Thursday, May 30, 2013

Virtual International Day of the Midwife 2013 - My personal reflection

I cannot believe that we have just had our 5th Virtual International Day of the Midwife. It doesn't seem like five minutes ago that we started this initiative - I have just had the best fun reviewing old blog posts and looking at how we have developed over the years.

This year's event was even more successful than ever.  We had an average attendance of 120 seats, and 160+ seats taken in our most popular sessions. But we know far more people than that actually joined us, for example, a group of students in Australia and over 50 midwives in PNG. I will be publishing a full report here over the next few days about the event itself.

Time to go?
I had thought this would be my last year of convening the VIDM because of workload issues. The event takes a lot of time and emotional energy to organize, and facilitate on the day. I have recently moved to a new role that doesn't allow me to spend much time on the event at work, so I was very concerned how I would manage the workload. My problem has been, because this has been my baby for so many years, I have been reluctant to hand over control and jobs, even though I have a wonderful team of people who work with me to organize the event.

However, this year we have made a few changes which have lightened my load, and made my job less onerous. And as I feel there are still a couple of things I want to achieve in this event, I will probably stick around for another year or two, but I'll come back to that.

Amazing organising committee!
Over the last three or four years an amazing group of people have come together to to work with me to facilitate the VIDM - Deborah Davis, Chris Woodhouse, Lorraine Mockford, Linda Wylie, Annette Dalsgaard Vilain, Sarah Bandasak and Mary Sidebotham. These people are truly awesome and donate many hours to this event, year after year. Some of them, like Chris and Lorraine are not even midwives, but are truly committed to the cause because of their love of learning.  

Thank you, guys...couldn't do it without you!

What worked well
This year we have been very mindful about reducing my workload and sharing responsibilities,  building capacity, and thinking about ongoing sustainability, particularly when I leave the organizing committee.
I have also been conscious that I need to become more collaborative as the event has grown in popularity, because with it has grown the responsibility to make the VIDM as successful and professional as possible.

This year we bought a domain and a generic email system, Fastmail. It didn't cost very much, and we were grateful to receive a small amount of funding from the Association of Radical Midwives to do that.

What is the place of sponsorship?
I have always been in two minds about accepting sponsorship. On the one hand, accepting funding to put processes like the email system in place has made our lives so much easier. On the other hand, I have always been very clear that one aspect of the VIDM is about modeling to the wider community what can be achieved using social networking tools and processes, so that midwives with limited means could replicate our work. This is one of the reasons why I have continued to use Wikispaces as our website, as opposed to buying into a more commercial website.

However, having our own domain has made it easier to disseminate information, and it can be used year after year. And the generic email allows the committee to share information and has made the whole organizational processes a lot more transparent. This makes it so much easier to monitor and track progress, and for me to maintain an overview of what was happening.

Another thing that has helped with workload is that our processes are pretty much sorted after all these years of trial and error, especially the information on the wiki. So all I have had to do is re-cycled the information from last year, and just update it where needed. The beauty of the wiki is that we can see the history of  the work from day 1, and do not lose anything. This has been particularly useful in reminding us what we did previously, when and why we did it.

It has taken the committee a couple of years to get their heads around how it works, but this year I noticed a significant increase in the committee's engagement with the wiki. Having said that, although the membership of the wiki has increased over the years, midwives, generally, don't realise how it works, or how they use it to communicate with us.

Developing the program
This year we were much more collaborative about developing the program. Up until this year I had mostly shoulder-tapped people either because I thought they had some interesting things to say, or because they filled a particular time slot. However, this year we had so many EOIs from speakers, we could have nearly filled a 48 hours program.

I am passionate about not turning the VIDM into yet another boring, academic conference. This event has always been about bringing people together, building digital literacy skills, and giving midwives a chance to talk about their work in a way that they might not normally be able to do. At the same time, I do feel a responsibility to develop a program that is of interest and relevance, with a certain professional standard of presentation.

This year I was particularly delighted that we were able to mentor midwives from India into the program as speakers. We had major concerns about their Internet access, which is always problematic in countries such as India. And, language continues to be a barriers at times. However, I was so impressed by the commitment and passion of all the Indian speakers. Both they and their facilitators practiced, practiced and practiced to get things right, and as far as I am concerned, they were the stars of the show. This was in contrast with some other speakers who had a very casual approach, which always makes me nervous about how they'll perform on the day.

Sharing photos
An initiative that we really plugged this year was asking people to share photos of themselves as participants. I tried to get people interested in this on Facebook last year, but it didn't work. This year, we advertised this at every session, and at the end of the event, one of our committee members, Deborah Davis, made the photos into a video show. This was a lovely way to end the day, and also to get a sense of who people were, and see them in their own environment. To my mind, it added a layer of connection to the people who attended the event.

In my next post, I will reflect on what we can do better next year, and discuss some of the objectives that we have yet to achieve.

Did you attend the Virtual International Day of the Midwife this year? What do you think we did well?


starpath said...

Yes Sarah, you and the organising committee did a superb job. Well done, thank you for the work.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support, Dallas. BTW, when we go to consultation on the Australian College of Midwives social media guidelines, can I run them past you to see what you think? Thanks a lot, Sarah xx