Community Collaborators Recognised for Shaping Health Research

Nadine Crew holding an award
Nadine Crew, a parent involved in the Listening Cafes for mental health.

Parents and Family Hub staff who took part in the University of Southampton's Finding out Together project received community awards at a special event organised to recognise their contribution.

Launched in 2019 in collaboration with Family Hubs, the initiative connects university researchers with underserved communities, offering a safe space to share experiences to help shape health and social care research over informal conversations, food and craft.

Among those awarded for their involvement was Nadine Crew, a parent who took part in a 3-week Listening Café on mental health research.

She said: "I struggle with my own mental health, and to think I could help someone else in the future by aiding the research and putting my experiences into it, that felt like I was doing something really positive for my community.

"It was comforting to know that I'm not the only one experiencing these issues and it was amazing to see that my experiences were being listened to, valued and used to help their research."

Listening Cafes run for 3 to 4 consecutive weeks at a time and have addressed themes such as mental distress, unsettled babies and multiple long term health conditions.

Researchers then deliver a follow up Listening Cafe between 6 and 12 months later to share with the group how their contributions shaped their research.

Kate Henaghan-Sykes, from the University of Southampton, said: "This was an opportunity to celebrate and say thank you to the staff and parent volunteers who have helped us over the last five years by supporting us to involve the community in research by coming to our Listening Cafes and community forums."

"They've helped to shape research in areas that matter to them, allowing us to create a blueprint that we can take to wider communities. This ensures that we as a university continue talking to people from diverse backgrounds."

Sonia Newman and Kate Henaghan-Sykes
Pictured (left to right): Sonia Newman and Kate Henaghan-Sykes

Sonia Newman, Public Partnerships Manager at the University of Southampton, added: "It's so important that we build strong relationships with people who wouldn't normally get involved and show that there are other ways researchers can engage and involve these communities in research."

"Being in the community space outside of academia offers us that opportunity to learn from people's lived experiences and make our research go even further. Breakthroughs in new health research can't happen unless we talk to as many people as possible."

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