We have all had to find new ways to connect with people. One solution borne out of a leap of faith was the brainchild of Alex Purvis, Enate’s Sales Director (pictured top left). In this month’s blog, Alex talks about how an innovative and untested idea grew into something hugely rewarding, with a strong community, friendship, and sense of true corporate social responsibility.
W(h)ine Club came about following our networking events being cancelled due to COVID-19 – and the fact that I wanted to continue to see, speak to and drink with people! The concept was pretty straightforward: use video conferencing and wine to bring thought leaders and experts together to brainstorm and hopefully navigate our way through some key societal and business issues caused by the pandemic. The rules are simple: no hard sell, relax with a glass of wine and share ideas.
My colleague, VP Martin Boakes (pictured bottom row, centre), and I, had an idea of who we would like to invite; we would include those who were already vocal on the types of topics we hoped to focus on, and enable some who perhaps were not as vocal within the industry or on social media but could provide us with specialist insight, to help the group consider matters that we wouldn’t normally encounter in the day to day. We took the plunge and hoped our experiment would pan out, and with the premise of ‘bring your own wine’ and a 6-week trial, we nervously waited to see if anyone would log on.
Two months on, and W(h)ine Club now has a guest list from some outstanding corporate entities including Aviva, Biffa, Ricoh, AstraZeneca, GSK, Zurich Insurance, and more, in addition to intelligent automation specialists from Symphony to ISG, along with a range of NHS specialists, including professors and surgeons, from Great Ormand Street, Royal Marsden, Alder Hey, Children’s Health Ireland and NHS Digital.
We now have a delegate list of over 50 people, and it is important to clarify that these are individuals who may normally compete in the corporate world. As a new member brings us a new challenge, those who were once competitors are now promoting each other’s products and services and tagging together technology to offer end to end solutions for the greater good. Martin and I have been truly humbled during this process - everyone involved genuinely wants to help and collaborate, yet prior to W(h)ine Club most members had never met before. This was not a pre-existing network; this is a group of people brought together to work in an entirely different way – it’s a new experience for everyone involved. And of course, this is on top of everyone still doing their day job.
So many of the attendees are from big corporates who have a Corporate Social Responsibility scheme, but actually they’re choosing to give up their personal time for the W(h)ine Club because they recognise that their knowledge and skills are so relevant to the club’s aims. There’s no greater feeling than applying your skills in something you’re passionate about to a genuine requirement and a good cause. The members feel empowered because they can actually solve these problems, but the fact that everyone is offering their resources and products for free has totally overwhelmed us – the level of goodwill shown by the group is inspirational.
Working with the NHS naturally evolved via introductions from members. When an NHS professional comes on to articulate their challenges, some are struggling to find a solution to a tangible problem, some are looking to discuss more thematic issues. With chief surgeons, professors, and other experts joining the weekly call, one of the key areas of discussion focussed on supporting the mental health of key workers. In fact, the theme of PTSD is now probably one of the most frequently discussed topics as doctors and nurses struggle to cope with the horrors of COVID-19 on their wards. Consider the impact of your daily working environment if it’s on a ward of 24 patients, all lying prone, ‘faceless’ and struggling to survive. The realities of providing critical care during the outbreak will stay with staff forever.
The difficulty in addressing mental health, as we’ve learnt from one speaker who is an Oxford University Professor and the world’s foremost authority on the study of Optimism and Depression, is that as a taboo subject for so many years, virtually no funding was given to mental health research. Now, we’re thankfully at a point in time when the general acceptance is that mental health affects almost everyone, but there is still so little evidence on which to build solutions, pandemic or otherwise.
In that sense, we try to keep in mind the front-line worker during our conversations. It’s unlikely that the group will build a mental health app (they already exist), but whatever we are putting together has to somehow either give back time or make life easier and solve a genuine problem – it’s no good introducing technology to a situation just so a trust can say that they’re using a certain tool. That being said, on the substantial list of solutions we’re now working on, one in particular uses complex machine learning to prioritise the rebooking of patient surgeries, to make sure the person at the top of the list is actually the one most in need, and no one is overlooked. Most importantly, over several weeks of collaboration, many NHS trusts are now aware of a network of people willing to help and are coming forward to speak with us and address the old adage: ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. We were extremely proud to find out that W(h)ine club was a topic at a recent Great Ormand Street board meeting and we’re looking forward to welcoming more trusts as they hear of us.
None of us know when the pandemic will end, when the lockdown will lift, or how the new normal will evolve. What I do know is that, thanks to W(h)ine Club I am now part of a highly engaged, generous, professional community. We have built trust and even friendship. I eagerly look forward to the day when we can finally meet together in ‘the real world’ to share a glass of wine and carry on the conversation.
Martin echoes Alex’s sentiments.
“The success of W(h)ine Club is a massive achievement, and that is down to the people within the club reaching out to others with support and bringing them into the conversation. This is about a group of people wanting to get actively involved and the willingness to help, particularly with regards to discussions around PTSD, has been truly overwhelming. Thank you to all of those who have been part of this experiment – not only has it worked for good, but we have learned so much which will continue to shape the way in which we work. I will look forward to the next one.”
To find out more about Enate and how we can help, see www.enate.net.