Board in the City, our first community venue: an inclusive social enterprise board game cafe

Board in the City is no ordinary cafe. It is a not-for-profit, community-run café dedicated to playing board games, and is staffed largely by volunteers. This cosy place is in the heart of one of Southampton’s most diverse neighbourhood and hosts a variety of community events – including our upcoming storytelling workshop. Hayley Binstead, cafe owner, has been a valuable partner in the early days of designing the project – bringing her passion, enthusiasm and experience.

Using a ‘needs-based place-based’ approach, it was important to take our project out of the hospitals and universities and into informal, comfortable and approachable environments. This is what makes the café such a valuable partner to us, and the perfect setting for our first event. We also needed a place that is accessible, inclusive and safe. These values are at the heart of café, which prides itself on its all-inclusive atmosphere.

Board in the City do a lot of community work: their first year was dedicated to education, the second to assisted living for elderly people, and their current focus is on mental health and wellbeing. By hosting our event here, we are supporting a company whose ethos fits with our project.

We are proud to be working with Board in the City, and look forward to welcome our community leaders to its doors to share their stories.

Touch Network, our community partner: helping communities share their stories

With the concept of storytelling in mind, we wanted to harness some of the inspiring and creative arts and wellbeing activities in Southampton, and draw on the expertise of those who have the skills and knowledge to help us create a more meaningful event.

Enter Debs Carter at Touch Network…

Touch Network is a not-for-profit charity who run storytelling workshops, with the aim of helping people to confidently talk about their story through celebration events held in coffee shops, bars, restaurants and other interesting and sociable places.

Local people and communities are invited to come and connect with real-life stories in a safe and relaxing environment. Touch Network addresses wellbeing needs in a non-stigmatizing way, enabling people to talk about their lives, connect and have fun in a positive and inspirational way, without it feeling or looking like a ‘wellbeing’ or ‘mental health’ event (which can often act as a barrier for people).

Using this platform to share and hear stories, attendees of Touch Network’s events cheer each other on, learn from each other, and feel more inspired, hopeful and resilient.

We met with Debra Carter, founder of Touch Network in the development of Reaching Out, and she quickly became an invaluable partner, working with us to plan the storytelling activity. Debs has extensive experience of running community outreach events in a dynamic, creative and approachable way, and will facilitate our upcoming storytelling event.

Changing the way we think about Public Involvement in Research

Author: Megan Barlow-Pay

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Public Involvement

Public Involvement in research is a powerful, potentially landscape changing, tool. Putting patients at the heart of service design, treatment and intervention development, priority setting, and implementation is part of a changing ethos and culture within the NHS and academia.

The potential impact of Pubic Involvement is huge; shaping the way we understand, research, and deliver healthcare through the direct involvement and collaboration of those people it affects.  Working with patients and members of the public can provide different perspectives, an ‘on the ground’ understanding of the needs and barriers service users face. It helps us make sure we research the questions that actually matter, and that changes to services are appropriate. It is underpinned by democratic principles, and can play a role across wider society to help ‘de-mystify’ research.

Our previous work… 

Some preliminary work undertaken by our team evidences some of the issues faced in Public Involvement. Our ‘diversity motoring’ project looked at demographic data from public contributors working with local organisations, and compared this to the wider demographics of the corresponding Wessex population. Findings from this work included an over-representation of those with high levels of educational attainment and an under-representation from ethnic minority backgrounds.

So, what’s the problem?

We know that health inequalities exist. We also know that different people access services differently, through different means and with different priorities.

As advocates for the patient voice, we believe that part of reducing health inequalities relies on addressing issues around diversity in service user involvement. Our work suggests that people from some marginalised or under-represented groups are not being offered the opportunity to shape and influence research happening locally. The outcome of this could mean services are not tailored to the needs of these groups, despite them often experiencing disproportionately poor health outcomes. The downstream effect of this can result in the potential for further increasing health inequalities in our communities.

Reaching Out Southampton

This blog details our experience of delivering on a project called ‘Reaching Out’. The project is a collaboration with community groups, to design and deliver opportunities for involvement in the heart of communities. By taking Public Involvement out of a clinical or academic setting, and into the community we are hoping to reach previously unheard voices.