Martina Blaser & Günter Ackermann (Health Promotion Switzerland)
The quint-essenz quality system can be used in health promotion and prevention as a reference work, a project management tool, a toolbox and an exchange platform.
The Community platform has been part of the online service of quint-essenz for just over two years. Professionals and organizations can make their profiles publicly visible, publish their projects and exchange ideas on various matters with other professionals and organizations in special interest groups. What is the potential of Community, and how is it doing at the moment?
The Community platform was created from the idea of making visible the great variety of projects and competencies from the field of health promotion and prevention, and encouraging interaction among professionals. The exchange platform is intended to provide a good overview of the field and its activities in the longer term. It helps in locating quickly needed competencies and similar projects, enabling users to network and benefit from the experiences of others.
The exchange platform took around two years to develop. It was considered and discussed in a number of workshops involving approximately 20 project managers and representatives of organizations. On 7 May 2010 it was presented to the specialist community at the Kursaal in Bern.
So far, in total 218 professional profiles, 64 project profiles and 46 organization profiles have been published, and 422 professionals are networked in 92 groups of professionals. On first view these figures are respectable, and a glance at the list of professionals reveals many well know faces from our field. On the other hand, the balance could be better both in terms of the range and the activity of Community members. Based on the fact that around 5,000 users and over 2,000 projects are registered on quint-essenz, the figures for personal and project profiles published to date still appear modest. A closer look at the groups of professionals also shows that interaction so far has been limited.
Health Promotion Switzerland and the quint-essenz team would like to encourage you and other professionals to join us in taking this a step further. There are various reasons for this:
- According to a Delphi survey among experts in the field of health promotion and prevention, knowledge exchange needs to be better coordinated. (Meier Magistretti, Hafen, Varga & Kirschner, 2011). This necessity refers in particular to a resulting improvement in effectiveness and quality of projects (Hafen & Meier Magistretti 2011). This survey also reveals a strong need for knowledge of "best practice" examples. This is something with which the quint-essenz Community is ideally placed to provide support. However, it is only possible if sample projects are made visible on the platform.
- There are many websites on which individual projects in the field of health promotion and prevention are documented. However, it is time-consuming and difficult to locate these. This is where the Community platform of quint-essenz, as a metadatabase, can make it easier to access projects – simply create a brief profile for the project, publish it and link it to the project's own website.
- Compared to other social media platforms, the Community platform of quint-essenz has the advantage that it focuses on professionals working in the area of health promotion and prevention and therefore makes it possible to obtain a rapid overview of this field.
- A further advantage is that the exchange platform is embedded in an extensive quality system, which brings with it a great deal of information and tools. The project management tool can be used for the systematic planning of projects, which can be published at the touch of a button.
- The platform gives new users in particular the chance to obtain a rapid overview of competencies and activities in the field of health promotion and prevention, and to get to know and make contact with colleagues in a virtual environment.
To try and establish what is preventing professionals from making their projects and findings visible online, different Community members were asked for their opinions. Their answers varied greatly: there are some professionals who appear to be firmly entrenched in their routines and are hesitant about adopting new ways of doing things. Many prefer real-life interaction at conferences, work meetings, etc., and do not see any immediate added value in virtual networking. There are also a few professionals who struggle with the notion of publishing their own project ideas, because others could copy them and make use of them themselves. For some older professionals technical hurdles also play a role.
The benefit of a virtual database depends on the probability of actually finding useful hits when conducting a search. If a majority of the organizations, professionals and projects can be found via the Community platform, this motivates users to use quint-essenz again next time as the platform for their search. It is therefore important that as many players and activities as possible are visible. Help with this can be provided by members of organizations who are responsible for ensuring that the publication and updating of their organizations' projects become an important part of their quality culture and who therefore help to promote knowledge management across organizational boundaries. This will allow them to help their colleagues try out new ways of interacting and develop new routines. Health Promotion Switzerland and the quint-essenz team can help by maintaining the platform, supporting interested professionals by holding introductory courses and consultations or training sessions (links) and continuing to develop the platform in a needs-based manner according to feedback from everyday practice.
With a modest contribution of up to one to two hours annually per project, organization and professional, we would have a comprehensive and constantly up-to-date competence and project database - a unique basis for virtual interaction and learning!
Meier Magistretti, D., Hafen, M., Varga, I. & Kirschner, M. (2011). Wissensaustausch in Gesundheitsförderung und Prävention: Grundlagen einer Bedarfserhebung zu einer „Koordinationsstelle Wissensaustausch in Prävention und Gesundheitsförderung“: Schlussbericht. Luzern: Hochschule Luzern, Soziale Arbeit.