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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Stone Soup Method

Once upon a time a poor man entered a village and asked if the villagers had any food to spare. The villagers said no. It had been a hard winter and each family was hoarding what little they had. The village was small and the man was strange so though they would not help him, they began to watch him.  Perhaps he would leave if no food was forthcoming or perhaps he would try to steal.   The man did neither of these. He merely gathered firewood and built a fire.  He put his cooking pot in the stream and hoisted the water-filled pot to his fire.  Then while all the villagers peered around doors and out of shuttered windows, the man made a big show of searching for some rounded large stones in the stream.  He exclaimed upon finding each one. He rubbed them on his worn tunic and praised their color and delicious odor and then tipped them into his pot. 

The villagers were quite intrigued by his actions and slowly found reasons to walk past the stranger’s fire. As they would pass he would run a spoon into the water and state that his stone soup needed a little seasoning.  If only an old withered carrot or bit of potatoes were available it would be an excellent soup.  As the villagers returned to their cottages they would ponder the man’s words and realize they perhaps had something to give.  Each in turn began to offer a bit of this and that.  He would exclaim his appreciation of each ingredient. The villagers were a competitive, yet caring lot and seeing their neighbors praised encouraged them to give even more. As the day progressed the pot became thick and hard to stir. 

The stranger soon told the milling crowd the soup was perfect and ladled a generous helping of soup into everyone’s bowl.  All ate well that night filled with sustenance and camaraderie.  Everyone praised this new recipe called Stone Soup.

So how does the stone soup method apply to my work medicine?

I don’t know if you have seen me paint at a medical conference but I often think of the stranger in this tale as I paint.  When I enter a room, I come burdened with blank canvases and a heavy easel. People watch me set up my station intrigued by an artist painting at a conference.  As the conference day begins my canvas is blank then slowly the words of the speakers and attendees fill the air and I begin to paint.  Soon the attendees come to the easel and share their thoughts and feelings.  My painting fills with imagery just as the stranger’s pot fills with food.  It is an amazing process.  

In a little over two months the Partnership with Patients Summit will be held in Kansas City and we will be using the stone soup model.  We will have a gathering of the Walking Gallery, a traditional conference day and an unconference day.  People who self-define as patient/patient advocates will congregate with partners.  The partners could be providers, techies, venders, academics, organizations or health policy wonks.  We will gather together to make a conference with everyone throwing something into the pot.  There will be a non-profit partner, business partners and regular people creating a crowd-sourced and crowd-funded conference.

The idea of a stone soup/crowd-sourced conference has confused a few people.  We are once again practicing some creative destruction of the traditional form.  This event is not funded by CMS Partnership for Patients, yet we are reporting back to them and focusing on their goals.  This event is not organized by a non-profit, though the Society for Participatory Medicine has agreed to create and oversee a travel fund to help patients attend medical conferences such as this one.  Cerner is hosting us in their space and acting as a partner, but this is not a Cerner conference.  This is a patient summit; and I may be stirring the pot, but I am one of many around the fire.

The Venue
Cerner has graciously offered to provide the “cooking pot” for our conference in the form of their Riverside educational building.  This once was a casino many years ago, and is a rather appropriate venue to place a bet.  We are betting  that we can do much if we just work together. The building has been retrofitted with rooms and technology that supports educational opportunities. You can register for the conference on eventbrite at Partnership With Patients and ticket proceeds will pay for the overhead costs.  The overhead cost will include food, transportation, shuttles and conference materials.

Partner logos
Travel Scholarships
 I asked the Society of Participatory Medicine if they would consider being our non-profit partner whose responsibility would be to create a patient travel scholarship fund.  The board agreed that this was a good use of their energy and was in step with their mission.  They further added they would like to create such a fund and continue to solicit funds for future conferences.  Please send donation checks to The Society for Participatory Medicine PO Box 1183 Newburyport, MA 01950-1183.  Please make checks payable to the Society for Participatory Medicine and mark in the memo line "Travel Fund.".

Or you can donate online at the donations page, just click on the Travel Fund button. The Society for Participatory Medicine is a 501(c)3 public charity. They will present a panel discussion during the conference explaining the concept of the society and participatory medicine. For the Partnership With Patient Summit they will be offering a limited number of $500 travel grants.  The quantity they will be able to offer will be based on donation amounts they receive.  Those who wish to receive such grants will write an essay explaining their need. Grantees will be chosen based on review by a committee from the Society.   

I am asking you today to please donate to this fund.  No amount is too small.  Everything is appreciated.  If you are able to give more that is wonderful. 

The Walking Gallery
On Friday night September 21st,  we will have a Kansas City gathering of The Walking Gallery.  This will take place at the Kansas City Marriot.  I will be asking for financial support to cover expenses for this venue on Medstartr, a new funding model created by Alex Fair.

   The Traditional Conference Day
pocket health
On Saturday the 22nd of Septemeber  we will have a conference day that will break into three tracks focusing on HIT, Patient Quality/Safety and Media/Message.  These sessions will be taught by many different individuals who are volunteering their time and are leaders in their fields.  I will post the full agenda as it forms.

The Unconference
Mark Scrimshire and Maumi J.Cannell Chatterton will be hosting a HealthCamp KC unconference on Sunday the 23rd. That is the ingredient they are adding to this stew of advocacy.  

healthCamp Logo
Speakers Boot Camp
Simultaneously, patient speakers will be given the opportunity to present 5 minute speeches during a patient speaking session. These speeches will be recorded by Cerner staff and uploaded to youtube.  These speeches will be a great asset to beginning speakers who have just joined and are building up their online presence.

Many other folks have offered their time and skills to help this process.  As they send me their offerings I will post them here, but suffice to say we are making a lovely dish. 

By the way the hashtag for this event on Twitter is #cinderblocks.  It rather fits doesn’t it? When making a stone soup, you must begin with stones.

And this story began many years ago when a little girl was in a class without books shelves...

When I was a child I went to an elementary school that had few resources.  In fifth grade our class was donated a large amount of books.  We were very pleased to have them, but we had no bookshelves on which to place them.  My teacher was very enterprising though, and she contacted the local lumberyard and requested they donate some two by fours and cinder blocks so we could make shelves.  The lumberyard manger said yes with one caveat, we would have to pick up the supplies.

That year our fifth grade class had a field trip.  

We left the school as a class with our strong backs and eager minds. We walked to the lumberyard.  Some of us grabbed the two by fours, some of us cinder blocks and some us combined the two to make a carry yoke for two students to heft.   We walked those blocks all the way back to school and up three flights of stairs.  Then we assembled those shelves and placed the books upon them.  We stood back and looked proudly at our work.  I cannot believe there was a class anywhere else in the entire nation who cherished their bookshelves as much as we did ours.

We loved those shelves because we overcame adversity and made that which we needed.  It wasn't pretty, it wasn’t perfect, but it was ours. 

Yep #cinderblocks is perfect.


  1. are you ok if we share this with our co workers?

    1. Please share! We need to get the word out. It should be an amazing conference!

  2. Hi Regina, I've just got word of your great blog and conference. I'm a narcolepsy patient advocate (and an art-lover) living in Washington DC. I'm very interested in attending the upcoming conference. Thank you so much for organizing this amazing program. Cheers, Julie Flygare

    1. Thank you Julie! You will have the gallery. I do hope you can come to our summit in DC

  3. That's my sis, always stirring the pot.... :)

  4. Ah, think of all the years we stirred side by side :)