What does it take to build a change platform?
by Gill Phillips

If you had asked me this question a year ago, I would probably have said that I had no idea. And yet a year later, it seems that that is what we have done. On Friday we were absolutely delighted when Helen Bevan and team included #MatExp as one of the top change platforms in a global webinar.
MatExp - change platform

I was sitting last night contemplating this. Then serendipity struck when Jodi Brown, who had co-hosted the webinar with Helen, posted this tweet:

Jenny's bottle of matexp wineI think a big part of my philosophy is not to try to ‘bottle’ something that is a bit magic – other than in this wonderful #MatExp bottle distilled by Jenny Clarke. 😉 People want to feel part of growing something themselves rather than just taking on a formula dreamt up by others, however successful it may be. It always felt like a let-down on Blue Peter when they said “Here’s one I made earlier” and all the fun of discovery was removed.

Similarly, whilst it felt exciting to read a tweet the other day saying that our Whose Shoes? workshops should be ‘mandatory training’ for all, this goes directly against what I am desperate to achieve, which is to help people, users and healthcare professionals, devise and own their own solutions, working together as equals. It can never be a top-down approach.

Florence Wilcock wrote:
Florence Wilcock wrote:
“A very small pilot….!”

The #MatExp journey has been and continues to be extraordinary. Starting as a planned ‘very small pilot’, it has combined the energy of vibrant workshops with the speed and connectivity of intensive social media.

I started using the #MatExp hashtag back in about September 2014 and registered it with Symplur as a way of monitoring its reach. I had previously done this with #dementiachallengers, so knew this would be be important.

I am somewhat blown away by the fact that #MatExp now has over 144 million Twitter impressions.

It has created a virtuous circle. People tweet photos of the workshops, make positive comments about the experience and take real action. As other people see this and pick up the energy, they too want to get involved; as more people get involved, the workshops get even better. In the jargon ( I am not a fan of jargon) we ‘pull’ people in rather than telling them what they should do.

Bazaar - Helen BevanSome of the slides that Helen Bevan included really struck a chord with me.
I absolutely love the idea of comparing building a change platform to running a bazaar. You cannot see anyone in charge but no doubt someone somewhere has thought to get it started in the first place … and then perhaps would be in a lot of trouble if they tried to stop it!

A bazaar is such a colourful, vibrant and slightly chaotic image – it describes #MatExp perfectly.

As you may know, I am not one for a lot of rules. So here, in an unusual ‘tip of the hat’ to a popular formula, I decided to write a kind of ‘List of 10 things’ – the first 10 things came into my head rather than anything more scientific. The whole thing has been a fantastic team effort – the ‘core’ team from the project as originally envisaged made so much stronger by all the fabulous people who have stepped forward as leaders as the campaign has progressed. I have missed loads of things out, for which apologies, but there is masses of #MatExp stuff on the internet so it is pretty much all available to someone wanting to do their own research…

TEN (or perhaps a few more) THINGS…

Toolkit pic

  • We produced a toolkit to support the use of the board games – practical help with running future events.


  • We ensure that everyone has a voice – all perspectives are equally valued.

  • We were invited to be one of the supported NHS change day campaigns. They came to film us talking about #MatExp and what we are all trying to achieve.
    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4upEK33_0U&w=560&h=315%5D
  • We gave the team a few headaches as we wanted to include so many actions. We had a team of people – about 50/50 health care professionals and ‘users’ leading the different actions. These ranged from Skin to Skin and optimal cord clamping at the time of birth, to good practice around communication, supporting mums and families post-natally (including depression) and many other topics.

Click here for the visual story of the Guernsey workshop – including some photos of the beautiful island!

Not sure if that was 10 things. 😉

We have a lot of fun. Online friendships have become real friendships. Collaboration is strong. We encourage each other – and egg each other on. We are impatient for change.

I am not sure how the whole #Matexp change platform can really be evaluated. I think the NHS London Strategic Clinical Network are evaluating the project that they originally commissioned. I think the NHS Change Day people are evaluating the impact of the change day campaigns but hopefully can include the whole project in some way. We will find out more shortly, I think. I find it impossible to separate out different elements – and I think this is the nature of a change platform. I am really hoping that someone can get their head around the whole totality and evaluate accordingly.

Oh and I think I may have graduated from the School for Health Care Radicals last week, in which case I am very honoured. I didn’t get round to buying my gown and high heel shoes in time and unfortunately missed it when I was away at my first maternity conference. It was a JFDI conference pulled together from nowhere by Jane Pollock, @midwife_jane, a fantastic midwife.

And again some of the Twitter friendships became real life friendships.

Including me FINALLY meeting Sheena Byrom! 🙂


I hope you are inspired to join #MatExp – or to build your own change platform. Post a comment to encourage us – and there are plenty of people here ready to encourage you too!

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