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Taking Collaborative Action to Reduce Inequalities

Author: Josiane Smith & So Jung Rim
Published Date: 11 March 2020

‘Taking collaborative action to reduce inequalities’ was an event hosted by the Health Foundation at the People’s History Museum in Manchester on the 22nd and 23rd January 2020. This two-day conference provided a space and a framework to explore how working across multiple determinants of health can improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities in the UK. The Health Foundation invited SIX to design and facilitate its challenge exploration sessions based on our 10 years of experience in designing, facilitating and hosting global, cross-sector events. 

Tackling health inequality is not just the problem of public health officers, but something that everyone should care about, because it impacts us all. In a recent report published by the Health Foundation, The Marmot Review 10 Years On shows several shocking statistics, not least that the ‘health gap’ between people living in rich and poor areas has in fact widened since 2010. This trend is something that we should all care about - if some of our society loses out, the rest of us lose out too. Health is a matter of social justice and resilience, and it requires far more serious attempts at social innovation going forwards. 

Cross-sector action for health equality

Health Foundation and many other organisations recognise that in order to improve health outcomes and foster health equity, cross-sector action on the wider determinants of health is needed. It requires collective action from various parts of society - researchers, government, civil society organisations, and the private sector. While there are evidence and recognition around the role of societal factors, the changes needed in terms of policy action and investment are still too slow. One reason could be that there is not a wide enough communication on the importance of this yet and because of the siloed nature of our institutions, nobody really sees it as part of their job.

We think that ‘Taking collaborative action to reduce inequalities’ event was a brave starting point. It brought together people from different sectors including public health, local authorities, charity organisations, youth organisations, private sector organisations and think tanks in the same room for the first time to understand each other and the challenges from different perspectives. It also weaved stories of lived experiences and voices of young people into the programme. We were pleased to work in collaboration with an organisation like the Health Foundation, not only because of its exploratory and open attitude towards achieving its goals but also because we were excited about being part of a movement that would lead to a radically new kind of conversation about health.

What SIX did as a facilitator

Using the work SIX has done through its three-part social innovation and systems thinking workshops for foundations, we were guided by several key questions for the event: how can we foster new relationships between like-minded people and organisations who are all trying to tackle health inequalities from different angles? How can we bring diverse perspectives and fresh challenges to existing paradigms? And how can we build collaborations across organisations and sectors through social learning techniques? 

Given that one of the Health Foundation’s ambitions was to bring together a diverse group of actors from across the UK, it felt important that this event took place outside of London, in the vibrant city centre of Manchester. Moreover, as facilitators, we also witnessed the importance of starting with the end goal in mind: the conversations before, as well as at the event, prompted new links and opportunities to catalyse wider, more purposeful action across the determinants. Finally, the way that the Health Foundation used co-production with its supporting partners as well as its attendees, reinforced their hypothesis that despite obvious differences (across the country and across issue areas), working together will ultimately strengthen the impact for all.

For more information

The unique write-up SIX produced for the Health Foundation is available upon request. If you think that the Systems Thinking in Context and Practice trainings could be valuable to your organisation, or if you are interested in what this kind of conversation might look like for an event you are planning to host, you can get in touch with our Partnerships and Growth Manager, Josiane Smith, on josiane@socialinnovationexchange.org.