Children's author, community and charity whizz, fund-raiser and so much more ...
Rachael and I hope you enjoy our Halloween Special in which we explore whether creativity and innovation in health care and beyond needs to be .... SCARY!
Lots of lemon lightbulbs! 🍋💡🍋
See 'chapter headings' for more detail and to pick out your favourite bits, including:
Resources and links:
Parmo to the rescue: https://www.drakethebookshop.co.uk/product/parmo-to-the-rescue/
Rachael talks about Parmo in our pandemic best practice advent video series: https://twitter.com/mrswongwrites/status/1447183915412824065?s=21
Magic mates : https://www.buzzsprout.com/961453/8993457
The FUNdamentals of change: https://steller.co/s/the-fundamentals-of-5BudJkGD2cN
Nobody’s Patient Steller stories for NHS England: https://steller.co/c/6bYrntnVqD9
Room on the Zoom: https://twitter.com/mrswongwrites/status/1447183915412824065?s=21
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My name is Gill Phillips and I'm the creator of Whose Shoes, a popular approach to co production. I was named as an #HSJ100 Wild Card, and want to help give a voice to others talking about their ideas and experiences. I'll be chatting with people from all sorts of different perspectives, walking in their shoes. If you are interested in the future of health care, and like to hear what other people think, or perhaps even contribute at some point, Whose Shoes Wild Card is for you. It's Halloween. And of course, Halloween is scary, and exciting. And for many people, innovation and creativity are scary, too. So it was brillian when my friend Rachael Wong suggested that we link the two and do a special Halloween edition of the podcast. Rachael's a friend from the Cricket Club. She's a truly fascinating person. Every time I meet her, I discover more about her. She's the chair of the Edgbaston Foundation, the official charity of Warwickshire County Cricket Club. She does wonderful community and fundraising work. She's the author of many children's books, including some really innovative work during the pandemic. So it's my great pleasure to have you on the podcast today. Rachael, can you tell us a bit more about yourself? And what's important to you? And should we be scared?Rachael Wong:
Thanks, Gill. It's lovely to be here. And I think we move quite quickly, don't we? We literally came up with this idea yesterday on Twitter with a bit of to-ing and fro-ing on Twitter. And here we are today recording this interview. So we're still agile, despite all our experience in life, put it that way. So yes, bit more about me as you say, I chair the foundation at Edgbaston, which is very much about the community arm of Warwickshire County Cricket Club, thinking about the wellbeing of our community, social inclusion, and using the resources at Edgbaston for the benefit of it of its community, which is something we're all very passionate about at Edgbaston, so that that takes up quite a bit of time. But also, as you say, I have written seven children's books, mainly about cricket, and about football. So three about football, four about cricket, and trying to get that dialogue between the classroom and the playground. So that children who really enjoy playing sport would also pick up a book if it was about a sport that they enjoyed. And likewise, children who enjoy reading would then be inspired, perhaps by the content of the book, and think oh, I'll go and pick up a cricket bat and and try cricket because I enjoyed that book. So yes, thats me, really.Gill Phillips:
And I think you are underplaying it, because I didn't know anything about the book that you wrote with the children during the pandemic, - I thought that was amazing.Rachael Wong:
Yes, now, that was a real experience. And when we talk about creativity and innovation, yes, I've actually got that in my notes to talk about later. But I'll give you a bit of a teaser. It's called Parmo to the rescue. And it was a book that actually started as a series of videos during lockdown on the Facebook page of the literacy trust in Middlesbrough. Middlesborough Reads Facebook page, and we did a story, a story spread over a week in five chapters. And not only did we do it on Facebook, but we did it interactive. So at the end of the day, the children when they had read one chapter could actually make suggestions of what they wanted included in the next chapter the next day. So it was a good job we were in lockdown, because literally I spent all evening and some part of the night redrafting and re-recording the episode for the next day based on what the children had suggested. And when they said things like they walked down the street and met a Brazilian crazy golfer. You're thinking this is a story about a family in lockdown in Middlesbrough. And you know, you're really pushing the boundaries of what I can include in this book. But you know, I've managed to get most of it in, including the Brazilian crazy golfer. So there we are.Gill Phillips:
Such a wonderful story! And I think that's part of how we've connected and become friends, Rachael, because of that whole crowdsourcing and organic and sort of see what happens, make it up as you go along. So you jumped into my Advent series, I seem to remember you telling that story last year. Yeah, and #JFDI you know, like our conversation leading to this podcast, let's just do it. And that's probably one of our key lemon light bulbs for the session. So we've got various Halloween themes, haven't we, Rachel? Yes, we've got ghosts, I believe. What are the ghosts about?Rachael Wong:
So yes, ghosts. I thought my theme here was Don't be scared of the ghosts of past failures. So You know, a little bit like the Christmas Carol, you know, you could lie in bed not wanting to do anything because you're being visited by all these ghosts who are saying that didn't work in the past And you know, that was a disaster. And what's the point of doing anything? And I think my point here was don't things that haven't gone well, sometimes, it's actually not even your fault that something hasn't gone well. It's that circumstances were against you, perhaps it was a great project. But it was just the sense of timing wasn't right, or the audience wasn't ready for it. And, you know, my feeling is if you believe in your idea, or your product, to keep going and to look positively and think, Well, why didn't that work last time? What can I learn from it, rather than just being scared by that ghost of of a past failure or something that hasn't worked as well as you wanted it to? So yes, that was my first Halloween theme but don't worry, these aren't really ghosts. It's just somebody in a sheet - actually It's fine. It's fine. Just keep going.Gill Phillips:
Brilliant. And sometimes they're just imaginary , something that we haven't even done it yet. But we've got that voice, that whatever on our shoulder telling us it's going to fail before it even has a chance. So yeah, we don't want any ghosts, do we Rachael?Unknown:
No, no. And the other thing I was thinking about when I was thinking around this, there's a lot of people out there in the world. I mean, JK Rowling is the classic example. People who you know, at first they weren't successful, they had their ideas rejected, but they kept being persistent and were resilient. And I think I read the same about the chap who wrote the Squid game which is very popular at the moment the series I read that he had submitte the idea to various studios and production companies, and nobody had taken it up until somebody finally did and now it's a massive success. So there's lots of examples out there about people who haven't been haunted by ghosts of past experiences and have cracked on and been successful.Gill Phillips:
Fantastic so let's now put on our Halloween costumes, what are we going to do here?Unknown:
Yes, so Halloween costumes my second theme and was actually inspired by thinking about my own children and the differences between them as people and and how I reacted to them and particularly through their choice of Halloween costumes. So my eldest my daughter had her choice of Halloween costume was always something like the Grim Reaper. Something very scary probably carrying some weapon that involved beheading or garrotting or something like that, because, you know, that is the person that she is. She wants to bowl cricket balls very fast and, and generally be quite scary. Whereas my son is a completely different character. dressed as a pumpkin always for Halloween, you know, he's quite happy to sit with you and have an intellectual conversation about something, loves his food, you know, has a taste for the finer things in life. And so I thought the difference between the Grim Reaper and the pumpkin here, people will choose a different Halloween costume. So what does that tell us about people? Well, people are different. And it would be very boring if everybody came to a Halloween party in the same costume. So let's think about why people do that. And the differences between them and how we react to people - some people, by trying on their Halloween costume and walking in it for a while. What does that tell us about how they're feeling about a particular project, about change, or challenge or innovation, that by actually putting ourselves in their Halloween costume and thinking, Okay, I understand why they're feeling about that. Because from where they're looking at it, you know, I can see that they've got a different viewpoint, and they're worried about x, y, or z, and then being able to sort of understand that, and appreciate the difference in people that, you know, not everybody thinks the same way as I do. And I totally accept that.. So yes, it's being able to work with people, try on their Halloween costume. And thinking about things from their perspective.Gill Phillips:
And of course, that's a massive link to my work. So Whose Shoes is all about looking at issues from different people's perspectives, and walking in their shoes, and then the magic happens and we'll talk a bit more about magic that can come from that. And the lemon lightbulbs in terms of suddenly realizing that somebody isn't just being awkward, perhaps they're scared, or they've just got a different experience, and we need to listen, really listen, and then together, work out what we can do. So in terms of what we're going to do, I think, Rachael, it's time for us to go on a bit of a trick and treat here.Unknown:
Yes, definitely. So Trick or treat. Well, my thoughts on this. Well I don't know whether this is the same everywhere but certainly around where we live people are very conscious that some people are not into Halloween at all, and other people love it. So the sort of signal around here is having some sort of pumpkin or light or candle outside your house which symbolizes to the children in the neighborhood. Yes, this is the house to come to for Halloween, please, you know, please visit this house and, and people around here are quite good at sort of spotting the houses with the with the pumpkin outside or the signal to guide their children towards those houses. And so I thought well, in life when we're dealing with change and innovation and challenge, I think well, let's knock on the doors that have a pumpkin outside because those are the people who were probably very willing to work with us. And so we've got the greatest chance of getting somewhere having some success with that. And that brings me on to the next thing which is curtain twitching. So I'm a real believer in curtain twitching in, in business in life in everywhere,Gill Phillips:
I love the concept of twitching, I really doRachael Wong:
You can go to somebody with an idea and they go Well, not really. not for me not the right time. So then you go to somebody else and it works really well. And the first person's like twitching their curtains going, actually that's work quite well with so and so down the road, what actually we'd like to talk to you about that that's that's a good idea. And so it's this concept of curtains twitching, and people seeing something working, whereas they perhaps weren't ready for it before. But then perhaps they look out their window, they see everybody having fun on Halloween and children, you know, having a great time and decided to, you know, next year, put their pumpkin out and join in. So because they twitch their curtains and see that it was a good thing, and they wanted to do it. And I think carrying that on into our everyday lives and to business and the way we work is sometimes quite a positive way to look at things.Gill Phillips:
And of course, that's where innovation and creativity comes in doesn't it and the permission for adults to have fun as well, not just the children, because that's what unites all of us really. And I think if we can draw people in and be seen to be having some fun, to be seen to be connecting and having this community, it is human to want to be part of that. I was thinking of what you were saying just then with the curtain twitchers and how my work works, I mean it's exactly that - we kind of draw people in. They look and they see what's happening and they want to be part of it. I suppose a bit of a problem for me, a bit of a nightmare on the other side is in terms of perhaps senior people who want to roll something out. And they feel that they want to plant a whole field of pumpkins and scale them up. Before there's any fun or engagement at all. And that doesn't work either. So our approach is very much again a grassroots, draw people in - I love the way you've described it, curtain twitchers will live with me from from now on. And Twitter brings some fantastic curtain twitchers. You know, you get the lurkers on Twitter very appropriately, you know, they're not necessarily tweeting, but they can be watching what you're doing for a long time and then jump in. And that's exciting.Rachael Wong:
Yeah, definitely.Gill Phillips:
So we need some equipment. I think now, Rachael, we need some dragons and witches and wands and a bit of magic, those sort of things.Rachael Wong:
Yes, yes. So So my next thought was around wands and dragons in particular, that are quite recent additions to Halloween and show how Halloween has managed to adapt and develop and add new things, that the idea of Halloween has sort of rolled with contemporary ideas and contemporary programmes and films, for example. So we've added dragons with Game of Thrones, we've added wands and wizards with Harry Potter. So 20-30 years ago, you wouldn't have had either of those things being so mainstream in Halloween, but we've sort of taken what's going on in society. We've sort of run with it and rolled with it and adapted it and kept innovating. And I quite like that idea. And going back to the book I was telling you about Parmo to the rescue that we did in Middlesborough with Middlesborough Reads team, it started off as Facebook videos. And then the lady Ali Potter who's at Middlesborough Reads realised that by putting the text of the story into a booklet during lockdown, she was then able to create a book if you like with spaces for children to make their own illustrations. So while a lot of them weren't getting learning at school, this could be something that could be given to schools and children could read the story. So they were still engaged in literacy. They could also draw their own illustrations and pictures. So they were using their imagination. And so she did that. And she actually then worked together with her colleagues in social services. And Middlesbrough council paid for I think it was 500 copies of this booklet to be produced and given to children specifically who had a social worker. So those children who perhaps were most at risk of not having any education at home, during that time, were given this book, and it was also given to schools as well. So we had a lot of schoolchildren reading this book. And then from there we went well, they're loving illustrating let's have a competition. So from there a month later, suddenly we're having a competition for all the illustrations. We had well over 100 entries. And then we produced actually a proper book in time for Christmas, which then was a bit of a fundraiser for Middlesborough Reads. And obviously, the children had their own illustrations in the book. So the book was entirely illustrated by the children. So not only have the children input to the story, but they'd also done all the illustrations for the book. So that was one thing I'd started as a very simple set of five videos, five chapters in May, on Facebook, and by Christmas, it was a book with all the children's illustrations, and so just really rolling with an idea, not being scared to sort of run with it, pick it up, chuck it about decide what to do with it, and ended up with something that's probably a little bit different from what you started off with. But was brilliant, it was just a great experience for everybody involved,Gill Phillips:
and how special for those children to have their illustrations in that. But what a fantastic thing for them to have for the future. And the link, obviously, back with the NHS, I saw some of the illustrations that were so lovely in terms of the rainbows and supporting and appreciating the NHS workers.Unknown:
Yes. And not only that, but also it was very much about lockdown and the life of a family in lockdown. So it was actually as well as that, a historical document for children and written by children, with ideas from children about what it was like for children in lockdown. And I think in years to come, that will be quite powerful for other children to read. This is what it was like for these twins, a boy and a girl aged 11 in lockdown. And that story I think will be quite powerful, almost like a historical document, as well as a hopefully an engaging story for them.Gill Phillips:
Is is so authentic. And so captured at that that moment in time, I think it's really special.Rachael Wong:
And I think the voice of children is quite often lost during the pandemic, I did notice that and it must have been very difficult for children to think none of this I can relate to and nobody seems to be looking at this from my perspective. So that was one of the aims of the book as well to give children a voice to talk about their experience during the pandemic and lockdown.Gill Phillips:
And I think that whole thing of going with the flow and seeing what evolves and using creative methods. That's something we've very much got in common, I think and, you know, I know with our work, I don't know what people think about our lemons and our magic and our fun. We got into Steller Stories. I don't know if you know, Steller Stories, they're a brilliant way of just capturing little bits of text and photos and videos. And I wrote a Steller Story the FUNdamentals of change with fun, and you know, building on lemons, it starts off with the children's experience at Christmas and how they they like fun, but kind of moving on to Don't we all like fun? So it's very much the kind of thread of what we're saying here I think, and Magic Mates. So my magic mate Florence Wilcock, who is my kind of partner in crime on the maternity experience project, she started a podcast, she started to write blogs, we actually did a stellarSteller story for our reports for NHS England. So we've done a big project a formal funded project together called Nobodys Patient. And we knew that as part of the requirement, we had to do a monthly report to NHS England. We did it as a Steller story. And loads of people read them. And nobody told us we couldn't do it as a Steller story. So that's what we did. We could have assumed there was a rule. I think no rules is another key message. Isn't it?Rachael Wong:
definitely definitely Yes, yes. And I think that brings quite neatly on to the last point which I've just put, my fifth point about Halloween is just terror. So what is the point of Halloween? What is it actually all about? And I think at first glance, you would say well it's about scaring people, and you know, creating a bit of terror and havoc and everything, but underneath that, I think Halloween, all of that is a means to an end. And it is a means by creating some spooky fun of actually connecting with people and spending time with family, friends, having some fun, as you say so fun very much being the theme of it. So actually something quite different from what you think it is initially. And that by being a means to an end, the end game is really important, the outcome is really positive in terms of spending more time with your community, friends in your neighborhood, rather than actually focusing on the scary stuff itself. And, and so I think quite a lot of that is it's the same with change and innovation they are means to an end and the end is always a better outcome. That's what we're obviously working otherwise there's no point in innovating or making change if you're not actually trying to attempting to make things better. So it's that focus on the end game, which is the outcome rather than the process. And again, going back to what you said about bringing people together, I'm always struck when I go somewhere like the British Museum, that when you look through the galleries or things that have survived from 1000s of years ago, a lot of them, you know, apart from the weaponry, but a lot of them are ceremonial bowls, cutlery, jeweller, brooches , they are this essentially party ware from 1000s of years ago. So it shows us that 1000s of years ago, people felt that same need to come together to mark occasions to celebrate, to be together as a community and those are the things that were important enough to build out of materials that would last for 1000s of years. So I do think it's something within us. Definitely that as individuals and communities, we do have that need and that wish to come together. And I think that's great. And I think Halloween is basically just another opportunity to do that.Gill Phillips:
I agree. And I think that in terms of community and the power of social media, so obviously coming together in person, you know, Halloween, it would be local, it'd be with the family and with your friends. But we're so lucky now to be able to connect with people who've got shared interests through social media through technology. And I know with our work, pretty much anything that people come up with, we ask, we invite people to make pledges as to what they're personally going to do to take individual responsibility, because everybody is passionate about something. And if we can link them with other people who've got that specific shared interest, then it's supportive, and it's fun, and we see them not only coming together for work, but making friendships, because they've got the same thing that they're trying to achieve together. And then they become a little bit bolder, and it all becomes much easier, and they're not so scared.Rachael Wong:
Definitely, definitely I love social media. And I've made some really good friends through social media. I have my friends who I see in person quite a lot and my friends who I interact with on social media quite a lot. And you know, I feel they're both friends in the same way. We both have a connection if you like with both groups and and I really enjoy that I really enjoy that aspect to my life. We don't nowadays we don't often live very close to the people who are closest to us. And I think it's brilliant that social media has just brought us all closer together, that distance doesn't really matter anymore, does it?Gill Phillips:
And I think that just brought us full circle Rachael in terms of the agility, the speed with which we came together to put this podcast together, and you tweeting your wonderful Room on the Zoom, which I just thought was off the scale of brilliantRachael Wong:
The witch was in lockdown with some gin and her cat and a big box of chocolates that was making her fat. All I want is to fly every day on my broom, being crowded, like this just fills me with gloom Try Zoom, said her friends, come join and have fun, fire up your laptop. Let's get this thing done. She looked on politely and eagerly said, as she pulled the hat firmly down on her head. I am a witch ,as keen as can be, is there room in the Zoom for a witch like me? Yes! cried her friends, fill your glass up with gin, pull up a chair. Let the party begin. Yes, Room on the zoom was was created during lockdown. Again, it was just one afternoon feeling creative. And it was probably my favorite book that I read to the children when they were younger. And suddenly I just had this moment of this connection between room on the broom and room on the zoom and then suddenly decided to work around that and see what I came up with. But yes, aI mean basically I think that was probably just over 24 hours ago that we had that little exchange on Twitter. And now we've just recorded a podcast on it. That's pretty good.Gill Phillips:
That's pretty good. And I think that sums up what we're trying to say to people. #JFDI. Just do it. Thank you so much, Rachael. It's been brilliant.Unknown:
Been an absolute pleasure. Thank you GillGill Phillips:
I hope you have enjoyed this episode. If so, please Subscribe now to hear more of these fascinating conversations on your favorite podcast platform. And please leave a review. I tweet as @WhoseShoes, thank you for being on this journey with me. And let's hope that together we can make a difference.