We are particularly grateful to our partners in designing and delivering the series – Community Works, the Real Junk Food Project, the Hangleton and Knoll Youth Project, Mothers Uncovered – and to other groups who have shared their experiences during this process. We hope many more organisations will be able to attend our events in 2016/7. If you would like to know more please contact us via the email@example.com email, or by speaking to one of the convenors.
Our lead partner Community Works talks about their involvement with the seminar series and their ongoing collaboration with members of the planning group:
Community Works are delighted to be acting as lead community partner in the ‘New practices for new publics’ seminar series. Community Works is a member-based organisation with over 450+ members, representing a diverse range of voluntary and community sector groups.
The launch event for the series will be leading with our recent work on community data burden which we have coproduced in partnership with the University of Brighton through our Monitoring, Evaluation and Impact (MEI) Partnership. The partnership was initiated by Community Works, brokered by Community University Partnership Programme and responded to by the University of Brighton.
The Monitoring, Evaluation and Impact (MEI) Partnership was formed in response to a capacity building need identified by voluntary and community organisations in Brighton and Hove. There is a high and enduring level of need reported by groups around monitoring and evaluation activity. The partnership came together to explore what that need looked like and through a process of coproduction developed a series of ongoing activities that responded to these needs. The outcome of this work is that since Autumn 2014, 74 individuals from over 68 different organisations have participated in a range of activities including:
– Data workshops
– Getting to Grips with monitoring and evaluation training
– Monitoring and evaluation using Excel training
– Monitoring and evaluation symposium
The involvement of the university has brought an academic knowledge of data collection, analysis and research ethics to VCS learning spaces. Similarly, VCS professionals and volunteers have shared their expertise with the university enabling them to learn about challenges affecting communities and VCS organisations right now. The success of the learning spaces developed stems directly from the coproduction that has occurred at every stage of the partnership’s conception, design, decision-making and leadership.
The MEI data workshops that are now happening on 6 monthly basis have successfully engaged voluntary and community sector groups in conversation concerning monitoring, evaluation and impact. The university has brought an expertise and awareness of the voluntary and community sector context that has provided a safe and reflective space for VCS colleagues to come together, share their experiences, and learn more. In our view, what has been so engaging for groups is that academic partners have stepped up to the table as equals and with a willingness to listen and learn from the groups themselves. People value and respond to this.
Being able to meaningfully input, articulate and reflect back the academic perspective on this subject area into a meaningful application for our member groups has also been central to this engagement success. Our university partner’s experience of the voluntary and community sector as individuals and academics is evident in the ease with which they speak with groups and understand the challenges they face. Their motivation throughout this programme to bring an academic bearing to the issues at hand in order to serve the needs of community groups and the communities they in turn serve, is clearly authentic. Indeed any incongruence here would be swiftly rooted out by our members!
It is this listening and learning that, with our partners, we have developed into a position statement on Community Data Burden. This statement is now being used to bring together and influence key stakeholders around the monitoring and evaluation requirements of voluntary and community sector groups. I can testify as to the challenges in igniting enthusiasm and engagement around this subject area which suffers from a ‘monitoring and evaluation fatigue’ experienced by all stakeholders that is accompanied by a sense of history repeating itself. Our university partners have refreshed and invigorated the discussion not only amongst our member groups but other key stakeholders including local commissioners. There is, dare I say, a sense of hope around positive change on data gathering practice as a result of their efforts engaging community groups.
Alison Marino, Community Works
——————————————————————————————————–Maggie Gordon-Walker writes about Mothers Uncovered
When a woman gives birth she often has to care for a baby when there is no infrastructure in place to care for her. Mothers Uncovered helps participants reconnect with the women they’ve always been. We provide a support service through workshops, arts projects and advice, giving participants the chance to talk openly and honestly about their feelings and experiences, without fear of judgement. The aim is to take away the stigma of ‘not coping’ engendered by post-natal depression groups.
We also give mothers the chance to celebrate and mark this point in their lives through engaging in a range of art form processes. It is very easy for a new mother to feel sidelined by the focus that is naturally placed on the baby and to have difficulty expressing her feelings in a way that can also be creative. The work acts as validation for what they are experiencing. Subsequently this work is shared with others through exhibition or performance, increasing the benefits in terms of self-esteem.
Mothers who feel supported relate better to their children. We are interested in participating in this seminar series because we want to show that women’s post-natal mental health is as important as antenatal physical health. It is not a case of separating mothers into those suffering with post-natal depression and those not, but in recognising that the vast majority of women have ‘new motherhood syndrome’ in that they have been through this experience but not had the chance to process it. If it were accepted that becoming a mother is a huge shock and an upheaval for all women, then greater post natal support would be standard and the stigma of depression would be lessened. Through our work, we aim to influence policy by bringing into the open greater clarity on the emotional and sometimes traumatic shifts that occur at the time of the first birth.
In the words of a past participant, ‘Mothers Uncovered fills a gap you didn’t even know was there.’ The gap is between informal mum and baby groups and the medical scrutiny and social stigma of post-natal depression support groups or treatment. We wrote an article about this gap in provision for The Guardian, which can be accessed here:
The Maternal Mental Health report that came out in Oct 2014 showed that a spending of £337m on mental health projects/post-natal care for mothers would save more than £8bn to the UK every year.
In the area of mental health, mental well-being and so-called ‘soft outcomes’ (increased self-esteem, reduced isolation and loneliness, etc) there is no straightforward way to measure outcomes. One of our most valuable pieces of feedback was ‘A truly valuable experience which pulled me from the brink of post natal depression’. If we can help show that preventative measures really are the best way forward, then it will have been a job well done.
Helen Bartlett from HK Youth Project:
The Hangleton and Knoll Youth Project works with young people in a neighbourhood setting; using a range of methodologies within a wider community development approach.
I am interested in the series as a potentially different way of reframing our work, in a time where shifts to targeted work can make it difficult to look beyond the individual to wider contexts, and where the overwhelming focus on needs or outcomes moves away from attention to practices themselves. In this context, it will be useful to explore how academic theory can cast new light on our day-to-day work with young people and hopefully create the possibility for new partnerships.