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CBC Digi-Hub Blog



Do you speak Esperanto?

By Carmen E Lefevre, on 7 September 2016

By Chris Holmes, behaviour-change lead at C3 Collaborating for Health

“Really, is there need for collaboration? Why? What can another sector bring, be it academic, private, not-for-profit or public that we can’t already do ourselves? Won’t that mean there is less to go round? I don’t know who to talk to. It just gets messy and resources are wasted wading through legalese. (I am a little bit scared)” All things that get said, thought and, in my experience, on too many occasions become reality.

Yet in building things that make a sustained difference in people’s lives, we face diverse challenges that need to be overcome: designing solutions that work, packaging them in a way that engages people emotionally over time and finding a way of sustaining an ongoing cycle of redesign and reengagement that builds and maintains scale.

In my commercial experience, different functions (R&D, production, finance, marketing, sales) often in different organisations provided these diverse skills. There was disagreement and plenty of tension but what brought them together was a common language – the simple profit equation of revenue minus costs – which if not delivered at the right level meant a shared problem – unemployment.

In our hearts, each of us knows that we and our organisations don’t have all the skills needed to overcome these challenges, but collectively we do. Yet we persuade ourselves that delivering the project plan, writing the report, getting published, meeting the funder’s outputs or launching a product defines success. Don’t get me wrong, these are important landmarks in the process but they don’t necessarily lead to sustained, positive changes for people and that is what matters.

Learning a new language is hard, especially when you don’t even know which language you need to learn. For me the question is not whether collaboration is necessary but what common language can bring us together. That’s what this network is all about – finding that common language and learning to speak it.

So, network what is our common language and how do we learn it?


BIO: Chris Holmes recently completed three years as C3 Collaborating for Health’s lead on behaviour change. C3 Collaborating for Health is a global charity that tackles four major chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and many cancers) by focusing on the three biggest risk factors: tobacco, poor diet and lack of physical activity. Prior to working with C3, Chris studied for a Masters, set up NHS London’s Behavioural Insight Unit and led the programme for the Department of Health that became Change4Life. Before turning his attention to social issues, Chris spent 15 years in the commercial marketing field, including the role as marketing director for Mondelez UK’s confectionary business.

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