First thoughts from the first #McPinMethods Workshop
by Ian Bradshaw
Yesterday afternoon saw the first of our methods workshops on ‘integrating lived experience expertise in mental health research teams’. The event was massively oversubscribed. If the fact that we had to cut short discussions before we were physically kicked out of the venue is any guide it succeeded in its aim of stimulating debate and the sharing of ideas. You can find a small sample of the discussion by looking for #McPinMethods on twitter (and please add further thoughts).
One goal of the afternoon for us was to develop a sense of what the collective priorities are in practically improving how we do PPI (Patient and Public Involvement), including advisory roles and peer research, in mental health. We hope to turn some of the ideas that came up into future workshops in the series, and others may want to develop them in collaboration with us or independently. We’ll post a more reflective piece on the outcomes of the discussions once we have had the chance to collate and digest all the various notes the team took. The slides that were used in the plenary are available here.
But while it is still fresh in my mind I thought I would pick out some points that particularly stuck with me from the discussions I was part of or heard. Please share your thoughts (we are on Facebook and Twitter). I will have missed a lot.
The most important point for me was the very simple one Lucy from St George’s made: if involving lived experience in research doesn’t make a difference to the research what is the point? This stimulated discussions both about how we move beyond a tick box approach to PPI done to satisfy funders’ requirements, and how as advocates for involvement we evidence the positive difference it makes.
Power dynamics came up in a number of conversations. As somebody who has spent too much of his working life in meetings, the simple illustration of the need to think about where people sit around a table if you are to break down traditional hierarchies had the ring of truth. Naturally people will tend to cluster with those they feel comfortable with. More fundamentally if involvement is to have an impact, researchers have to be willing to cede some power to those they are involving so they can influence the research – and be honest up front (including with themselves) where they can’t or won’t.
Finally issues of diversity in recruitment came up in a number of forms. In her presentation Nicola discussed the difficulties of recruiting a group of lived experience advisers who reflected the diversity of the wider population of service users and carers. It was an issue that a number of people in the room were grappling with. The question of who is recruited to become researchers, and especially peer or service user researchers also emerged. How do we ensure people who may not come from the traditional researcher mould, in either background or approach, are given the opportunities not just to develop the necessary technical skills but also to offer up different perspectives? This is a question we have been grappling with at McPin, and we wouldn’t pretend to have the answers yet.
So what stuck out for others? What were the questions or answers that only came to you on the train ride home?