I attended my first 'new format' User Forum celebration last week. The team had found a wonderfully accessible community centre, which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but which was clearly well-used by a number of villages for a variety of uses.
Well, that day, it was all about Papworth Trust filling the many rooms with stands and activities to both celebrate and further enhance listening to the people who use our services and continuing to make sure that they are always at the centre of all that we do.
The day started in the usual way with introductions etc. and then there was a session where those present quizzed the Trustee User Representatives (the service users who are elected to sit at our Board). So far, it had been quite a measured affair. Then it was quiz the CEO! People had questions they wanted to ask me about my opinions on bullying, when will we provide holidays, etc. but it was when Jamie's support worker said that Jamie wanted to introduce himself to the group that things seemed to get going.
Jamie wanted to tell his story, about what he does, what he likes, and what he dislikes. Listening to him prompted others to tell their stories too - about what they do and don't like. Everyone was interested in everyone else.
It struck me that there always needs to be time to tell and listen to stories - people remember stories and learn from them. As we start our new financial year this month, one of the things we have decided to do is tell more stories - on our website, in our publications and newsletters, and when we meet people. In a time of biting cuts and a generally challenging environment, there always needs to be time for stories, because they are about people, and to support people to have better stories is what we do.