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The power of a cup of tea

Event title: the power of a cup of tea

Guest post by Dr Dave McKenna

I had a lovely conversation with some Welsh practitioners this morning as part of #CoproWeek Wales, organised by the good people at Co-production Network for Wales.

We were talking about what helps to bring decision makers closer together with the people who use services.

One of the participants described a productive, flexible and supportive relationship that they had with a funder. The pandemic had meant that many plans had to change, and keep on changing, so it was really important that they could be honest and open with each other about what was working and what wasn’t.

One thing that had helped to build this relationship was inviting the funder down (quite a long way) to see the work that the organisation was doing and meet some of the people involved. Nothing much more than that – a getting to know you activity that really helped to build some mutual understanding and help make it easier to be able to share and discuss things.

It also helped to meet on the organisation’s home turf – in spaces where the people involved with the organisation felt comfortable.

This reminded me of something that people involved in the scrutiny of social housing have told me about building rapport with their landlord.

When I asked them ‘what helps?’ they told me that, when they know they are going to work with a new chief executive, they invite them over to the community centre where they meet for a cup of tea. And biscuits. And maybe cake.

They found that this was really helpful for ‘starting off on the right foot’, ‘putting a face to a name’ and ‘breaking the ice’. After that they knew they would be able to work well together and pick up the phone if they needed to.

This kind of informal chat is also a good opportunity to gently start talking about ‘how are we going to work together’, also know as ‘the conversation about our conversation’.

All of which helps to ensure that the ‘serious’ work that follows benefits from the human connection that’s been made at the start.

That’s the power of a cup of tea.

Also thanks to Emma Sandrey for hosting the session and the Co-production Network for Wales for the invite.

This post was written following the discussion at the #CoproWeek Wales 2022 members’ event held online on 19th May 2022. The recording is are available if you’re a member or champion and you would like to catch up on the session content (email hello@copronet.wales). Our thanks to all those who participated.

Our guest speaker and facilitator, Dr Dave McKenna of Constructive Conversations, wrote one of his excellent newsletters to follow up the session. We repost it here with permission. You should absolutely subscribe to the newsletter, it is full of helpful tips to make meetings more constructive and productive.

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