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What is a Q Special Interest Group?
A SIG is a group of Q members (and non-members) who come together around a shared interest and a passion to share knowledge and improve health and care. They often cross geographical and professional boundaries and are self-managed by members of the community. SIGs offer a safe space where there should be trust to share challenges and failures and contribute towards building a culture of learning.

Participants on a training course that Kent, Surrey and Sussex’s Learning from Serious Incidents Community of Practice has developed, supported by Q. *Click on image to play.

Some SIGs choose to explicitly view themselves as fully-fledged ‘Communities of Practice’, an approach developed by Etienne Wenger and Jean Lave for learning and developing new knowledge together across boundaries. There are a growing number of Communities of Practice across the NHS of which Q by nature links into (and in some regions directly supports).

How do members start a Q SIG? Some suggestions from the team

Every community is different and some of these suggestions will be more relevant than others. Building a SIG is not a quick, linear process. It requires a new way of working, very different from the project and performance management approaches we’re used to. Growing a community has been compared to both gardening and cooking a paella! It requires commitment and passion from members of the community.

  1. Identify your passion and build a core group
    Once you have an area of action that you are passionate about, look for a core group of at least two or three people to guide an support the SIG. Start conversations with these interested people. What are the challenges you are most passionate about, that you would most benefit from wider help to overcome? Craft a core statement and an appealing invitation so others will want to join. This thinking together is an important foundation for success.
    Also check: is there already an active group in existence on this somewhere outside Q, that Q members (and others) can all join? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. A small number of Q’s SIGs already act as signposts to such other groups, when Q members are involved.
  2. Decide on a name and a brief description
    This detail will be published on the Q’s SIGs list and the Q team can use this to help you promote the group and bring together more members. Send this name/further info and the name(s) of the new group’s conveners to and we will create the group.
  3. Promote your SIG and tell your networks
    Let interested Q members, friends, colleagues and other contacts know about your SIG. You have access to a wealth of knowledge and expertise through the Q community and new connections can be made through building your SIG. However Q SIGs can bring together Q members and non Q members.
    You can promote your SIG through Q channels:
    – A ‘My Improvement Journey’ interview on the Q site to let others know about your new SIG. For example, Lisa Knight did this interview to raise the profile of the SIG ‘QI in Mental Health’.
    – Small article in Q’s newsletter, Qmunicate, which gets sent to the whole community
    – Q’s Twitter account (@theQcommunity) which has many thousands of followers. If you include @theQcommunity in your tweet, we will retweet it to our followers.
    Contact the Q team if you are interested in any of these options.
    You can also promote your SIG yourself. Some suggestions include:
    – Tweeting from your own account (or an account set up for your SIG)
    – Posting on LinkedIn, including Q’s LinkedIn account
    – Posting on Facebook
    – Networking at Q events and telling people about your SIG
    (Further info here: ‘Five ways to get the most out of Q‘).
  4. Use your SIG’s online space  (eg invite new members to introduce themselves)
    Q-wide SIGs use different methods to communicate – from conference-calls, WhatsApp groups, Zoom video meetings, e-mail and online spaces. All Q SIGs now have their own online group space. It makes it easy to join and leave the SIG, to see who the members are, and to share news, resources and questions. There is also a document store where valuable articles and reports can be shared.

    Try to ensure that no post a member makes goes unresponded to

    Try to ensure that no post a member makes goes unresponded to – and invite new members to introduce themselves: what drew them to join the group?
    If you have any queries about how the group space works, contact the Q team.

  5. Search Q Directory – to find potential participants
    Do a search on the Q online directory using the topic of your SIG (and other related keywords) to find more people to invite to join your SIG.
  6. Key step: a group meeting to create an initial design and plan
    Community of practice Charter template

    Bring together your core team and any other members – preferably face to face – to design and plan the SIG. How often will the SIG meet, when and where? Face to face meetings are best (potentially during a Q event), and shared webex/Zoom-style video calls can be good if that’s not possible. Decide how your SIG can share its learning. To focus your thinking you can use Chris Collison’s Communities of Practice Charter template.
    You may also want to invite an NHS Librarian to play a role – eg horizon-scanning for new developments for your SIG, and sharing an update on this regularly. NHS Librarians play a key role in the Scottish NHS CoPs.

    Also use the CoP Trumps cards for ideas to help build, facilitate and measure your SIG.

    Throughout the lifecycle of the community there will be a dialogue around these questions:
    i) What are we trying to do?
    ii) How do we need to do it?
    iii) Who needs to do it?
    iv) How will we know we are doing it?

  7. Choose a schedule of activities
    What would you like your community to do? There are ideas in the section below (eg organise a tweet-chat, or invite an expert to share about relevant projects and learning). Other possibilities include: organising ‘Learning Journeys’ to interesting projects and organisations and Dialogue Interviews. Look in the ‘CoP Trumps’ cards for ideas.

How to continue the development of your SIG

  1. Use your online group space
    Share questions, articles, news, feedback from SIG meetings, resources and events in your online space. It includes a document store.
  2. Set up your own Twitter accountAn easy way to keep in touch with members, and widen awareness of your group, is by setting up a Twitter account for your group – like this this one: Q Community Lean SIG.
  3. Run a tweet-chat
    A tweet-chat is an easy way to involve a community online. You’ll need to choose the topic and a #tag and promote it beforehand – for example via the @theQCommunity twitter account, which has many thousands of followers. (Include @theQcommunity in your tweet so we will see it and can retweet it to all our followers).
  4. Organise a face-to-face meeting
    Building personal relationships is a key way to help any group thrive. You can use a Q event for this, if members of your group will be attending. The Radiotherapy Quality SIG held a rewarding conference day in the Health Foundation’s Auditorium, with around 70 participants.
  5. Tell others about your meetings
    Invite new members of the Q community, and beyond, to join your meetings by adding it to Q’s events calendar (using this Q website form) and promote it. The Q team will promote the events that are added to the calendar.
  6. Consider live-streaming your meetings
    You can share your meetings with a wider audience online using tools for live-streaming. Here’s a guide to live-streaming and webinar tools you can use.
  7. Share your SIG’s key learning with Q – post an update

    Don’t let your challenges, new learnings and practices sit unnoticed in a silo, share them!

    Don’t let your challenges, new learnings and practices sit unnoticed in a silo, share them! Post a brief update (using this Q website form) for the rest of the community to see and learn from.

  8. Invite the Health Foundation to share its learning with your SIG
    Over the last ten years the Health Foundation has funded over 400 improvement projects across the UK. They cover a huge range of clinical areas, settings and topics: we have supported everything from small-scale innovation projects in particular acute specialties, to large scale primary care based improvement collaboratives covering dozens of sites. You can get an idea of what we have funded from our project search engine. If you want to know more about our funded work in your topic, then feel free to get in touch with our Insight & Analysis Unit (Insight& They can pull together a snapshot of all the work in your area, summarise the key insights from key reports, evaluations and events, or put you in touch with relevant fellows or grant holders. (SIGs which have made use of this opportunity include Urgent & Emergency Care, Mental Health and Co-production).
  9. Get funding for your SIG’s projects – via crowd-voting: Q Exchange
    Q is piloting a member crowd-voting process – Q Exchange – to enable Q members to apply for £450k of project funding. It is open to SIGs, and others in Q.
  10. Get help from Q’s Connectors
    You already convene a SIG, but there’s a related role you may feel drawn to: Q Connectors. This role is for individual members who love connecting people and ideas across boundaries (and who can help push the boundaries of what’s possible for all of us in Q).We’re looking for at least 2 or 3 Connectors in each area. This Connectors network may also be an avenue for promoting your SIG, both in your region/nation, and right around the UK. Ask your local Connector for ideas on promoting your SIG.  More info and a list of participants is on the Q Connectors page.
  11. Take up training opportunities
    Q aims to offer various training and support opportunities for SIG convenors. The first is a Network Leadership masterclass; others are in the planning stage.

The Networked Learning Model

The Networked Learning Model developed by Harold Jarche helps clarify some distinctions between networks, communities of practice and work teams. The image also highlights two overarching catalysts/enablers:
i) Working out loud (a mix of purposeful discovery, relationships, generosity, visible work, and growth mindset) and ii) personal knowledge mastery (a model of curation for the digital era that covers seeking-sensing-sharing).

Further reading