Campaigner, Black Country Neurological Alliance (BCNA)
In October 2016, Bryan set out on a personal fundraising challenge to walk 500 miles in 365 days – a goal made all the more impressive because he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in 2006. But he wasn’t only walking for himself. Just three years after Bryan’s diagnosis, his wife found out she had multiple sclerosis. Ever since, Bryan has been campaigning to improve the health and social care support available for those with neurological and neuromuscular conditions and to influence positive change.
In 2012, Bryan responded to a local advert to join a new local initiative: the Black Country Neurological Alliance (BCNA). He started campaigning more actively: speaking at events, chairing networks and joining strategy groups. Bryan keeps a feeling of momentum by viewing the experience he has gained and the tangible outcomes achieved as a series of small bite-sized steps. He explains: “I realised that our aims are part of a marathon not a sprint. In a constantly changing health and social care landscape that is under enormous pressure, it is important we are seen as a knowledgeable and understanding voice with realistic and adaptable expectations.”
The BCNA works to encourage better collaboration and influence positive service development for neurological and neuromuscular conditions. Its campaign Question Time for Neurology – Continuum of Care aims to raise the profile of these conditions across the four areas of the Black Country, so they are included in any long-term conditions strategies and cross boundary commissioning agreements.
Question Time for Neurology events stimulate conversations between a panel of health and social care professionals (across the continuum of care from pre-diagnosis to end of life) and a public audience directly or indirectly affected by complex neuro conditions. The emphasis is to offer a better understanding of the needs and desires of patients, while considering the constraints of the system.
Bryan remembers, “to start with, as a local alliance, we didn’t really reach the right audience. We used to run events that were well attended, but there were few interactions between people and limited outcomes. I felt we needed to change the emphasis to be less about the presenters and more about the audience being in the driving seat – to make healthcare professionals think in a different way by considering how their services are received”.
Bryan attended the Influencing Change course in Birmingham in 2017. It reassured him he was on the right track with his campaign, but it also made him aware that, to have more impact and reach, a better targeted social media strategy was required.
“For me personally, the course has given me increased campaigning confidence. I revisit the course content repeatedly to use different approaches at different times to constantly fine tune our strategy,” says Bryan. He particularly valued the session on theory of change and impact measurement: “we looked at the small incremental stuff we could do and what success looks like at different times. It is key to capture the moment and feel good about it!”
Perhaps most importantly, Bryan’s newly acquired campaigning and influencing skills mean he is really starting to be listened to: “I now have a better understanding of the strategies adopted by commissioners and healthcare professionals. I can collaborate better with them and be seen as a credible voice”.
What was the best thing about the ‘Influencing Change’ course?
“So many aspects, but if I was to pick one it would be the “Theory of Change” (which covered the building blocks and steps needed) and the opportunity to meet so many individuals and talk about their approaches, challenges and successes.”
Why would you recommend to someone else?
“If you wish to make a positive difference, build your confidence, learn new influencing skills and meet others with the same desires, reservations and personal challenges – GO FOR IT! You will be surprised by those on a similar journey to yourself and you will learn so many different approaches and strategies to get your message out there!”
Your one piece of advice for someone else trying to achieve change?
“Don’t be daunted or overcome by the perceived challenge of breaking down the barriers to meaningful dialogue and influence. Take instrumental small steps, learn from them and capture the knowledge and outcomes. Build the pathway to the goal – cement stable steps.”