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The Q Improvement Lab is piloting an innovative approach to collaborative problem solving, testing the process of working on a single challenge for 12 months, building on existing knowledge to generate ideas, test solutions and share the learning.

In April we announced the first ever Q Lab challenge would look at peer support, specifically what it would take for peer support to be available to everyone who wants it, to help manage their long-term health and wellbeing needs. We are now five months into this exciting venture.

The Lab’s recent two-day workshop marked the end of the first phase – ‘research and discovery’ (although to be honest, the Lab will not stop learning and discovering) – and the beginning of the next phase: ‘developing and testing ideas’.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you what we have done so far but more importantly, our ideas on what the next phase looks like and what we will be working on.

Phase one: research and discovery

The purpose of this phase (April – July) was not to jump to solutions, but to build on existing knowledge and look at the challenges facing peer support from a variety of perspectives. We did research, conducted ethnographic interviews and worked more broadly with a diverse group of over 100 people who volunteered to be involved in the Lab (‘Lab participants‘) to bring together their insights and expertise.

The ‘research and discovery’ phase culminated in a two-day workshop attended by 55 people from across health and care and with expertise in or experience of peer support.

On day one we explored four broad challenge areas that had emerged from the first phase: 1) access, 2) culture and buy-in, 3) evidence and 4) workforce. We considered these from a range of perspectives, purposefully diverging our thinking and identifying multiple nested problems (smaller, contained problems) as well as connections to wider systemic issues.

On day two we took forward a small number of issues and began generating possible ideas and solutions, thinking about what actions could be taken to make progress at different levels.

This blog as a short summary of the workshop is a dis-service to the vast amount of insight that was generated across the two days, both in terms of specific ideas and in the richness, depth and honesty of discussion. Take a look at our live-blog to get a fuller picture of what we did over the two days. A detailed summary of of the outputs and insights from the workshop can be found here.

Phase two: developing and testing ideas

Since the workshop, the process of pulling together the outputs from the exercises and capturing the discussions has not been easy and has been an iterative process taking place over some weeks.

Having distilled the issues from the workshop and tested our thinking with a few workshop participants and others who did not attend the workshop but with experience of peer support, we have defined three briefs that the Lab will focus on in the next phase:

  1. Developing ways to show the impact of peer support, that values lived experience alongside other measures and metrics.
  2. Overcoming issues that get in the way of people routinely referring to peer support.
  3. Supporting the sharing of what does and doesn’t work in peer support, both amongst the Lab participants and with our peers, colleagues and wider networks.

These briefs will not sit in silos but will interlink and feed into each other. These briefs will also make the most of the Lab’s resources – including the wealth and knowledge of the amazing group of Lab participants working with us.

Although these three briefs will be the Lab’s main focus for all of us to work on together, we know that there is a lot of enthusiasm and energy for other ideas and areas to work on. We want to encourage and support people to build on their own ideas – taking into account the research and insights unearthed through the Lab process to create local improvement, which will, in turn, feed back into the Lab’s learning.

Details about proposed methods of working will be shared over the next couple of weeks as we develop the detail of each brief with those involved in the Lab and in peer support. In addition, we will continue to develop an online infrastructure on this website to support those involved in the Lab to connect and collaborate.

Next steps

These ideas have been developed with Lab participants and a number of others who are involved in delivering or receiving peer support. For those involved in the Lab and/or peer support, how does this sound to you? Do you have any feedback on the three main ideas? Is there something missing?

If this is your first introduction to the Lab (hello!) or if it has been on your to-do list for some time, your feedback is still very much encouraged and appreciated.

Get in touch with us via or leave a comment below.

As the briefs develop we will be sharing further information, including specific details on how to get involved with each one, so keep an eye out for further updates on the Q website.

For me (and hopefully for others too) it feels exciting that we are now developing practical ways to improve and scale peer support. I’m really looking forward to the next few months.

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