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Co-producers Sarah, Clement, and Annegret – our thoughts on the UCL Centre for Co-production

rejbsan8 August 2019

We’ve had the privilege of getting to know so many great people through the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research, from the start back in 2017, to our most recent co-creation session. We really enjoy working together, sharing ideas about the Centre and collectively deciding upon the way forward. So… this community-building buzz is now coming to the blog! Please email Niccola n.pascal@ucl.ac.uk or Susan coproduction@ucl.ac.uk if you’d be interested in introducing yourself here sometime soon.

For now, Sarah, Clement and Annegret have agreed to start us off, so let the introductions begin!

Sarah Cawthra

No hands! Sarah's smiling at the camera riding a merry go round horse and waving at us instead of holding on.

No hands! Sarah’s smiling at the camera riding a merry go round horse and waving at us instead of holding on.

Tell us a bit about yourself: I came to London in 1991 and am still not tired of its history, architecture, museums and parks. I enjoy reading historical fiction; watching films; and trying new crafts, though my skill lies in baking cakes!! I have volunteered for 8 years, including at my local hospital and community centre, and currently as a Healthwatch Camden Trustee.

Why are you interested the Centre development and co-production more generally? Getting involved in co-production can be for everyone, no matter what you do, your background, or anything else. We all have something to contribute. People encouraged me when I didn’t know if I could do it. Now, I love seeing people realise what they’ve said is equally valid as someone with an academic qualification.

I wonder how we can be brave as we take the Centre’s work forward. To change systems and how things have always been done, we must engage with as many different people as possible. The Centre should ask for their ideas and be brave enough to implement some of them.

What are your hopes and dreams for the Centre? Rather than trying to be the best or biggest, I hope the Centre focuses on keeping to its core values as it grows. So far everyone’s welcomed different opinions and experiences. It is about embracing the journey – both the setbacks and successes.

Are there any areas that you think that may be a challenge for the Centre and that we need to focus more on going forwards? Long-term funding and changing trends are the main challenges, so the Centre needs to be adaptable. Universities can also be intimidating for many people and I would love to hear more from young people beyond universities with different life experiences. I wish that I had been encouraged to share my experiences earlier, but I am making up for that now!

Clement (Ka Ming) Cheung

Clement visiting us at the Centre. He's smiling at the camera making a thinking pose!

Clement visiting us at UCL. He’s smiling at the camera making a thinking pose!

Tell us a bit about yourself: I’m a student at The Bartlett UCL Faculty of the Built Environment (the part of UCL studying how to create all kinds of places for people – from buildings to cities to parks). I’m doing the Masters of Science in Health, Wellbeing and Sustainable Buildings, so that’s why I’m interested in health research in a social setting. I think it’s good to work with the community to understand what people’s needs are and how my research can better address their needs rather than me just doing my own separate research.

Why are you interested the Centre development and co-production more generally? Because I want to do something that’s really relevant for others and co-production is a good way of doing that. We need to ask the people using the service or who is affected to let the researchers know what is going on and how we can do research for them. As for the Centre’s progress, I am interested in how the Centre can show funders the progress we are making so we can work on making the Centre more sustainable in the long-term.

What are your hopes and dreams for the Centre? I hope the Centre can support long-term projects by establishing strong network with the community, researchers, practitioners and different people with different backgrounds so the Centre can co-produce something that’s good for health and wellbeing. My hopes and dreams are that the Centre can get sufficient funding to do projects and make things happen without lots of financial constraints.

Are there any areas that you think that may be a challenge for the Centre and that we need to focus more on going forwards? We are doing some great work that involves many people, but many don’t know about the Centre and how they can be involved. It would be great to have better promotion so people know about it and how they can contribute to different projects and add value to the Centre.

Annegret Dahlmann-Noor

Here's Annegret at our event in July. She's at a table ready for co-creation activities with notebooks, Play-Doh, stickers, and Lego.

Here’s Annegret at our event in July. She’s at a table ready for co-creation activities with notebooks, Play-Doh, stickers, and Lego.

Tell us a bit about yourself: I am a children’s eye doctor at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. I enjoy working with children and asking for their opinion on how we should run clinics and research projects.

Why are you interested the Centre development and co-production more generally? I have only recently heard about co-producing research with children. It seems very ambitious to me – to share power and make decisions together?! But I’m game! I have run sessions with children and young people, and have always been very impressed with their thoughtful reflections and contributions – and with their enormous creativity and enthusiasm! The Centre has adopted one of my colleagues’ project as a Phase 1 Pilot project. The input from the Centre has helped us a lot with setting up a Young Person’s Advisory Group for research at Moorfields.

What are your hopes and dreams for the Centre? Recently I attended a workshop run by the Centre (more about this event here!). I loved how everybody could exchange experiences and give and receive advice. I hope that the Centre will continue to flourish as an information-exchange place, so that we all learn from each other as we embark on the journey of co-production.

Are there any areas that you think that may be a challenge for the Centre and that we need to focus more on going forwards? Funding is always a limiting factor. I hope that the Centre will find a way to be sustainable, and draw on resources from core and grant funding.

So lots more work for us to do, particularly in relation to securing funding and long term sustainability for the Centre but there is still plenty of time! And… have a read of the ‘What’s next for the Centre blog’ where Niccola & Rachel talk about plan’s for the next few months.

Feel free to say hi back in the comments and or add your thoughts, and stay tuned for more co-producer profiles soon! If you would like to be featured in a future newsletter you are very welcome! Feel free to email Niccola n.pascal@ucl.ac.uk or Susan coproduction@ucl.ac.uk.

Meet Us in Cyberspace!

rejbsan8 August 2019

Chatting about co-production with all of you is always a treat. Thank you for learning with us, sharing what you’ve tried, and joining us in dreaming big! These conversations are at the heart of our UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research community’s work supporting each other to co-produce, so we’ve been thinking about how we can do even more to keep in touch and spread the word. We know many of you share our passion for welcoming new people into the world of co-production, and we’re excited to find new ways to do this. All this means (drumroll please)… we’re scheming about how the Centre can do better at spreading the word including venturing further into the world of social media!

We want to come hang out with you online, so where can we find you? We’re curious about which platforms you’d like to use to keep in touch with us, get to know other co-producers, and contribute your ideas just as many of you already have through this blog. Would you like seeing articles posted on a Facebook page, be able to find other co-production fans or potential collaborators on LinkedIn, want to scroll through photos of everyone’s co-production projects on Instagram, something else entirely, or all of the above?

To start, we’re testing the waters of social media by launching the Centre’s Twitter account. You can now follow us and say hello @UCL_CoPro – please do as we are currently very short of followers! 🙂 We’ve chosen some of our favourite photos from all the adventures we’ve had so far in developing the centre, and soon we’ll post even more co-production art from our last event. Let us know what you think of the everyone’s Lego /Play Doh artwork! If you’re connected with Niccola on Twitter @Niccola_CPD, we’ll follow you soon! Niccola will continue using her account and tweeting about all things co-production as always, so you can still find her there if you want to keep in touch.

A picture of our new Twitter page @UCL_CoPro

A picture of our new Twitter page @UCL_CoPro

As you may have noticed, we’ve also got a fancy new format for our newsletter! We’re excited to be trying out this newsletter format, and look forward to hearing your feedback. If you’re reading this without having received a newsletter email from us but you’d like to keep hearing our news, please sign up for the newsletter and tell everyone you know who is interested to do the same!

One of our principles to live by as a Centre is ensuring that we are accessible to everyone and inclusive, so please let us know if you have ideas on how we can ensure we are meeting this principle as we find new ways to communicate as a community. If you aren’t such a fan of social media, please know that we’re still here in the real world and reachable in all our usual ways! If you want to say hello or plan a time to chat you can reach out to us by emailing Niccola n.pascal@ucl.ac.uk or me – Susan coproduction@ucl.ac.uk. We’ll also keep posting any key updates on the blog and highlighting them in our (newly beautified) newsletter.

We’d love to hear about your favourite ways to keep in touch on social media and anything you think we should keep in mind as we start scheming about this. You can share your ideas by commenting below, emailing Niccola n.pascal@ucl.ac.uk or me – Susan coproduction@ucl.ac.uk, or now by tweeting to @UCL_CoPro. Maybe we’ll even try out a Twitter poll soon! See you in cyberspace 😉

Dreaming big at Phase 2 Pilots Kick-off

rejbsan8 August 2019

Susan Anderson and Mandy Rudczenko share their reflections from the recent Phase 2 Pilots Kick-off event and co-creation session. Susan’s starting this off!

I really enjoyed attending my first co-creation session in July as part of my role at the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research. It was great to be part of our co-producing community. The afternoon felt like an exciting whirlwind, and I appreciated how understanding everyone was that my brain foggy day sometimes made it hard for me to communicate clearly. Thank you for the warm welcome!

The room was a mixture of people who are brand new (like me!) and people who have been contributing to the Centre since the beginning. It was great to congratulate some of the new pilot project teams, though if I didn’t catch you in person please know we’re all cheering you on! Each team shared a bit about what they’ll be doing, and got connected with a buddy who can throw around ideas with them and share what they’ve learned about co-production so far.

Kate from Common Room encouraged us to find concrete ways to address big issues like power dynamics in our own co-production projects. At my table, the Hearing Birdsong team had lots of tips to share, since many of them had experience co-producing their earlier Phase 1 Pilot project. One key strategy: find an accessible way to keep in touch and discuss big decisions as a team so the broader team can stay connected to whoever implements each part of the project. It struck me how a tool as simple as a WhatsApp group had made all the difference for them!

Lizzie sharing the evaluation ideas we have co-created so far with a room full of co-producers

Lizzie sharing the evaluation ideas we have co-created so far with a room full of co-producers

Later, we zoomed out to think about the bigger picture when Lizzie and Anna shared how far earlier co-creation sessions have brought us in planning how to evaluate the Centre work. Anna started us off by sharing what the team she was part of learned through the challenges of completing and evaluating their Phase 1 Pilot project. Building on ideas co-created in earlier sessions, Lizzie, who is working on developing the evaluation plans for the Centre, presented a menu of issues the Centre could keep an eye on to measure our success. I enjoyed our table’s debates about which ones to prioritise. We each made tough choices to vote on our favourites, though in the true spirit of co-production, one table came up with their own way of voting as a team! Hearing so many new ideas from everyone got me thinking about how I can make sure that I focus on implementing what our whole community values, and not just what I think. Our next event to keep refining how to evaluate the Centre and imagine what success looks like will be Thursday 26 September 13:30-16:30, so if you’re interested in coming please email Niccola n.pascal@ucl.ac.uk or me – Susan coproduction@ucl.ac.uk.

Now for Mandy’s reflections on the event:

I was delighted to join the Centre for Co-production to hear about their refreshing new projects. I had the chance to hear about one pilot in particular, the ‘Bridging Gaps’ project.

I was struck by their genuine egalitarian culture, and their determination to tackle the difficult issue of barriers to accessing primary healthcare. We had a transparent chat about power, and how to keep an eye on where it sits in a co-produced project. I took advantage of the Lego available on the table, and found myself building something which reflected the joy I get from co-production. It was not a standard recognisable shape; it was multifaceted and multi-coloured; it had a firm base; it stood tall and proud; it was fun!

One thing I love about going to the Centre for Co-production workshops is the facilitation. There is always a great balance between structure, humour, and spontaneity.

Here's Mandy's abstract and colourful Lego sculpture! A post-it shares the caption: "Co-production - what is it?"

Here’s Mandy’s abstract and colourful Lego sculpture! A post-it shares the caption: “Co-production – what is it?”

Susan’s chiming in again!

As a lifelong doodler, I shared Mandy’s excitement that playing with Lego and Play-doh was not frowned upon, but encouraged! At the end of the day, we tried to express what we were taking away from our afternoon together. Our table got really into it: Marie and Rebekah made a window of opportunities and an open door; Tom added a brain to make it an open mind; and Angela and I combined our squiggles to represent the questions we were all taking back to our communities. Our inner artists came out as you can see in the pic below! We’ll post more artwork pictures on Twitter soon.

Our table's artwork: a post-it says "keep an open mind!" in front of an artwork that shows a brain made of Play-Doh with a Lego door next to it.

Our table’s artwork: a post-it says “keep an open mind!” in front of an artwork that shows a brain made of Play-Doh with a Lego door next to it.

Thank you all for making this a great event. We can’t wait to see what comes next as we keep learning together and creating the Centre. Good luck to all the Phase 2 Pilot project teams! You can read about the other 2 Pilot projects not mentioned here (BAME Voices and Autism Access) in one of our previous blogs.

Remember – if you’re interested in joining us on Thursday 26 September from 13:30-16:30 to keep refining how to evaluate what success looks like for the Centre, please email Niccola n.pascal@ucl.ac.uk or me – Susan coproduction@ucl.ac.uk. I’m looking forward to seeing you some of you there!

What’s next for the Centre for Co-production? The latest from Niccola & Rachel

rejbsan8 August 2019

Wow. So it’s that time when I need to start to handover work on the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research to someone else… sad for me 🙁 I’ll miss everyone lots! An exciting time for the Centre though! I will be around until 12 September and then after this time our newly appointed Interim Head of the Centre, Rachel (who will introduce herself in a mo!) will be taking over until February 2020 whilst I go off on maternity leave. For those that are interested we’ll keep you updated on the baby front!!

All this change for me is making me think back over the last couple of years. I always remember what a group of Centre co-producers said to me in one of the early idea generation sessions that we had when we were just getting started with the Centre development work back in late 2017. During the session we were co-creating our aims and objectives and establishing our principles to live by as a Centre. As always, we did this work as a mixed group of, members of the local community, patients, carers, healthcare practitioners, researchers and students. One key thing that I always remember being told by the group was – it is great that we have all these aims and that we are all on the same page but if we are going to achieve them then we need to be practical. They were clear in saying… Niccola, we trust you to take the decisions that we have made as a group and put them into action we know that you won’t just go away and ignore our collective decisions. We want you to go away and get on with it and keep us up to date/linked in but we don’t need to be part of every small conversation or decision.

This has stuck with me! It was really moving that people put this much trust in me. It’s something that I’m always doing to best to ensure I am living up to in all the work I do. I make sure that I regularly and thoroughly check and challenge myself and others involved in the Centre development. Rest assured we may be in a period of change in terms of team members but the same ethos will continue and we will be operating as normal, powering ahead with the co-production of the Centre development.

This change of team members is really exciting for the Centre development as Rachel will bring a new perspective to the work at an exciting time in its development. A couple of months ago I presented to the UCL senior management team and the Provost (the equivalent of the Chief Executive Officer of the university) about the plans for the Centre and to garner their support of the work. The response was generally positive, there were questions about how we would ensure the long term sustainability of the Centre but also lots of ideas to help with this work. Developing a business model for the sustainable future of the Centre is something that will be a key focus for Rachel (along with the other things outlined in the role job description) – she will be in touch soon about a co-creation session in relation to this work so watch this space if this is of interest to you!

So… I would like to introduce you to Rachel Matthews, the new Interim Head of the Centre. Over to you Rachel!

Rachel is smiling at the camera wearing a black and white top

Thanks Nicc! It’s a real pleasure to be joining the Centre and I’m looking forward to getting to know more about the current activities and the many co-producers over the next few months. I was at the very first meeting to set out the vision, values and ethos of the Centre and I can see how the Centre is thriving, attracting interest and commitment. I’m privileged to be a member of one of the first projects funded by the Centre – Making care safer through innovation: Improving communication between people with hearing loss and health/social care professionals. That experience reinforced to me the value of gaining practical experience as a group in working differently so that resources and benefits are shared more widely from healthcare research.

Group shot at co-creation workshop. Rachel is fourth from the left in a black top with white stripes

A bit more about me – I’m a nurse by background and in the last 15 years I’ve drawn from that experience and adapted my skills to work with people to improve care and strengthen the influence of groups and individuals in research. In the last 10 years, I led the Patient and Public Engagement and Involvement Theme at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership and Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) Northwest London. In this job, I’ve formed lasting connections with many wonderful people who use their experiences and skills from all walks of life to improve health. With this in mind, the priority for me while I hold the space for Nicc is to ensure that the Centre continues to thrive and secures a place in the long-term vision of UCL and the communities it works with.

Once Rachel has an email and phone number set up we will share this with you all. In the meantime please feel free to contact me, Niccola n.pascal@ucl.ac.uk or Susan coproduction@ucl.ac.uk if you have any questions. I will be around until 12 September and Susan will be around part time (her usual days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). Susan is the best person to contact with any questions, about co-creation sessions or anything marketing or administration related. Rachel will be working with me during some of August to ensure a smooth handover and then starting officially in Sept once I go off on leave.

Our next co-creation sessions are:

  • Thursday 26 September 13:30-16:30, exploring how to evaluate the Centre work and determine what success looks like
  • Thursday 31 October 13:30-1630, further co-creating our learning and development support for co-producers

If you’re interested in coming to any of the sessions please email Niccola n.pascal@ucl.ac.uk or Susan coproduction@ucl.ac.uk.

This is all from me for now, chat more soon! Or… if I don’t speak to you before mid Sept all the best and see you in 2020!

Will miss you all!

Niccola