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Reasons to be Cheerful!

When I last put pen to paper I had framed the issue we were dealing with as a Wicked Problem and in all honesty, we have been experiencing challenges in the implementation of our Living Lab that testifies to this.

Some of the characteristics to Wicked Problems as first identified by Rittel and Weber in 1973 seem very relevant to HI Brighton;

  1. We don’t have a right or wrong solution just better or worse

  2. The problem is never ‘solved’ or stops

  3. Our ‘problems’ are actually symptoms of other problems

These are but a few of the difficulties we’ve encountered in our attempts to use our Living Lab to improve the management of long term conditions and for health promotion.

However, given the time of year and taking a leaf out of a podcast I’ve recently discovered I’d like to focus on our reasons to be cheerful!

A recent meeting with my Darzi Action Learning subgroup to whom I explained the frustrations and difficulties in dealing with problems that seem not to have answers led to a very insightful conversation. Although it wasn’t clear to me, being so involved in the project it was clear to them that we have framed ourselves as a Test Bed. To them it was perfectly natural that our Living Lab would be exploring solutions and testing hypotheses and we’d have little knowledge of the outcome before the trials began. This was a very refreshing take on things and I must confess, our Citizens actually ‘got it’ better than me! From our conversations, many of them have expressed how they see their role; as citizen testers, providing vital knowledge that may or may not benefit them but hopefully will benefit others.

I wonder if this concept of a Living Lab does then offer some protection against some of the other characteristics of Wicked Problems that hinder solutions, for example it is often said that wicked problems have a ‘one shot operation’ because each attempt significantly alters the problem, therefore there is no ‘Trial and Error’ learning that we might apply in other situations. Within a Living Lab however, with all parties’ clear in the understanding that hypotheses are being tested it seems like we have licence to learn through ‘trial and error.’

What else am I cheerful about? The successful launch of #LivingLabBrighton helped us move a step towards squaring the circle that is problem 3). As highlighted in previous posts, the difficulties surrounding the management of chronic disease and health promotion are simply symptoms of problems elsewhere. Trying to fix one without addressing the others is madness. This picture (an early draft during our project planning phase) is a gross simplification of the complex network and relationships that currently exist but it illustrates some of the challenges the Living Lab faces.

This highlights just how important it is to get the right people in the room and to understand the perspectives of each and every stakeholder in order to develop a solution that tries to work for all. By holding events like our Launch, we go some way towards getting these stakeholders around the table but we need to do more and that’s what we have planned for 2018!

So as I sign off for 2017, I wish you all a lovely Christmas and Happy New Year!