’s not go back to how it was before.

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Is Devolution really “taking power from Westminster”?

I’ve just seen the West Yorkshire devolution deal described as “taking power from Westminster”. This raises a number of questions, a couple of which are (a) is it really taking power?; and (b) who in West Yorkshire has taken this power?

The West Yorkshire devolution deal has been haggled over for years, and is one of the last “devolution” deals to be agreed between Westminster and local politicians. It is an agreement. And I am 100% sure that it would not have been agreed at all if politicians in Whitehall hadn’t approved every last detail of it. Is this really taking power? I don’t think so. The UK is one of the most centralised states in the world. No subordinate body, beit a Parish Council or the West Yorkshire Combined Authority does anything without the sanction of the national government. And now this national government claims to be giving away power. The devolution deal sets out the terms in which that power is to be given away. It maps out very clear perameters within which the money it is supposedly handing over can be spent. So, in reality, the power stays where it has always been, in Westminster. And you can be pretty sure that if the local bodies deviate in any way from the agreement, then the money won’t be forthcoming.

And to answer my second question. The local body to which the power is supposedly being transferred is the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. Who? I hear you ask. Precisely. Next year we are to be privileged enough to get the opportunity to elect a Mayor to head up this body, and that might give it a raise in profile and focal point, but, up to now, most people in West Yorkshire will not have heard of the Combined Authority, let alone know who makes up its membership. So, even if we accept that power is indeed being transferred (which I don’t), do we know who the people are who exercise this power on our behalf?

The flagship project which these new powers and money are to be deployed on is a rapid transit scheme (tram network to you and me). It would be great to have such an initiative in place, it would solve a lot of problems. But, if the power was really being handed over to the people of West Yorkshire, would this be their priority? What about having enough money to put food on the table? What about social care? What about better and cheaper buses? There are probably very many issues which the public would want to be tackled before we got to putting trams on the region’s streets. But oh, the powers over those issues are not being devolved. So is this devolution worth having in any case?

What do you think?

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While you are here, can I please ask you to take a minute to subscribe to my YouTube Channel here

If you would like to support me to do more of my work in using Digital Storytelling, social media, and video for social good, please consider making a regular contribution via Patreon or perhaps, just buy me a coffee here. I would be especially grateful for this support as I enter my cancer treatment phase.

Practice what you preach (sub-title: I’ve got Cancer)

For more than 10 years now I have been advocating and practising the use of Digital Storytelling for social good. I have worked with professionals in the public and voluntary sectors and businesses to help them tell the stories of the differences they make to individuals and communities, and I have worked with people who have turned their lives around and changed track. I passionately believe that these approaches can be effective in making the world a better place, gaining support for effective approaches, and helping people find solidarity from others in similar situations. I have been a particular champion of people telling the stories of how they deal with certain health conditions so others can learn the lessons they have.

So, it would be hypocritical of me not to practice what I preach wouldn’t it? Well I think it would, and that’s why I am here telling you that last Friday (February 28th 2020) I was told that I have cancer. I was told in a very reassuring manner, and I was immediately told that the doctors think that it is extremely likely that I will fully recover from it, but, nevertheless, I was told something that nobody wants to hear. I have a cancerous tumour in my left armpit. A small lump that I noticed some time ago recently started growing rapidly, and then it started causing me pain, which has got more acute by the week. So, last Friday, I found myself sat in front of a cancer specialist at St. James’s Hospital in Leeds as he told me something that I had been expecting to hear after a series of tests of differing natures. I was expecting it by then because I don’t think you get to meet cancer specialists face-to-face if you are going to be told that you don’t have cancer and have never had it.

The doctor set out the treatment options, which were basically a choice between an operation to remove the tumour followed by a course of radiotherapy; or a course of radiotherapy followed by the operation. I asked what the difference would be, and was told that the former would be the option that got rid of the pain I am experiencing the quickest, but the latter offers the best likelihood of retaining as much of the function of my arm as possible. I chose the latter because my left arm is important to me, especially as I am left-handed.

So, on the 19th March I start a course of radiotherapy. This will involve me attending St. James’s Hospital for an hour-or-so every week day for 5 and a half weeks. Following that, there needs to be a four weeks’ resting period before I can have the operation. After that, the doctor has every confidence that I will be free of cancer.

So, it’s as simple as that really. Of course, nothing is ever certain, but I have faith in the NHS, and I really have no choice to be optimistic about the future. I have some short term pain and inconvenience to endure, and then it will all be back to normal. That’s how I am viewing it, any way.

The biggest immediate issues, are 1) the pain, which can be pretty intense at times, but the doctors have been prescribing increasingly powerful painkillers, which are more or less managing it now; and 2) the inconvenience and disruption of having to spend part of every week day for 5½ weeks in a hospital more than 20 miles away from where I live.

I’ll take those inconveniences, however, if it means that the cancer is dealt with. I’d like to mention that my family, particularly my wife, Portia, have been immensely supportive, and that all this is much easier to deal with knowing that I have their support.

Work-wise, I am going to carry on working through this, so if you, or anyone you know, has a need for digital storytelling, video, live-streaming, or social media support services, please get in touch. It is ironic that I was in too much pain a few days ago to attend a meeting about setting up a support mechanism for self-employed people unable to work (this was before my pain meds were increased). I have no choice but to carry on working, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Since my diagnosis I have live-streamed a two-day conference, as well as live-streaming an evening event in London, jumping on the sleeper train to Glasgow, and delivering a digital inclusion workshop in that Scottish city the next day. I am still capable of working to full capacity and will continue to do so.

And, I will be digital storytelling my way through the process of dealing with my cancer. I hope that, by doing so, I will be able to be of some help to those going through similar challenges.

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While you are here, can I please ask you to take a minute to subscribe to my YouTube Channel here

If you would like to support me to do more of my work in using Digital Storytelling, social media, and video for social good, please consider making a regular contribution via Patreon or perhaps, just buy me a coffee here.