What can one person do to achieve change?

Here at MFC, we’ve recently been talking a lot about how to achieve change. Smaller changes, huge changes, changes for the better. Last month we ran a Families Webinar called “Achieving far-reaching change after a serious incident” and the presenters at this webinar spoke about what they have been able to change following the deeply traumatic deaths in healthcare of people they love very much.  

So often, in circumstances like this, the work we do feels as if it’s powered by the need to make a legacy for the person we have lost. But in the real world, this is often very difficult. In fact, it can feel almost impossible as if what you want, isn’t the same as what the people with decision-making power want, what change can you really affect?

Here at MFC, we were once a group of grief-shattered people with nothing in common except the pain of our bereavement. Then we were brought together with some healthcare professionals who were passionate about achieving change. We found that we all wanted the same thing, and that made our voice and our work uniquely powerful.  

Here, Dorit Braun reflects on how she feels about being just “one person”, but still achieving change. We suspect a lot of people will find her words resonate with their own experiences, so we’d like to share them with you.

“Some of us who have been affected by avoidable harm in the NHS have huge ambitions about the changes we would like to see. To recruitment, training, and supervision. To attitudes. To the entire system. Not just the NHS, but also the police, coroners, social care. It can feel overwhelming and impossible. 

Many years ago, as a young woman, I also wanted to change the world.  I wanted the inequalities within and between countries to be reduced. I’d lived in Colombia and I longed to go back but agonised about how in going back as a relatively well-educated and wealthy person I would just add to the problems of inequality.  And that if I joined in efforts to do something about it – well shouldn’t I put my own house in order? Which I tried to do. I took a job working with teachers to support them in teaching about our relationships with other counties, to support them in considering complexity and that there are no easy answers or even straightforward questions.  I was on a train going to meet an academic in Swansea to explore how his work might contribute to a project we were developing. The train broke down. It was winter and there was no heat. Diagonally opposite me sat a man and we got talking. He was a psychologist – or maybe a psychiatrist.  In the conversation, I revealed some of my anxieties and ambitions.

This man gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have ever had, and it’s one I remember regularly and share with others too.  He told me, one person cannot change the world, but you can influence every person you interact with. Not only is there a truth to that, but there is also an important purpose. We can and should treat each of our interactions with anyone and everyone as important and potentially influential. Doing that gives me hope.”

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