Editor's Note: Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation, and Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading were asked to present a workshop on “Sustaining Collaborative Networks” for a signature initiative of 100 Million Healthier Lives, SCALE 2.0. SCALE 2.0 communities gather several times each year to participate in a CHILA, Community Health Improvement Leadership Academy. SCALE 2.0 helps to develop a set of skills and behaviors that can lead to culture change and sustainable improvement in health, well-being, and equity. SCALE 2.0 is funded through the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and created as a collaboration between the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Communities Joined in Action, Community Solutions, and the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement.

The first slide for our workshop read "Change Happens at the Speed of Trust. The activities in this section were designed to establish relationships. Debra introduced herself and gave a short description of The Patterson Foundation. I introduced myself and shared a quick look into the work of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Each participant shared their name, the community they were representing, and a short statement of what they hoped to get out of our workshop. Then, we broke out the markers, some blank puzzle pieces, and started to color.

What? Color? As part of a professional learning experience? And, as long as we’re questioning things, why did we take ten valuable minutes to have everyone introduce themselves? Wasn’t that a waste of our time?

Before I answer that question, let me explain what everyone was coloring. Each person received two puzzle pieces. On one, they drew their name. On the other, they drew a symbol of something that represented them or was meaningful to them. Then, each table came up with a name for their group, which they wrote on two puzzle pieces. The next few moments were spent assembling the twelve puzzle pieces into a whole.

Oh my goodness! How long did that take? Didn’t that eat up entirely too much time?

Within the first 90 seconds of the puzzle activity, we heard laughter coming from each table. Participants were smiling at each other, and explaining their symbols to each other. In fact, we had to ask more than once for the group to refocus and bring their attention back to the front of the room.

It was fun, but that doesn’t answer why we used the first precious minutes on a coloring activity. Consider this, Change happens at the speed of trust, and building trust requires shared action.

The workshop participants shared an experience. They heard each other’s voices, learned each other’s names, shared a few laughs, and risked sharing some personal details about what matters to them. Some shared their vulnerability, saying “I’ve never been good at coloring,” or “I’m not an artist.” The air in the room changed as they worked as a team to select a name and create a whole puzzle out of their individual pieces. In a small, yet, very real way, they took the first steps in building trust by creating relationships. The activity required them to share something of themselves, to cross the bridge from being a bystander to being a participant.

Trust is built through shared experiences and comes from a sense of belonging. Belonging to a group, belonging to a place. Sharing actions, sharing our words, and the risk of sharing our authentic thoughts are the seeds of trust. The participants, through this exercise, belonged to each other. They belonged to their table group. I imagine for the rest of the conference, when they saw each other, they shared a smile of recognition or maybe even conversation.

Interestingly, when each person first shared their short statements of what they hoped to get out of our workshop, more than half expressed they’d like to know more about how to build trust. It was rewarding to see them understand through their actions with the puzzle exercise, that building trust requires us to share who we are as we participate in a group with both words and actions.

This concept can influence the way we choose to work with each other. Taking a few moments at the start of every meeting to share a bit of what makes us human pays off in increased trust and increased speed as we work together to build the change we would like to see.

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