Boingboing blogs from… Norwich

Connected Communities Festival, CCFest 2015: Co-production and communities

by Anne Rathbone – PhD student and Boingboing blogger

Hi its Anne Rathbone here – PhD student with Angie, and Boingboinger!  So this is my first blog for Boingboing – actually my first blog for anything – so bear with me, I’m learning as I go!  We are at a friendly but sweltering Connected Communities Conference (CCFest 2015) in the University of East Anglia, Norwich, funded by AHRC. Our Imagine project is part of the research happening through the Connected Communities programme and we are here to learn from others and present our work. Basically, our work on Imagine is about using resilience approaches to imagine better futures and make them happen. And we’re doing this in loads of different countries and loads of different settings.  You can find out more about the programme on the Imagine Programme website.

Apart from being too hot, it’s great to be here.  Our fantastic group from Brighton Uni and Boingboing includes parents of children with complex needs, academics, young people and community partners, students – some of us fit into more than one of these groups at the same time. I don’t want to boast, but as a student I feel I can a bit. It feels like we are showing Connected Communities what real collaborative research looks like and I have the bags under my eyes but happy smile to show for it.  I haven’t attended all the sessions because I have been working with the Arts Connect Ambassadors to prepare and deliver our joint presentation on their great work. Arts Connect is a great community partner of ours which aims to bring people with learning disabilities together to socialise and take part in art related activities, and the Ambassadors are a group of Arts Connect members who help with making decisions about the programmes and are also doing research on resilience.

I did attend Kate Pahl’s opening keynote presentation where she was talking about “What do we do when we don’t agree”.  This was about the challenges of Community University partnerships and I for one found it struck a lot of chords with me about how we handle the very different cultures and expectations we work across and how we can make new synergies from them rather than get problem focussed.  We all make ourselves vulnerable in any partnership and we need to be thoughtful and respectful of our respective roles and value.   But despite the challenges we all face, when we can make it work we create new knowledge that is different from what any of us could achieve on our own.

In our case, this is often about how we can help the most vulnerable children and young people and their families to be resilient and challenge or change the odds that are stacked against them, and that is worth working for!  Kate talked about how different people expressed issues and feelings in different ways – through words, music, drawing and many other ways, and how we should value all of these as potential research outputs.  I was very impressed by the effort she had made to make her presentation interesting and accessible to everyone in the room and our group really appreciated that.

There are a lot of people talking about co-produced research here.  For those of you who haven’t heard that before, it’s just a fancy way of saying Universities and Communities working on research together (rather than academics just going out and extracting a lot of ideas and information from communities and then getting all the credit!)   What strikes me a bit though is how much people are talking the talk about community collaborations but I don’t see a lot of community partners here.  If the research is co-produced shouldn’t it be co-presented as well?

Feel so proud of our group from Boingboing where we are talking about resilience from a viewpoint of challenging and changing social injustices and supporting people to stand up for their rights – over and above helping them develop personal resilience strategies.  We have done two co-presentations with vulnerable young adults that feel truly co-produced and we are all feeling empowered as a result – each in our different ways.  We still all have so much to learn about working together to produce better resilience research and practice but we can’t be accused of not putting in the effort! Enough trumpet blowing from me. Would love to hear from others doing this sort of thing.

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