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Hello, goodbye and the next steps for UCL Centre for Co-production

ucjunhu2 March 2020

Hi there everyone! I’m back. And… Ishé my son is now over 5 months old! Crazy how time flies! Here he is in his big boy highchair!!

Ishé in a highchair holding a purple sipee cup

It’s great to be back, I’m looking forward to really getting stuck into the next phase for the Centre – securing our long term sustainability. This is a big job! One I’m hoping you’ll all join me in working on. I’m starting by collating everything we’ve done as a community to date, all of our work since 2017 including info from the great sessions that have happened whilst I was off. Then once collated I’m going to attempt to turn it into a very draft version of a strategy for the Centre. I will then be in touch to share this so that we can refine it together. This requires maximum focus and Rory (more on her below!) will need a little time to get up to speed once she starts. As such, I’m going to put a hold on sending out more newsletters until April. I’m really sorry about this but rest assured we will be back with bells on from April onwards! If you would like an update in the meantime, have a question or would just like a chat please feel free to email or phone me.

There’s one other thing… I’d like to say a massive thank you to Rachel, Susan and Lizzie for all of their hard work – they’ve done an amazing job! Unfortunately, as we’ll miss them, Susan has now left to go back to Canada and Rachel is off soon to her new role (with an amazing holiday in between! I am not jealous about this at all!!). Lizzie is still very much here though and we had a new project co-ordinator called Rory start last week, she will I’m sure tell you more about herself very soon!

Rachel and Susan asked me to share the below updates from them:


Rachel and Centre co-producer Sudhir creating some impressive lego artwork at the Nov 2019 evaluation co-creation session

Thanks Niccola! Yes time for me to say farewell for now. It has been an immense privilege to hold the reins since October. I’ve met fantastic and committed people who are resourceful and thoughtful in their approach to tackling complex health issues. We have progressed our business development plans by building on all the reflections generated by you and have a much better understanding of how we as individuals, teams and as a wider network make a difference. The task ahead is how to share this value and use the insight to place the Centre on a secure footing beyond 2021. My tip for your next phase is to stay creative and think like entrepreneurs to learn as quickly as possible about what others less familiar with co-production will want to connect with.


Now that I’ve finished my degree (hurray!), I’ve decided it’s time for me to spend some time back home in Toronto. I’m looking forward to having some restful time at home before I figure out my next adventures, but it’s hard to believe my time with the Centre is coming to an end but I know this work is in good hands.

Niccola (left) & Susan (right) waving and smiling, soon after Susan started the role

I’ve been avoiding writing this farewell because that means my role is really almost over! It’s been a wonderful whirlwind learning about co-production with everyone involved in the centre since I started working here late last Spring 2019. I’ve learned so much, and have so much more to learn. Thank you for welcoming me into this work, whether by tweeting hello, saying hi at an event, sharing your co-production tips and stories, or reflecting on your hopes for the Centre. So many people and teams have helped me grapple with everything from big questions about power and fairness in co-production, to the daily tasks of how to do our best to collaborate with what we have. I am excited to see how this community continues develop the centre and support each other in getting involved in co-production. I’ll really miss collaborating with you, though I’ll be cheering you on from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. I’m not posting my personal email online for privacy reasons, but if you’d like to stay in touch or you’ll be stopping through Toronto, feel free to email the Centre (coproduction@ucl.ac.uk) and ask for me. Sappy though it may sound, I may not be here but I know what I’ve learned from this community about the inspiring, challenging and valuable work of co-production will stay with me wherever I go next. Thank you!

Thanks everyone, that’s all for now. We’ll be in touch very soon.

Pop along and check out Pilot Project Hearing Birdsong in Dalston!

ucjunhu2 March 2020

For World Hearing Day, one of our Centre Pilot Projects Hearing Birdsong, will be holding its sound installation of British songbird in two locations in Dalston, North London.

  • 12-6.30pm on 2nd-3rd March at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, 13 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London E8 3DF
  • 11-6pm on 6-7th March at Kingsland Shopping Centre, Kingsland High St, Dalston, London E8 2LX

Image of the Helix Design Centre with the Hearing Birdsong yellow bird boxes displayed in the room (Image credit: James Retief @jretief11)

As you my know, the co-produced project, brings together art, healthcare and science to raise awareness of hearing loss and encourage early identification. Visitors are invited into a safe space to interact with the exhibition and listen to birdsongs emitted from handmade bird boxes. The 5 birdsongs contain frequencies that are similar to those lost with an age-related or noise-induced hearing impairment. Visitors can chose to have their hearing check with the HearCheck by a trained member of staff. More details attached.

Please do pop in for your free hot drink and to experience the installation! No need to book, just turn up and say hey!

Co-production event: Teasing out the Tensions

ucjunhu2 March 2020

This event was planned and delivered as a partnership between public contributors, INVOLVE; Centre for Public Engagement at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London; UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research; Bridges Self-Management; Department of Design, and Brunel University.

With thanks to Journal Frontiers in Sociology who sponsored the event on 26 February 2020.

This blog is written by UCL Centre for Co-production co-producer and event team member Sarah Markham, thanks Sarah!

I arrived early at the NCVO building on the morning of 26 February ready to help Gary of INVOLVE, to distribute copies of the agenda and co-production materiel on the seats. This felt a good way to embed myself into the event; I had played a role in the design and organisation of the workshop and it felt important to me to be contributing on a practical level on the actual day. It was a beautifully sunny Wednesday morning and the event had sold out. The day felt full of co-production promise.

The term ‘co-production’ has many context dependent meanings, across a range of settings including clinical research and services management, but in general refers to the creation and implementation of projects in which members of all relevant stakeholder groups, especially members of the public, are involved as equals.

In line with the co-production principle of parity of involvement and contribution, when organising the Teasing Out the Tensions event, we had agreed that one of the principles of the day would be that everyone, attendees included, would be responsible for its implementation and success. How this democratic ideal would play out in practice, we had no idea.

Scott sat on a chair with sponsor and event organiser logo’s in the background delivering his opening speech

The event began with a welcome from Scott Ballard-Ridley of Bridges Self-Management who explained what would happen throughout the day and how the it had all been put together. This was followed by a scene setting talk about the challenges of co-production by the key speaker Peter Beresford (University of Essex). The focus of Peter’s talk was strength in complex and difficult times in the context of national politics. Themes included progressive democratisation versus neo-liberal populism, the privileging of traditional forms of knowledge and continuing barriers to involving hard to reach populations. Peter asserted that this was creating distrust in service users regarding the feasibility of co-production. He celebrated the many people who were making robust efforts to actualise democratic involvement and co-production, and the expansion of associated research projects (both national and international). Peter exhorted us to be positive and assertive, and to keep moving forward in promoting the democratisation of policy and services.

Peter sat at front of the room delivering his keynote speech to the audience

Competing ideologies of patient public involvement (PPI) have evolved within the same terminology framework and Peter spoke about the impact of political power on co-production. He claimed that there are serious inequalities to resolve in the arena of co-production and a great need to empower service users and raise confidence in their agency to enact political and cultural change. Peter emphasised the inclusion of all forms of diversity at a level of equal power in participatory activities and this required community development and outreach. Co-production must run through this from the beginning to the end.

Peter concluded his talk by emphasising the need for co-production to include and generate new experiential knowledge and for people to continue to resist epistemic discrimination (prejudice, bias and discriminatory action suffered by individuals in their position as epistemic agents, that is, as individuals who can acquire knowledge, justified belief or understanding). The presentation was then thrown open to the audience for questions and discussion and there was further talk with regard to creation of shared knowledge and learning via the involvement of service users at every stage of social work post qualification and the power of co-production to change culture. The realities of trying to getting involved in co-production project was also discussed, including issue such as identity intersection and impressions of residual disregard for subjective experiential learning.

At this point attendees had a choice of five parallel sessions to attend, exploring respectively tensions in the co-production of publishing, commissioning of health and social care research, acting ethically within co-production, sharing power in a project and co-produced evaluation. There was a focus on discussion and interaction within all sessions (and no PowerPoint presentations allowed!)

Lots of discussion taking place as part of the Ethics of co-production session

Lunch was a fabulous range of sandwiches, rolls, hot wedges and fruit and was alive with vibrant conversation. After lunch a re-run of the five parallel sessions of the morning allowed everyone to engage in their second favourite option. As in the morning, I was co-facilitating the co-production in evaluation ’embracing messiness’ session led by Lizzie Cain (UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research). Personally the notion of ‘mess’ unnerves me, conjuring notions of unmitigated and incomprehensible chaos. I was anticipating being one of the most challenged people in the session. At the same time I understood that discussing practical means of dealing with ‘mess’ would hopefully allow us all to at least begin to get a handle on the matter. This had the potential to help build confidence (and hope!)

Co-production can be viewed as a disruptive innovation and challenge people to work differently. Lizzie and I had thought it would be useful to mention the potential benefits of ‘tensions’ in the co-production of evaluation. A mutually respectful difference of opinions/ideas/priorities could lead to productive and inspiring debate, possibly leading to the generation of new (shared) understandings and appreciation. I was personally aware of work done (in Tanzania) co-produced with peer workers in which it had been highlighted in interviews that the data collection specification for a service evaluation hadn’t really provided the funders with any meaningful information and had been in effect experienced as a burden and not a meaningful exercise for the programme. We used a discussion of this and similar issues to segue into a discussion of the value of evidence.

Lizzie sharing her thoughts with the group taking part in the Embracing messiness break out session

The notion that tensions could have a positive effect and play a valuable or even necessary role in co-produced evaluation proved popular and creatively provocative for the attendees. Of particular interest was the role that those tensions can play in working towards culture change. Both the traditional research and funding world, and co-producers need to understand each other’s needs and come to some sort of compromise around how and what is evaluated and reported. This is happening – responsible funders are becoming much more aware of the burden their reporting requirements can place on staff.

There was a general discussion about what evaluation is in the context of co-production and the value that tensions can bring; enabling productive discussions which may generate shared understandings. This discussion segued well into consideration of the role of evidence in co-produced research and the importance of context in assessing what kind of evidence is important to collect. We also considered the different reasons why you would evaluate a co-produced project, which audiences would it be relevant to reach, the kind of evidence needed and the extent to which you could co-produce the evidence collection. One participant raised the excellent point that evaluation is only of value if the findings are used and it leads to actionable points and this can be sued to guide the design of the evaluation.

There was recognition that we do need more evidence of the ‘traditional’ impact co-production can have on projects rather than just assuming it does make things better and the complexity of iterative, participatory evaluation. Angela who is also involved with the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research shared her experience of co-developing the Hearing Birdsong Pilot Project to raise awareness of hearing deficits with the use of birdsong funded first by Imperial College and more recently UCL. The project had essentially been user-led with professionals becoming drawn in as the project evolved. The entire process had been very organic.

Lizzie gave a clear and comprehensive description of how the UCL Centre for Co-Production in Health Research evaluate the projects they fund with an emphasis on drawing out reflection and learning from the projects including their relations with the Centre for Co-Production and their experience of the evaluation process. Within this there is also the awareness of the need to include more traditional quantitative measures of impact.

At the end of our session I shared my experiences of participating in a co-creation session at the UCL Centre for Co-Production in which we had shared positive experiences of co-production. What had been remarkable was the richness and diversity of experiences of how co-production had impacted on ourselves, the changes it had caused and the actions it had led to as a consequence. Common emergent themes being the importance of connectedness, of learning to understand each other better and the almost infectious nature of co-production.

Tina Coldham (INVOLVE) chaired the final session of the day commenting on the positivity and liveliness of the event and the importance of bringing new (and possibly radically disruptive) ideas to the table. She reflected on Peter Beresford’s presentation; on the multiple uses of terminology and framing co-production in research as collective advocacy. The leaders of the parallel sessions were then invited to come up to the front and give their reflections. Thoughts were expressed regarding the value of lay summaries in academic publications, the importance of addressing issues in co-production due to power imbalances, the need for commissioners to be more flexible in order to allow co-production to actually happen, the need for sufficient time to be allowed within projects for co-production to be done properly, the need to create an open and inclusive culture of evaluation in co-production, and the ethics and practicalities of paying lay people for their involvement in research. Hopefully the vibrant co-production conversations initiated during the day will be continued on Twitter and elsewhere. Check out the hashtag from the day #CoProToTT

More photo’s coming soon!

This event planned as a partnership between public contributors, INVOLVE; Centre for Public Engagement at Kingston University and St George’s, University of London; UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research; Bridges Self-Management; Department of Design, and Brunel University.

The event was sponsored by the Journal Frontiers in Sociology.


The latest news from UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research! So much to tell you…

ucjunhu24 June 2019

Niccola Hutchinson-Pascal and Susan Anderson the new Project Co-ordinator for the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research share the latest news from the Centre development work.

Hello everyone!

We have yet MORE exciting news from the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research! It’s non-stop at the mo! The news is all people related this time.

In summary….

  • We will soon have our first Centre baby… de de derrr!
  • There is a part time job available in the team – maternity cover to start in Aug/Sept 2019.
  • We’re looking for people interested in interviewing and or shortlisting applications for the maternity cover role
  • Susan the newest member of the team would like to say hello!

Read on to find out more…

Our first Centre baby is due mid Sept!

Picture of a stork carrying a bundle in its beak

For those who haven’t seen me (Niccola) recently you might have missed the slightly larger stomach but… there is no denying it any longer I am definitely pregnant (eeek! I’m a little scared by it all to be honest so any advice is VERY welcome!). What this all means is that we need to ensure we have cover in place whilst I’m not around. As such, we are pleased to share the job advert for the maternity cover role – read more about this below. Please do get applying, we want to make sure we have top notch support in place so that the Centre can continue to develop at full speed ahead!

Whilst we’re talking about me you might also notice that I have a new job title, ooo err! Rest assured nothing has changed job role wise. I’m still doing exactly the same job I have been since you’ve known me it’s just now my job description and title is in line with the wording used by the rest of the department.

A maternity cover role is now available

The Centre is looking for temporary support to help us progress several keys elements of the project such as developing a sustainable business model for the future whilst Niccola is on maternity leave. Interested? Great news!

Please see the job advert blog for information on how to apply. We look forward to receiving your application very soon!

Not interested in applying for the maternity cover role but keen to help?

Great. If you would like to be part of the interview panel and or to help shortlist applications we’d love to hear from you, please let me know by emailing me at n.pascal@ucl.ac.uk.

The newest member of the team would like to say hello!

Hi! I’m Susan. I’ve just started as the Centre’s new Project Co-ordinator, and the last few weeks have been a wonderful whirlwind. It felt like a warm British welcome when on my first day at least a few people made sure I knew where the tea and kettle were. (I’m Canadian!) Since then, I’ve been absorbing as much as I can about the UCL Centre for Co-Production in Health Research. I was already looking forward to getting started, and getting a taste for what we do here has me even more excited for the months ahead. I’ve learned about the inspiring Phase 1 Pilot projects we supported last year, all sorts of plans for the future, and the really wide ranging group of people who have already helped build the centre so far. It’s amazing to be a part of a team collaborating with everyone from patients to researchers to community leaders. It was great to see how this approach can work wonders at an event led by some of our friends with help from the Centre to launch the Collaborative Centre for Inclusion Health – their latest blog tells you all about the event. I’ve loved learning about the Centre’s vision and ‘Principles that we live by’ through Debbie’s artwork. One of my favourite parts was seeing the centre encourages people to try new things so we can learn together – whether they go as planned or not.

I come to this role wearing many hats – none pictured above 🙂 – so I could go on for ages about why co-production is exciting to me.

  • As a master’s student studying Global Health and Development, I love seeing somewhere that helps researchers collaborate with all kinds of people to make health research even more useful for community members.
  • As a person with chronic illness (writing this while brain foggy!), I know how important it is to value patients’ expertise and the creative ideas we have for improving care.
  • Having volunteered with many community organisations, I know they can make magic happen with few resources and have so many programs and partnerships everyone can learn from.
  • Since I used to work for a hospital back home, I know health workers are experts at finding creative ways to help people while navigating all kinds of institutional requirements.

So in case you can’t tell, I think it’s just about the best idea ever to bring many perspectives together to co-produce solutions to improve health. I can’t wait to meet you all and keep learning about co-production with you. Please say hi, I’ll be at a co-creation session very soon!

That’s all from us for now, chat more soon!

Thanks so much
Niccola & Susan


The UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research is recruiting!

ucjunhu24 June 2019

Are you interested in how the co-production of research can improve the health of our diverse society?

Do you have skills in sustainable business model development?

How about applying for the Interim Head of the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research maternity cover role? The Centre is looking for temporary support to help us progress several key elements of the project including developing a sustainable business model for the future, nurturing potential partnerships and ensuring great internal and external relationship management. Details on how to apply are outlined below.

We’d love to have you join us!

What is the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research all about?

The Centre, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF3) until August 2021 is currently under development. It is co-producing innovative approaches to involve a diverse range of people in research design, particularly seldom heard-from voices. As a group of interested patients, carers, members of the local community, researchers and healthcare practitioners we are working together (in line with our co-created ‘Principles that we want to live by’) to develop the Centre. We make decisions collaboratively about how we co-produce the Centre and are working to ensure that the end result is a Centre that works for everyone. The development work to date has involved over 150 collaborators, we have funded four pilot projects and supported a fifth pilot to learn about what works and what doesn’t in relation to co-production. Phase 2 Pilot project applications are currently being reviewed in time for those chosen to be funded to start at the end of July 2019.

The Centre work is closely aligned to the increasing focus of Government, funders, communities and researchers on co-production as a way of addressing current and future health and social care challenges. As such, we are keen to take this project from a small and self-contained one to a scaled-up, integrated and embedded one across the UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences, and ultimately, the institution as a whole. The Centre is due to officially launch in mid to late-2020. The Centre development work is currently funded until 2021.

In order to achieve all of this we are looking for someone like you to join the team!

If you would like to find out more about the Centre please have a read of our blogs about the work completed to date.

How do I apply for this job?

You simply need to:

  1. Have a read of the job description in PDF for the role (if you would prefer a Word version of the document this is also available, please email Niccola on the details below).
  2. Ensure that you understand and embrace the Centre ’Principles that we want to live by’ in the way that you work. Still interested? Great! Please read on
  3. Write a statement (approximately 500 words/1 page of A4) about how you meet the job role Person Specification requirements – if you would like to have a chat beforehand this is no problem at all, please email Niccola (details below) and we can set up a time.
  4. Email an application that includes the following to Niccola
    – Your CV (Curriculum Vitae)
    – Your supporting statement (as outlined in point 3)

Please note: deadline for applications is 12 noon on Monday 8 July. Interviews will take place on Wednesday 24 July, so please hold this date in your diary if possible.

Should you require travel expenses in order to be able to attend the interview or if you have any access or participation requirements please don’t hesitate to let Niccola (details below) know.

Is there any other nitty gritty to be aware of?

  • The role is on a part time basis for a five month period initially (from Aug/September 2019 to early February 2020) with the possibility of extension.
  • The Centre is open to a joint proposal from two people for a job share of this role. If you would like to take this option please submit one email containing 2 CVs and a supporting letter which sets out clearly the skills and experience of each job share partner and which parts of the role you would each cover.
  • The Centre is open to applications from freelance workers or individuals looking for part time work.
  • Where possible work will take place at UCL Culture offices, 38-50 Bidborough Street, London, WC1H 9BT and Maple House, 149 Tottenham Court Road, London, W1T 7NF but the Centre is open to discussions about some remote working.
  • The successful applicant will be required to register with the UCL Temporary Jobs Agency – Unitemps in order to be paid.

If you have any questions or queries please get in contact with Niccola (details below).

Contact details

Please send all applications by the deadline of 12 noon on Monday 8 July to:

Niccola Hutchinson-Pascal
Email: n.pascal@ucl.ac.uk

INGRAINED: putting public engagement at the heart of research

Briony Fleming and ucftge026 February 2019

This blog has been written by Dr. Gemma Moore, Head of Evaluation in UCL Culture together with Marina Chang from the Calthorpe Project.

This month UCL launched its new Research Strategy; providing a vision for UCL’s research over the next ten years. I am delighted to say that public engagement features heavily in the Strategy, and is recognised as a vital instrument to achieve UCL’s ambitions.

“The new UCL Research Strategy commits to crossing boundaries to increase engagement as one of our three aims. Public engagement is a crucial part of how we will achieve this and another of our aims, to deliver impact for public benefit. Our implementation of the Research Strategy will now focus on the concrete actions we need to take to further embed, strengthen and learn from public engagement with research across UCL.”

– Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research)

The Research Strategy, and the role of public engagement in it, was directly informed by the emerging insights from the INGRAINED project. INGRAINED, which ran from October 2017-October 2018, was a project funded under the RCUK/UKRI Strategic Support to Expedite Embedding Public Engagement with Research call.Working with colleagues in the Office of the Vice Provost Research (OVPR) and the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) we explored 3 key areas:

  • how community involvement could be built into the infrastructure and governance for the UCL Grand Challenges programme and UCL’s research strategy more broadly
  • how to make the outputs and outcomes of UCL research, and ongoing research activity, relevant and accessible to local communities;
  • developing greater evidence and knowledge of how research agendas can be informed by local communities and different stakeholders.

But what does that all really mean? INGRAINED was a unique opportunity to bring together the Public Engagement Unit, the Grand Challenges programme, and primary research to examine how we can make public engagement fundamental to the university’s efforts to address global societal issues through cross-disciplinary research. We ran a programme of activity that included focus groups, interviews, a match-making event between community organisations and researchers, funding pilot public engagement projects led by community organisations, and reflecting upon our working practice and strategic ambitions.

Influencing strategy is a must – and is not always easy – but it is not an end in itself. This project crystallised for us what we already suspected; that a meaningful response to this challenge and opportunity requires a willingness to commit to institutional and system-wide transformation rather than just a tweaking of existing systems and structures. This requires committed action within and beyond individual universities. Universities are increasingly being asked and expected to respond to both global and local contexts and societal priorities – and there is evidence that the sector as a whole has a strong commitment and desire to respond in a meaningful way. For other HEIs looking to undertake projects similar to INGRAINED we recommend that there is commitment at the most senior level and only by a team which encompasses key actors drawn from those who lead on global and local engagement from both a professional services and academic perspective.

For us a key achievement is that this project’s findings have been fed directly into UCL’s revised research strategy, and can be seen reflected in several key objectives:

  • Extend the reach of UCL Grand Challenges through a greater emphasis on external engagement, including community stakeholders.
  • Encourage our research to thrive beyond traditional boundaries, which includes commitments to “support engagement with different communities” and to “cross boundaries between varied forms of social engagement”, including drawing from the UCL community’s specialist skills and expertise in engaging with civil society and the public.
  • Foster open and engaged research.
  • Stimulate societal impact through cross-disciplinarity and collaboration, including commitments to “foster public collaboration in research to benefit communities”, and “benefit London and our local community”.

Our learning from INGRAINED will inform how we take these objectives forward. However, INGRAINED amplified a key issue: how to identify and optimise the benefits of linking the global to the local in a strategic and sustained fashion and what this might look like in practice. The Engagement Team are currently developing a vision and targets for public engagement at UCL, over the next 10 year, part of which draws on the learning from INGRAINED about the role of university in society and how we can act to explore global issues in local contexts.

Next we hear from someone involved in the pilot project: Marina Chang, Co-Chair of the Calthorpe Project.

This is not a story about a project, this is not a story about a strategy, this is not a story about INGRAINED. Instead, this is a story about partnership and friendship between the Calthorpe Project and UCL. I am going to talk about who we are and how what we deliver as an organisation has been shaped by our involvement with UCL. (INGRAINED, although a short project, allowed us to cement existing and build new relationships with UCL.)
The Calthorpe Project is an inner-city community garden and centre that exists to improve the physical and emotional well-being of those who live, work or study in Camden and surrounding areas. We have rich skills and experience, passion and personality – and this has been fundamental to our approach to partnership working. We have been keen to develop a genuine collaborative approach to working with UCL and therefore have been actively involved in the entire cycle of the public engagement projects funded through INGRAINED. This has included identification of local needs; working on grant applications; designing and implementing the projects; evaluation; and wider dissemination to generate London-wide impact and beyond. Calthorpe strives to be good neighbour to UCL and vividly believes in a vision that the community is part of the university and vice versa. Part of our ethos is a commitment to supporting any experiments and innovation to create a learning community.
Working with both the existing and the newly-formed intensive networks at UCL as a result of INGRAINED, Calthorpe has encouraged and supported community participation to integrate research, education, transformative technologies, social enterprise and public policy into a coherent whole.
INGRAINED allowed us to run a series of workshops with artists from the Slade. This project was part of a wider programme: contributing to the Calthorpe Living Lab. Calthorpe Living Lab marks another important milestone for the collaborative and creative journey together between The Calthorpe Project and UCL. As a small scale, community-based, project, Calthorpe Living Lap is both a community garden and a vehicle to undertake user-led innovation: bringing together its users with other external partners such as UCL it tests out innovative approaches in a real-life environment. Built upon previous public engagement projects, The Lab combines micro-anaerobic digestion with on-site food growing using raised beds, polytunnels, and hydroponics. Food waste from the on-site community café is digested to produce biogas (used for cooking and extending the growing season) while the liquid fertiliser by-product supports plant growth in the garden. Food harvested then supplies the café: this circular approach is what is known as a ‘closed-loop system’.

circular plastic machine using hydroponics to grow plants and vegetables

Plant Orbital: a machine using hydroponics to grow vegetables. photo credit to The Calthorpe Project

child looks at plant orbital: a clear plastic circular machine using hyroponics to grow plants and vegetables

Local people explore the plant orbital as UCL researcher explains how it works

Collaborating with UCL has challenged our thinking: pioneering a way to approach issues regarding food systems, urban systems and health systems from a more holistic and integrated way, and has allowed us to experiment and learn. The Calthorpe Living Lab uses food as a focal point for UCL researchers and students as well as wider publics bringing multiple benefits. We are looking forward to our next chapter working with UCL, and seeing what it bringss.

Co-creation, reflection and challenging the status quo! What’s next for the Centre for Co-pro?

ucjunhu20 December 2018

This blog is written by Niccola Hutchison Pascal, reflecting on the year since the Centre for Co-Production in Health Research starting on it’s journey.

Hey everyone 🙂 So I thought it was about time that I share some (of the many!) thoughts spinning around in my head! Sorry for those of you that have already been subjected to my reflective thinking!

Eight flamingos drinking from a lake, their image is reflected in the water they are standing in (Image credit: Scene360.com)

It’s been a little over a year since we started out on this journey to co-produce the set up of the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research… that went quick! As a Centre we want to champion genuine co-production of health research, services and policy development and build a case to support this way of working where there is genuine sharing of power and decision-making. What have we learnt so far? And, what specifically have I learnt? If I had to distil it down to one sentence, I’d say…

Co-production takes commitment but it is oh so worth it! If done in a genuine way the mutual benefit and the visible difference it makes to those involved (including you and me) is immense!

Group session with people discussing Centre development plans – posit notes and papers are all over the table

What are these visible differences am I talking about? As part of the Centre development work, we are working hard to build the ‘case’ for working in this way so that we can start to mobilise more support for the use of co-production in research. It’s early days but I would say it is becoming clear (from our work to date and previous work by others) that… co-production/co-creation improves the practical applicability of outcomes, it builds trust, it improves relationships between all groups involved, and it contributes to more cohesive communities. The communities that we are ALL a part of.

What are some of the challenges?

As with any project, there are always challenges. We are working hard to ensure we are embracing genuine, authentic co-production – we don’t get it right all the time but the key thing is that we are all learning from each other (plus some great projects that are already live) and developing as a team along the way. No judgement or target chasing here! One challenge in particular is ensuring the sharing of power and breaking down of hierarchies. Let’s be honest, UCL is a huge hierarchical institution, and the funding from Wellcome Trust for this project is sitting within it, which has resulted in challenges – people sometimes feel uncomfortable (perhaps due to preconceptions or past experience) to question the organisation and or the way public engagement and patient public involvement has previously been done. How do we break this down, level the playing field and ensure that shared decision-making can take place? Well, if you ask us we would say that we don’t always get it right but we are a team and are open and honest about the challenges, we work through each one as a team until we find a practical solution. We set up co-creation sessions (using facilitated group work) so that everyone in the team knows that their views are of equal importance and has equal chance to have their say. We each have a unique set of skills and experience that we bring to the team. Relationship building and us all feeling we can trust each other, is key to ensuring that we all feel comfortable in pushing the boundaries. In addition, we are regularly talking to people from across UCL and the local community of Somers Town (plus more widely) about the aims and objectives of this project in order to raise it’s profile (more work to do on this in 2019!). UCL are 100% committed to this work (and the large amount more that we need to do!) and as a team of collaborators, we are clear that we want to challenge the status quo within health research – full stop.

Illustration of the different roles in a co-production team (Credit: Beth Ingram, Common Room)

Back in August we assessed applications and chose (as a mixed group of Centre collaborators that included patients, carers, local residents, students, researchers, and healthcare professionals) to fund four pilot projects. As a Review Team we put our trust in each other and as a result came out with a cracking set of pilots that are helping us to address practical questions around how we go about setting up the Centre. The learning from all of these pilots will be fed back into the development of the Centre (you can read more about this in our last blog). I’m pleased to share that there is also one more pilot funded by partner organisation Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre (thanks Moorfields!) that is now part of the fold! Sorry it took me so long to share! I recently caught up with research nurse Jac (who is part of the pilot team) for the ‘We Ci2i – We Co-design interventions 2 improve’ project, for a chat. Here is what she had to say after she attended one of the Centre training programme development co-creation sessions…

It was so great to be in a room with like-minded people and being part of an innovative movement. It helped me understand more about the Centre, what it is all about and the direction it is heading. The session was fun and the facilitators were excellent at getting us all working together. We had really useful discussions on our tables about hurdles we may face trying to co-produce and thinking through what a successfully co-produced piece of work would look like.

It was really interesting hearing Common Room highlight how some people work in this way (i.e. utilising co-production) naturally, without even thinking about it; these types of people wouldn’t approach a project in any other way. I identify with this approach and perhaps naively assumed everyone would be on board with a project developed in this way. However, it is not until you start trying, that you realise some constraints in the bureaucracy of research, act as difficult barriers to navigate.

Co-creating a learning programme and supporting resources

Around the same time that we funded the pilot projects, we also took the same collective approach to deciding which organisation to appoint to help us in co-creating a training programme and supporting materials to help us learn. As a mixed group of Centre collaborators the organisation that we took on is…. Common Room!

Common Room logo

Meet the team at Common Room

Hi. I’m Kate. I run Common Room, an organisation which seeks to bring together people who have lived experience of disabilities and health conditions, researchers and healthcare providers to improve services and ensure that people have more choice and control in their lives.

Hi there, I’m Beth. Because of my own experiences of serious mental health issues and being a carer, I now run a peer support charity called Hearts & Minds. I am also a young advisor for Common Room and have a YouTube channel called Community Conversations (make sure you check it out!) about all things to do with youth work, mental health, disability & lived experience. I am passionate about improving the situations that marginalised or ‘vulnerable’ people often face and believe that the best solutions come from community, collaboration & honesty.

So… what’s next for the Centre?

The holiday break! Yes! 🙂 And, after this… well, we will be getting back on it of course! There is plenty to do. We are going to be doing some big picture thinking, we have plans to bring together a group of funding bodies, from health research and wider, to start to tackle the ‘bureaucracy of research’ as Jac put it. We want to kick start a conversation (and action!) about the constraints current funding application methods and processes put on groups who want to co-produce and how we might change these. In addition, we will be starting work on a website for the Centre and exploring names, logo’s etc. Exciting times!

One other thing…. have you heard about the UCL Provost’s Public Engagement Awards? As you may be aware, the Centre development is part of a wider culture change piece of work to bring UCL together as an institution and to ensure it is more outward looking. To work towards embedding public engagement, patient public involvement and co-production as a standard part of research/way of doing things within the university. Therefore, the awards are a perfect opportunity to amplify our message by highlighting some of the great co-production/co-creation work going on! They are open for applications from both community partners and UCL staff and students – go for it! If you have any questions feel free to contact me, Niccola.

The Centre is very much open to all who want to be involved, please feel free to get in touch if you want to join us.

Thanks for an amazing 2018 everyone, happy holidays! Looking forward to 2019!!

Our trip north of the wall: reflections on 2018 Engage conference

Lizzy Baddeley12 December 2018

“Twas the month before Christmas, when all through the UK
The public engagement professionals were coming out to play”

Every November, the UCL Engagement team makes a yearly pilgrimage to the Engage conference, a national gathering of engagement professionals organised by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE).

It’s a chance for us to take some time out and reflect on our year in engagement, hear from others about their successes and failures, and to think about the future. This year, it was also a great chance for some of the newer members of our team to learn more about the public engagement sector as a whole.

In 2018, the conference was held in Edinburgh over the final two days of November, which was a great setting and meant that there were lots of different faces to the last few years’ location of Bristol. It was also the 10th anniversary of both the NCCPE and much of our public engagement activity, which is highlighted in our series of blog posts on the UCL 10 year public engagement anniversary. As such there was much reflection on what has gone before, and where we might be in another decade.

Here are some team reflections on what we learnt:

Lizzy Baddeley – Project Manager in Community Engagement (East) team

The highlight for me was a really interesting session about ethics and public engagement, co-hosted by Sarah Anderson (University of Edinburgh) and Dawn Smith (Edinburgh Napier University). Ethical engagement is something that our team has been thinking about a lot this year.

In the university sector, research involving living participants or data coming from living participants must gain ethical approval to ensure that the research conforms with general ethical principles and standards. This involves submitting the detail of your research to an ethics committee for review.

Public Engagement activity naturally involves working with living participants, but if this engagement is not directly feeding into research, then where a researcher might need to seek ethical approval for their public engagement project is not clear.

But what if an engagement activity does turn into part of the research further down the line?

Even more importantly, what guidelines should a researcher follow when it comes to thinking about how to ethically run their engagement, regardless of whether there is an official board to review their practice?

And above this, who is saying what is ethical? Whose ethics are we conforming to?

All these questions were raised and as a group we thought about some of the implications of these questions, and possible solutions.

For me, this was a fantastic opportunity to think about how we could involve external communities in the process of setting ethical standards and the review of activities. So watch this space!

Louise Dredge – Public Engagement Manager, School of Laws, Arts and Humanities, Social and Historical Sciences and the Institute of Education

There were a couple of things I experienced that stayed with me. Firstly the discussion and examples in the session between Val McDermid (best-selling crime writer) and Niamh Nic Daéid, (Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, University of Dundee) on Learning by Narrative and using stories as a means of explaining complex things.

Secondly, in the Facing the Future plenary session, Nike Jonah‘s spoke about Standpoint Theory, an important concept in thinking about where knowledge lies in communities. This theory posits that the further you are from the centre of power, the more you know. As an outsider to the dominant group you have to understand the viewpoints of that group or groups in order to get by, whereas those at centre of power don’t necessarily have to reflect on orinclude more marginalised groups.

Finally, I was very interested in the statistics shared by Jennifer Wallace from Carnegie UK Trust around the trust in academic evidence vs how much it is used. Their evidence suggests that 63% of public policy and practice professionals trust academic evidence, but only 35% actually use it. We need to rethink how we share academic outputs as well as co-create research to allow this figure to change.

Helen Craig – Public Engagement Manager, School of Life and Medical Sciences

I really appreciated the session on training with Helen Featherstone (University of Bath); Heather Lusardi (NCCPE). There were some good discussions on co-producing training with external communities and what that would look like, as well as sharing methods to produce a cohort, which is something we would like to do better.

The Science Theatre session was also very interactive and involved mime, which was a fun change on a Friday afternoon!

Georgia Pitts – Public Engagement Manager, School of Bartlett, Engineering, Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Day two was a bounty of good practice and useful ideas to take forward into what we do here at UCL. I also attended the session run by Helen Featherstone and Heather Lusardi, which was all about public engagement training for researchers. I’m responsible for leading on our training provision this year, so this was top of my list of sessions to attend – and it didn’t disappoint. We talked about how we can ‘practice what we preach’ and co-produce the training we offer with researchers, with a learner-centred model. This would ensure that our training is really hitting the mark in terms of addressing needs in the researcher community. A hot topic of discussion was how we can match skills development through training with opportunities to try out engagement – something which we have been mulling over here for some time, and as a result of this session I’m excited to have some points of reference to draw on. Watch this space!

Briony Fleming – Community Engagement Manager (East)

I personally enjoyed learning a bit more about Affirmative Inquiry – a process of thinking of things in a positive light from delivery to design to destiny, as a tool for both forward planning and strategising. This helps to move you out of situations where people can often default to being negative when reflecting or planning.

I also enjoyed Edinburgh itself, not just because of the food, but because I think it’s good to move away from the south of England where often big conferences are based.

Finally I enjoyed the ‘Public Engagement Card Deck’ creative project planning tool from University of Birmingham – which I have been telling everyone about. It allows you to think about scenario-planning and taking perspective in the form of a game, which allow you to collectively think through some of the challenges and opportunities in a scenario you have been dealt from the pack. It was good at highlighting how often public engagement activities have to respond to things beyond their control! Hopefully we can think about ways to include this in our training

Marie Xypaki – Curriculum and Public Engagement Consultant

I enjoyed the Engaged Learning session delivered by Bristol University and Bristol Green Capital. It was very interesting to see existing approaches to public engagement in university teaching and learning and it seems that there is great work on embedding a real-life challenge to dissertations.

There doesn’t seem to be concrete work around embedding engagement into the whole of the curriculum which gives space for innovation.
It was also very interesting for me, as someone new to my role, to see how diverse the practice around Public Engagement is and that there isn’t one definition or approach. Engage gave me the opportunity to reflect a lot around public engagement and how we deliver it in the sector. I’m still pondering…

Engaging ideas: thoughts from the annual public engagement conference

Lizzy Baddeley18 December 2017

Last week, the whole of the Public Engagement Unit descended on Bristol for the annual Engage conference, run by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE). This is a big event in the public engagement world, as it’s one of the few times we get together as a sector to talk about what we have done, ideas for the future and to share best practice.

It’s also a time when we (the UCL Public Engagement Unit), are able to get some perspective on how engagement is going at UCL compared to other universities. Normally this is pretty good. We are lucky that we have engagement written into UCL’s 2034 strategy, support from senior leadership and the resource to have such a large team (there are currently 9 of us). A lot of our colleagues work alone or in teams of two or three, and have much less institutional buy in.

Engage 2017 banner

For me, a few key themes came out of the conference this year that I think reflect the mood of the public engagement sector more generally:

  1. How to begin collaborations on shared ground

This was a key theme – how to ensure that collaborations between researchers and external communities and partners start off truly equal, and that they are not dominated by the needs or ideas of the researchers. A number of the sessions focused specifically on this, and sharing toolkits for how to set this up. For example Christian Aid shared their Rethinking Research Partnerships toolkit, which really challenged me to think about the questions we should ask each other at the start of projects. Could you mention the imagine project here? Too meta?

  1. Holistic engagement

Chancellor of Rutgers University, Newark, Nancy Cantor, gave a really inspirational plenary, challenging delegates to think about universities as an ‘anchor institution’. Rutgers are working to integrate and prioritise their local community into all aspects of the university – from service procurement to student recruitment – as well as embedding engagement into research and teaching.

For me, this was a real challenge to the idea of public engagement being something different to other forms of collaboration with communities, like widening participation, policy engagement, community volunteering. In UCL, like most universities, these teams all sit separately, report to different parts of the organisation and working collaboratively requires overcoming internal barriers. However, the philosophy of public engagement is not unique to our ‘sector’, but is true for all these forms of engagement – we all want to create mutual benefits for universities and communities – it just takes different forms.

Lizzy talking to a seated room

Lizzy presenting during a session on training

  1. Impact from Engagement

An increasing priority, thanks to the Research Excellence Framework (REF), there were a number of discussions about the necessity to demonstrate impact from engagement. As an engagement professional, it’s obvious to me that engagement is impactful – both on the community partner and the university and researcher – but the challenge comes from demonstrating a long term sustainable change. What if the interaction leads to feelings of empowerment or inclusivity? How are those measured, tracked and captured?

At a time when UCL generally, and our team in particular, is thinking about the opportunities at our new campus (UCL East), all these themes are really relevant. Minna Ruohonen, the Public Engagement Manager East, is leading on this part of our work. We are also in the early stages of planning a centre for coproduced health research with funding UCL has from the Wellcome Trust and Niccola Hutchinson-Pascal, the Project Manager, is working out how to do this in a way which is truly collaborative and that ensures all partners operate on a level playing field in terms of power to influences decision making right from the start.

It’s really great to have a chance to take time to learn from others in our industry and hear what is being tried, what’s worked, and also what hasn’t. Now we need to put it into practice! If you have ideas on what we should do, or want to get involved, get in touch!

Lizzy Baddeley is a Public Engagement Coordinator at UCL and specifically supports Arts and Humanities and Social Science researchers. She also leads on our training programme and team communications.