Symposium Shows the Benefits of Public Involvement in Research

As we transition into an Applied Research Collaboration (ARC NWC), it is important to look back on the progress made through CLAHRC NWC and analyse the successes and areas of improvement. The Public Involvement in Research: the NIHR CLAHRC/ ARC symposium, held on 5th September 2019 in the Liverpool Hilton, created a forum for public advisers to demonstrate how involvement with CLAHRC NWC has supported them on their journeys, and how they have been able to contribute to research surrounding health inequalities; to an audience of psychiatrists and psychologists.

Alan Price is one of our Public Advisers, who got involved with CLAHRC NWC after experiencing intense mental health problems which led him to taking time off work. Speaking at the symposium, he said "The CLAHRC has opened up a lot of opportunities for me. As a Public Adviser, you really feel your worth. People genuinely listen to you and your opinion always counts. Before being involved with CLAHRC I always thought 'what do I know?' but there are so many people out there who have had mental health problems, everybody has different journeys and we're seeing those journeys being used to help with vital research.' You can learn more about Alan's journey, and his role as a public adviser by watching this video.

At the symposium, we also heard from Rebecca West, a representative from ForHousing, an organisation which aims to help people find the right home for them, and establish community where they live. Rebecca said that working in collaboration with CLAHRC NWC was an environment of 'true co-production.' Expanding on this, she said that this was "one of the best projects that I have ever worked on. We have managed to build meaningful relationships with the community in a time when we really needed that. Working together has been very rewarding and inspiring."

Stephanie Tomlinson, a Residential Adviser, has shown how a strong element of public involvement in research can really improve communities. She has been involved in multiple projects with the aim of improving people's sense of community in her local area. One of these projects is Stockbridge in Stories, a project aimed at tackling social isolation in Stockbridge Village. Local residents were interviewed and asked to share stories about their involvement in the community and their relationships with neighbours, and these stories have been coupled with unique animations which bring them to life, and have been cumulated in the Stockbridge in Stories Booklet.

Stephanie said: "These stories are told by the community, and owned by the community as well. This project opened doors which, for a lot of Public Advisors, were closed to us in the past. A lot of our elderly residents are very isolated and lonely, and this was a really positive project which has longevity and is sustainable even after the money runs out. Working with CLAHRC NWC has been eye opening, it's challenged and strengthened us. The skills that Public Advisers bring to the table are vital and have inspired our Residential Advisers and helped them to upskill, which has been invaluable to the community. As we see strategies introduced, it is important that members of the public can sit down at the table and understand the conversations being had. Impoverished communities often lack aspirations, but through our work we have been able to embed aspirations into our community, and it has been co-productive all the way through."

CLAHRC NWC's Public Adviser Strategy was developed with members of the public, to engage them with research surrounding health inequalities. Looking to the future with ARC, Mark Gabbay, Director of ARC NWC, said: "If we start to write in a way that is accessible to the general public, we can start to make a real difference."

This symposium highlighted the importance of Public Advisers in our research and work.

From the 20th November, our formal launch as an an ARC, we will be disseminating what we have learnt, working more closely with and embedding Public Advisers in our work more than ever before.

More articles     Posted on: 05 November 2019