The final presentation, for about 170 leaders across Belfast, occurred in the Grand Ballroom at City Hall.  We had previously seen this beautiful room just over 2 weeks ago during a tour, but walking into it again, now, lent a gravity, a sense of history and responsibility to the work we had completed over the past days.

Nick and I paced the far end of the ballroom to work out our nervous energy as the audience began to file in.   We began with an introduction from the Lord Mayor, IBM’s Ireland Country Manager and Belfast’s Chief Executive.  Then it was our turn:  Anne introduced our proposal and summarized our approach, then I followed with the evidence-based decision model and outcome metrics, then Nick summarized the proposed business process and technology infrastructure.

I stepped up to the podium, took a breath, and began to talk.  I was surprised that my nervousness dissipated immediately – you never know if it will!  I can’t say I remember most of what I said – I tend to go to an indescribable zone when I do presentations that’s beyond thinking;  it’s feeling the room and just knowing without knowing.  I do remember lots of positive body language, heads nodding and attention across the room.   I remember saying several times “finding our common humanity” and that everyone, regardless of where they live, deserves to feel a sense of well-being and empowerment in their own lives.  At the end, I answered several questions about the metrics and various individuals stood to say they supported the proposal and wanted to move forward.  The City Council told us they were pleased with our recommendations too and expressed their intent to continue onward.

Perhaps a huge focus (some might suggest, overfocus) for me personally was the response of the professionals on the front lines, those who are right in the community, working with citizens.  Maybe it was because I remember only too well being a clinician myself and the overwhelming responsibility I felt, how quickly I burned out in the face of real people with real problems.   The day before our presentation, I had the opportunity to read an incredibly moving paper, written by a community worker, following the suicide of a young man in one of the two highly deprived areas of Belfast (these were our case study areas for the project).  His paper chronicled his experience, starting with the finding of the body by the young man’s friends, to telling his girlfriend, to working with the family, to trying to prevent the suicides of his friends.

There are no words. 


I hope that he and all the professionals like him knew that we listened, we heard, that the intensely important work they are doing matters.  I hope our modest proposal will make what they are doing more relevant. more measurable and more successful as Belfast embraces its future.  #smartercities Challenge