Co-researchers drive co-production workshop

The collaborative workshop involved people without prior research experience throughout the research cycle.

At the end of October, Dorota Chapko and Kabelo Murray from our Patient, Public, Community Engagement and Involvement Theme, with their Imperial College colleagues at the Patient Experience Research Centre (Jane Bruton, Vas Papageorgiou) and the Institute of Global Health Innovation (Dr Lindsay Dewa) ran a 3-hour workshop on research co-production, as part of the Research Methods eFestival organised by the National Centre for Research Methods.

A special workshop

What was special about this workshop was the fact that it was co-designed and co-delivered by co-researchers, which means individuals with lived experiences of different health conditions (or different identities) who were involved in a research project throughout the entire research cycle without prior research experience.

The co-researchers represented two different organisations: Heart n Soul, which is an arts organisation for people with learning disabilities and autistic people, and Positively UK for people living with HIV, as well as a team of young people with experience of mental health difficulties.

Together, co-researchers came up with 5 ‘Key Messages’ for what research co-production is and how it should be done. These are:

  1. Share power

  2. Co-production can help you to connect with people

  3. Remain connected

  4. Use clear language and make things simple

  5. Be kind, have fun, and learn from each other!

By meeting teams representing different ‘lived experiences’, all academics and non-academics across the three projects had a chance to evaluate their ‘co-research’ from a different perspective, including the relational skills that they built throughout ‘co-research’, and challenge their own assumptions about their co-research practices. This way, collectively, we have produced exemplar evidence for how to involve people of different ‘lived experiences’ in health and social care research, and identified essential behaviours and practice.

A powerful experience

"Working with co-researchers from Heart and Soul and PositivelyUK was a truly powerful experience for me. I often contend with the distance between academics and those that we research with. However, this eFestival, and working with the coresearchers reminded me both of the importance and impact that working in a co-produced manner can have. It has helped me reorientate how I want to research and the type of work I want to do as I develop myself as an academic and a researcher."

Kabelo Murray, Public and Patient Involvement Manager, NIHR ARC NWL

This overall, made it a truly inclusive event, challenging the current PPIE practices within academic and health care settings. Those involved received great feedback for our workshop that served as an eye-opener for what would look like a good research co-production practice and why.

Robyn, a co-researcher from Heart n Soul who is autistic, commented on social media about participation in the project: “If you are not learning, you are not engaging in the right way”.

The Heart n Soul co-research story is summarised in this fantastic video: Heart n Soul at the Hub on Vimeo