Originally appeared October 25, 2011 on the Transforming Maternity Care Blog at transform.childbirthconnection.org/2011/10/hbcs/
I attended the Home Birth Consensus Summit in October. The meeting was the result of several years of planning by a multi-stakeholder group of maternity care leaders. It was led by facilitators from Future Search, a theory and planning strategy designed around having the “whole system in the room” to find common ground on complex or divisive issues.
My colleagues and I at Childbirth Connection are big believers in having the whole system in the room. This was how we went about the Transforming Maternity Care Project, which yielded actionable recommendations in 11 different focal areas that make up a Blueprint for Action. Every day we see progress toward the 2020 Vision, and the Home Birth Summit was no exception. In fact, the Summit itself was a recommendation from the Blueprint.
The experience at the Summit was a reminder that, although there are many problems in our maternity care system and plenty of disagreement about how to address those problems, there is also plenty of common ground that can only be identified and acted upon when all stakeholders sit down together. When diverse stakeholders come together, we can share not just our unique perspectives on the nature of the problems at hand, but also commit to getting to work on fixing the parts of the problem over which we have influence. Rapid, achievable gains are within reach. Other improvements will take more time, but why not get started on what we can all agree on?
I was deeply moved both moved by the strong spirit of collaboration and openness each of the approximately 70 delegates brought to the common ground process, and by the nine remarkable common ground statements affirmed by the delegates. Home birth is a very small piece of our much larger maternity care system, but this diverse group’s willingness to work together on such a historically divisive issue was inspiring. My colleagues and I recognize this shift as part of a broader trend toward more meaningful multi-stakeholder collaboration, and we were honored to participate.