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Member Ivan Handler presents to the Chicago chapter

In Chicago, SPM members have been getting together for regular meetups. It’s been fun and exciting, and lots of us think it would be great to offer the idea to other areas. Here’s how we started and how we do it – take it on and make it your own!

This time last year there were only about 5 SPM members in the Chicago area, and we didn’t know each other that well. Since the Beryl Institute Patient Experience Conference was here in the Spring, a few new Chicago members helped me put together a reception to let people in town for the Beryl conference and local Chicagoans know about SPM. Then we started to have regular meetups every other month.

The goals are to build community in Chicago and to get a better understanding of the local members expertise, projects, interests and goals so that we can help, partner with, and energize each other.

Healthcare is broad. And even when people know each other for years, they often don’t have a great grip on exactly what each other do. That makes it hard for us to help each other, make meaningful introductions, partner, let alone create momentum and change.

As behavioral researcher Jenna Clark explains: “People build relationships by demonstrating their understanding of each other’s needs and perspectives, a cyclical process that brings them closer together.” (Behavioral Scientist, Technology blog, Nov 2018). And while the online setting helps us connect across distances, meeting up in person is also important.

The basic format for our meetups is:

  • Quick introductions so everyone learns who is in the room and what we can do for them. Are they hiring, looking for work, looking for partners on a project?
  • Next, 3 members each give a 5 minute “lightning” talk about their work, research, organization, or a specific project or initiative they’re working on or would like to work on.
  • There’s time for Q&A and then food and networking.

The meetups have caught on quickly, with 20-30 people attending each one and new people joining each time from the health tech community, from Northwestern’s Masters program in health communication, and the advocacy and research communities. In fact, there we’ve added two or three new organizational members to SPM, like and Uphold Health! New members have also jumped in to provide venues and organize the meetups.

There are many other health meetups and events in the Chicago area, but like SPM itself, none is really a gathering place across such a diverse group of mission-driven stakeholders. And many other meetups focus only on business models/investors, design, or policy.

As a core group of members get to know each other, connections are forming — and there are already discussions about working on projects together and applying for grants. As member Ric Edinberg of Insitum Consulting said, “It’s a great thing to witness the birth and maturity of a community. I wonder if we can work on a project together here in Chicago, something we can attack as a group. With all that talent and diversity, I’m Just thinking…what is possible?”

I asked a couple other new Chicago members about their meetup experience.

  • Patty Keiler said, “Authenticity is the word that comes to mind when I think of the Chicago SPM meetups. Sure, we come together to share, learn, and collaborate … but we also challenge each other, make each other laugh, and wash our own dishes. We’re an eclectic group of thinkers and doers who share a belief that healthcare can be better, and that we can make a difference (just not necessarily on our own).”
  • Ellen Schulz said, “So often, I have to get on a plane – inevitably going east – to meet up in person with others who are driven to improve healthcare. I’ve really appreciated the chance to connect with so many smart, passionate people and still get home in time to tuck my kids in. Plus, it’s great to connect more regularly and build deeper relationships.”

Board members Dave deBronkart and Sarah Krug both attended a recent meetup. Dave responded, “This meetup was GREAT!  Can you imagine connecting with a bunch of like-minded people in your area, without buying a plane ticket to the big conferences like HIMSS or Health 2.0 or SPM2018??  There was such a tangible feeling that what we care about is happening!”

It’s clear meetups are a great way to build community within SPM and in the cities where we live. We can see each other with more regularity than at conferences, and follow-up with each other.

If you’re interested to start meetups in your community, I’m happy to share what we’ve learned, and what we keep learning.




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