But it’s rare that an organisation commits to an exploration of purpose as deeply as Here.
We made the initial connection at Meaning Conference in 2014. Here, then called Brighton & Hove Integrated Care Service (BICS), was experiencing a rapid period of change.
It had been founded in 2008, by a small group of experienced healthcare professionals who were curious about why we spend lots of money on specialised care for a small percentage of the population. They could see how spending more money early on could positively impact the care journeys of more people, and create cost savings.
BICS was born as a not-for-profit social enterprise, owned by local health practitioners and its staff. The team began by taking on referral management in Brighton & Hove, helping patients navigate their journey between referral from a GP and treatment from a specialist service. The success of their approach, thinking differently about how to make systems work better for patients, led them to bid as a partner for more contracts and projects, across primary care, mental health, dementia diagnosis and physical care – within Brighton & Hove, but also across Sussex and in London.
With that success came growth, and many of the challenges that come with scale. Working with many more staff, across increasingly diverse partnerships and areas of healthcare, in multiple locations, a new need emerged: to tell a powerful story that made sense of the work, to ever growing numbers of stakeholders coming into contact with them.
At the same time, the leadership within BICS were rethinking what working at scale should look like within the organisation. Encouraged by Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations, there was a renewed energy to create non-bureaucratic solutions. Solutions that would work better for people, whether they were receiving care or giving it. And this was throwing the focus back to being able to connect with and respond to ‘the why’ at every level of the operation – what Laloux calls “evolutionary purpose”.
Find What Matters
When we met in early 2015 to discuss the possibilities for helping BICS tell their story, founder Zoe Nicholson brought us a gift – Laloux’s book. For us, it quickly became clear that this wouldn’t be like any ‘rebrand’ we had worked on before. The practices – of wholeness at work, of self-management, of continually exploring purpose – felt exciting, and true to the spirit of the way we wanted to work. And yet they also challenged some of our processes, demanding a more generous, more collaborative approach to understanding the opportunity.
So began one of the richest phases of discovery work we’ve undertaken. Not only did we conduct 1-1 interviews, and surveys and the expected workshops and immersion sessions. We joined the BICS team for a two-day retreat with mindfulness experts Joel and Michelle Levey, to explore individual and shared purpose. We facilitated storytelling across the organisation. We took our thoughts for a day-long walk in the Sussex woodland to settle on our recommendations. At every stage, we were invited to look at the process and ask – does this serve? Could we do something different, something more valuable for all participants? Just as the team at BICS sought to do with their services in healthcare.
We experienced an organisation fizzing with energy for care. Care for patients, but also for each other, for the wider world and, increasingly, for themselves as individuals. We saw little of the resignation and fatalism that seems to have gripped areas of the healthcare system. Frustrations, scepticism, disagreements, yes – but an extraordinarily positive way of working with each other.
Our journey brought us to a number of ways of expressing the organisation’s essential purpose. In the spirit of collaboration, these were explored and honed down by a working group drawn from all areas within the organisation, and a pairing of two statements of purpose were put out for a consultation to all members (made up of staff and local healthcare practitioners who are the organisation’s shareholders), using the ‘advice process’ principles advocated by organisations such as Buurtzorg.
The statement of purpose that was finally adopted was: Care unbound: to create more possibilities for care in every moment. This captured the sense of possibility and creativity that we found throughout the organisation, and the way that they understand care to be relevant outside the confines of a clinical interaction – in a crucial phone call, an appointment letter or an interaction with a colleague. To do justice to the extent of what we’d learnt about what matters to the team, we also created statements of belief and commitment, that support and enact the purpose.
Having taken the time for this deep exploration, and having arrived at a powerful rallying cry, there was an appetite to move quickly to communicate it with the world.
Making it Matter More
With this newly-articulated, boundless sense of purpose, it was clear that the name, tying the organisation to a limited geography and the jargon of ‘integration’, was no longer fit for purpose. But there were nerves about how a change would go down with partners. A balance had to be struck between the flexibility that’s so important to their change-making spirit and the commitment they have to primary care in Brighton & Hove.
‘Here’ came from leftfield but worked beautifully. It spoke to the quality of presence that they value so highly, and that enables them to connect authentically with the work they do. And allowed their presence to bend to different contexts: “Here in Brighton”, “Here in wellbeing”, and so on.
Our visual creative drew on the energy and spirit of Here. The literal unbinding of the ‘H’ in the logo gives way to a space for a multitude of possibilities. Space to show the qualities within the organisation and within the people who make it.
As the visual identity developed, we returned to the set of beliefs and commitments we had created together, and created bespoke icons inspired by them. Each member of the organisation can now choose which design to put on their business card, enabling them to express themselves and Here in the way that resonates most strongly for them.
The digital presence brings together the everyday needs of those interacting with Here and content that allows their purpose to live and breathe. Not only did it need to be accessible, responsive and professional, but as full of life as the rest of the brand.
Through a series of interactive workshops and planning sessions, we created a new information architecture and plan for digital content.
We all wanted to make it simpler to see what services Here provides, and quicker for people using the services to find what they really need. So we designed service pages with a consistent hierarchy, that strip out unnecessary information and have a linear flow whether accessed from a desktop and mobile browser.
With Here’s purpose surfacing through the stories of individuals, those stories felt crucial a major departure from their previously low-key, generally formal external communications. The team also knew that they needed ‘more content’, but true to the spirit of the wider organisation they were reluctant to put in a conventional comms infrastructure, if a more elegant, self-managed solution could be found.
So instead of building a new team, they looked at coaxing a stronger culture of sharing and harvesting stories across the organisation. Drawing on Neo’s expertise and our shared network in Brighton & Hove, Here put together a plan to create the initial burst of content to launch the new site at the same time as building support for storytelling – principles, workshops and guidance – for the longer term.
Producing much more visual content was a key requirement to support this effort. Our photography brief was simple – let’s capture real moments with real people. No staged photographs, no direct interaction with the camera. Working with our collaborator Ali Tollervey, the results help Here come alive in a way that has surprised and thrilled all of us.
To guide the continued connection with the Here identity we brought all of this work together in a set of guidelines. This concise guidance on creating and sharing stories and using the right visual language underpins the way that Here will look and feel into the future.
We’ve learned so much about the potential for purpose to inspire engagement with a communication project. It’s changed the way we think at Neo.
And it’s increased our appetite to work with organisations who are challenging the status quo in the way they organise, as well as in the impact they are trying to make in the world.
After a brilliant journey, it’s Here at last. We can’t wait to find out what happens next.