How to set up a Randomised Coffee
Trial (RCT) and share your pride in
nursing and midwifery
Organise your RCT during the month ofMarch
2019 for the Ambassadors’ 30 day challenge
• Decide what type(s) of RCT(s) youwould like
to get involved with
1.Set up your ownRCT across your organisation
2.Organise a RCT at your conference ormeeting
Take part in the countrywide RCT forpeople
3.with a shared passion orinterest
• After the event and furtherreading
Often, as leaders, we are aware
of what is going on in our
organisations but we are not as
involved or as connected as we
could be. Randomised Coffee Trials
are such a simple but powerful way
of getting meaningful
connections going which can lead
to real change.
Helen Bevan, Chief Transformation Officer, NHS Horizons
Why should my team or organisation join a randomised
Here are eight evidence based reasonsto join the randomised coffee trial, based on
the hundreds of organisations that have run RCTs so far:
1. RCTs are a really good way of creating links within the organisation and
encouraging us to collaborate
2. People can create real connections that can help them be moreinnovative,
linked up and ultimately moreproductive
3. People discover amazing connections with people that they are matchedto
– we call this the transformational power of serendipity!
4. RCTs give permission and opportunity to meet colleagues who are not
necessarily involved in our day to day work
5. They strengthen networks and lead to longer and improved engagement
6. People enjoy the experience and it contributes to feelings ofmotivation
and being inspired
7. They support wellbeing: providing an opportunity to step outside of our
work, take a break and pause while we learn more about our colleagues
8. RCTs offer the chance to make time to talk to the people we should be
talking to anyway and to meet people who we won’t be directly working
with but it’s nice to know who they are!
As part of the Nursing Now England and
Transforming Perceptions of Midwifery
30 Day Challenge, ambassadors’, teams
and organisations across health and care
are taking part in a Randomised Coffee
Trial (RCT) in March.
Nurse and midwives are busy people. Finding
the time to have meaningful interactions in
an era of complex workloads and electronic
systemsis increasingly difficult. We want to
get nurses and midwives sharing their pride
in their profession and the diversity of their
Conversation is a seriously underestimated
tool for learning and change. RCTsare
an effective, evidence-based way to build
networks, break down silos, encourage
collaboration and create real connections.
Hundreds of organisations acrossthe public,
private and voluntary sectors have introduced
RCTswith great results.
A Randomised Coffee Trial (RCT)is a simple
but powerful idea that was invented by
Nesta, an independent charity. People
are paired up at random and given the
opportunity to have a cup of coffee and a
chat together either physically or virtually.
Wedon’t prescribe the topic of the
conversation for a RCT.During your coffee,
you can talk about absolutely anything - your
work, career, family life, aspirations and
ambitions for building positive perceptions of
Thispack will provide you with all the
information you need about RCTs,the
benefits, how to get involved and/or how
to run your own local event. But if you need
any more information after reading this pack,
please pick up the phone and talk to us!
What kind of Randomised Coffee Trial do
you want totake part in?
There are three types of RCT that you can set
up and/or take part in, all based on the same
principle of getting health and care talking
about our extraordinary careers.
1. Set up your own RCT across your
organisation or system
2. Organise a RCT at your conferenceor
3. Take part in the countrywide RCT
for people with ashared passion or
How much does it cost to run a RCT?
There is no cost to the RCTother than
the time to organise, the time for the
conversations and the cost of the coffee!
The process is straightforward - ask
people to sign up to take part in the RCT,
pair them up at random and give them
the opportunity to have a cup of coffee
and a chat with eachother.
RCTscan be organised within your
department or organisation and you can
extend the invitation to people in partner
organisations such ascommunity groups,
commissioner partners, GPpractices, hospital
trusts, and care homes.
Here is our advice on how to set up your
ownlocal RCT to get great outcomes:
1. Tellthe leaders of your organisation or
department all about the RCTalong with
the benefits for your team, organisation
and patients. If you can get your leaders
to support your RCTand it gets made
‘official’, more people are likely to take
part. When you have these conversations
with leaders, you could even askyour
leadership team to provide the coffee or
2. Decide the format of your RCT: isit just
your ward/department or the whole
organisation? Isit the whole local health
and care system? Doesit include patient
leaders, governors and volunteers?
3. Agree the dates for your RCT.Most of the
action for our campaign is taking place in
March 2019. A suggestion would be to
promote the RCT’sin the first two weeks,
connect the pairs by the end of the
second week sothat they can organise
their RCTbefore the end of the month.
4. Agree who will be the voluntary
coordinators of your RCT.Thesepeople
need to have good organising skills and
love connecting with others. You may
want to askyour ITdepartment to get
involved and help you with setting up a
dedicated email address to usefor your
5. Create an Excel spreadsheet to keep a log
of people signing up for your RCT. Here is
a template you can use.
Type 1: Set up your own RCT across your
organisation or system
My RCT was really insightful, we talked about the ‘#HelloMyNameIs’
campaign and how a different Trust has been able to successfully
implement the campaign. I got lots of hints and tips to support the
way we improve care in my organisation.
• Find influential people who can
publicise your RCTand help sign
• Ask your communications team to
help to coordinate – it creates positive
news stories for your organisation or
local patch aswell asan opportunity
to recruit more ambassadors!
• If you have a RVScoffee shop, ask the
RVSteam to join in
• Tweet about your RCTusing the
• Make sure that all the senior leaders
and clinicians sign up to set an
example for everyone else
• Ask your IT and Communications to
add the details as an organisational
wide screen saver.
6. Publicise your RCTwidely and invite people
to register via your RCTemail address (see
step 4 above). Click here to download and
personalise posters and flyers. Personalise 7.
this wording for an all staff email.
Remember to include your RCT email
address on all communications. Don’t wait
for people to respond to your posters or
emails. People are ten times more likely to
sign up to your RCTbecause of a personal
contact or connection:
As people sign up to take part, add their
contact details to the RCTspreadsheet
and encourage them to sign up more
of their friends and colleagues. The
RCTmatching process can be assimple
or complex asyou wish and more
information can be found via this link -
Matching up RCT pairs.
8. Once you have matched the people on
your list, email both parties to introduce
them to each other. It is now up to
them to organise their schedules to find
asuitable time and venue. You can
personalise this draft email.
9. Keep publicising and repeating steps 8
and 9 asnew people become interested.
Expect to get a last minute rush asmore
people find out about the RCT.
10. After the event, send an email to all the
participants asking how they found the
experience and what were the benefits
for them and the organisation. You may
like to plan further cycles of RCTs.
11. Pleaselet us know how you got on (see
section on page 10) and tweet about
your experience using the hashtag
I work in the pathology
specimen reception and having
a Randomised Coffee Trial with
a patient really brought home
the importance of my role.
You can organise a RCT instead of a
normal coffee break at your meeting or
conference. Prior to the coffee break in
your conference or meeting, give people
a numbered sticker or put a sticker onto
delegates name badges with a (randomly
assigned) number on it. There should be
pairs of numbers and someone else in the
room will have the samenumber. Thepairs
find each other and have coffee together and
typically find many kinds of interesting and
Here is our advice on how to set up
and deliver your RCT at a conferenceor
meeting to get greatoutcomes:
1. Build in a 30 minute slot in the meeting/
conference agenda for the RCTto take
place. Thiscan be during a natural coffee
2. PrepareRCTstickers for your event or
have big dots available for the badges.
Thetemplate for the stickers is here. If
there are for example, 60 people at your
meeting, write the number ‘1’ on two of
the stickers, the number ‘2’ on two of the
stickers and so on, up to the number 30.
Write the numbers with a big marker pen
so people can seethe numbers clearly
when they are seeking out their RCT
3. Whilst registering, give delegates a sticker
with a (randomly assigned) number and
askthem to put it on their top where
it can be seen. It is best to avoid giving
people on the sametable the same
numbers so, if possible, start numbering
from different parts of the room.
4. At the start of the coffee break, the chair
or facilitator should announce the process
with a slide capturing the key points,
including exactly what time participants
are expected back in the meeting or
conference. People have such interesting
and unexpected conversations during
their RCTsthat it is often VERYdifficult to
get them back!
5. If there are more than 50 people taking
part, it can get quite difficult for people
to find each other. We suggest creating
a ‘meeting hub’ in the corners of the
room with flipcharts or signs to indicate
who needs to go to which part of the
room to meet their RCTpartner e.g.
‘numbers 1-10 here’, ‘numbers 11-20
here’, ‘numbers 21-30 here’. Once they
have met up they can find a quiet place
to have their conversation.
Type 2: Organise a RCT at your conference or meeting
I’m a mental health nurse and I had a RCT with a police officer. We
talked about processes, constraints and the challenges we both have.
We often see each other in A&E and we now have a really good
relationship. We can empathise with each other and have been able
to improve patient care.
6. There may be one or two people who
cannot find their pair; the other person
may have gone to make a phone call
or gone to the bathroom. Thechair/
facilitator could announce that anyone
who cannot find their partner should
come to the front and reallocate the
people with no partners to each other on
a random basis.
7. After the RCTcoffee break, there should
be an opportunity to share experiences.
Thiscan be with post-its or a feedback
session. Fora large group you may want
to do this via the event evaluation form
using questions such as:
• Who had a RCTwith someone where
they found an amazing coincidence?
• What did you find you had in
• Isanyone planning any specific
actions asa result of their RCT
Please let us know how you got on (see
section on ‘after the RCT’ on page 10)
and tweet about the experience using
the hashtag #NursingNowEngland
NHS Horizons will be facilitating two sets
of RCTs for nurses and midwives.
If you are a Nursing or Midwifery Ambassador
you can expressyour interest in this RCT
through the link in the newsletter. If
you’re a nurse or midwife who isn’t yet
an Ambassador and would like to have a
coffee with an Ambassador then sign up
here and we will randomly match you with
an Ambassador who hasalso submitted an
interest in taking part. We’ll let you know by
email who your partner is, with their contact
details and invite you to get in touch with
them. You can have your conversation face-
to-face, phone, or by FaceTime/Skype/Zoom.
Your RCTpartner might be anywhere in the
country, so set it up in whatever way works
best for you.
If you can’t find the email matching you with
your RCTpartner, please check your spam/
junk folder. (If you would like to become an
Ambassador, you can sign up to be a Nursing
Now England Ambassador or a Midwifery
2. CNO SUMMIT
If you are attending the CNO Summit on 13
March in Birmingham, do visit the Nursing
Now England stand and we will give you a
sticker that saysyou’re participating in the
RCT.Find someone else with the sticker, and
have a chat over a coffee. Have asmany
conversations asyou like!
• We will email you afterwards to ask you
how you got on.
• Why not write a blog about your
conversation, and what you learned?
• If you are on Twitter, tweet about
the experience using the hashtag
Type 3: Take part in the countrywide RCTs for people
with a shared passion or interest
I work in support servicesand was
persuaded to get involved – I’m
glad I had my arm twisted asI now
understand more about the wards
I support. I have changed my ways
of working since the RCT.At my
request, I’m now having RCT’s
each month with different people
in my organisation.
Thesuggested time for an RCTis about 30
minutes, that’s just a guide - they can be
longer or shorter to fit with schedules and
depending on where the conversation takes
1. Grab a cup of coffee and reflect on
your successfulhosting leadership
skills. Running an RCTcan contribute
to the participatory component of your
continuing professional development
for revalidation with the NMC or your
2. Sendan email to all the participants
asking how they found the experience
and what were the benefits for them and
3. Email BevMatthews - bev.matthews@
nhs.net with the number of people who
were involved in the RCTand the impact
4. Report back to your leadership team
about the event and celebrate what
you achieved in your local newsletter –
how many people took part, what were
the benefits and if you plan to do it
again! Tweet about the results using the
hashtag #NursingNowEngland and
After the RCT
5. RCTsget the best results when they are
ongoing, not just a one-off. We suggest
that you run your RCTon at least two
more occasions. Thismeans that everyone
will get a chance to have three separate
and different conversations. Start thinking
about your next RCT– you could plan
another next month.
Institutionalising serendipity via
productive coffee breaks at Nesta
Randomised Coffee Trials as explainedby
Implementing Randomised Coffee Trials:
The Communication Plan
I don’t know why we hadn’t done this before! It was so simple and
the benefits were immense. From these simple conversations we
have improved staff morale and improved patient care. Thesewill
now be a regular feature in our organisation.
Any more questions?
We’re promoting conversations, so talk
to us! You can email Bev Matthews on
firstname.lastname@example.org or call her on
NHS Horizons is a specialist
innovation unit which specialises in:
• Convening spaces(both face-to-face
and virtual) where people with diverse
views and experiences share learning
and plan for large scale change in
• Building the capability of change
agents acrossthe system. We focus on
change agency (the power to make a
positive difference) which is different to
innovation and improvement but boosts
• Promoting the spread and scale
of specific innovations, new ways
of thinking and working and new
methods and frameworks for change.
The team, led by Helen Bevan, has
extensive knowledge and skills in
human-centred design and accelerated
change methods in the health and care
sector, developed over nearly three decades.
Everyone in the NHSHorizons team hasa
track record in supporting and delivering
large scale change. Collectively the team
brings deep expertise in improvement and
flow science, social movement thinking,
community organising, organisational/
systems development, energy for change,
hackathons and maker days, digital activism
and other methods for large scale change.
This pack is brought to you by NHS Horizons
It means that the team can call on a lot
of different methods and customise the
approach to the challenges that need
to be addressed, rather than offering a
standardised ‘one size fits all’ approach.
More information about NHS Horizons
and our work can be found on our