A brief note of thank you

A Message from SDHI Co-Director Thilo Kroll: I would like to thank the SDHI Team  for making my time in SDHI over the past (nearly) six years not only an extremely gratifying and successful journey but an exciting and creative one. It has been amazing to work with so many wonderful people and truly inspiring. The journey into ever new interdisciplinary collaborative adventures has created impactful work and formed many lasting friendships and professional relationships. And it would not have been possible without an outstanding administrative team around Dr Fred Comerford and Mrs Rosanne Bell.

I have learned a lot in those years. The universities of Dundee and St Andrews are phenomenal institutions, rich in innovative and multi-disciplinary potential as are the communities which they serve locally, nationally and globally. May this exciting journey continue for a long time with new collaborations forming. I know it will. I look back with great fondness at my 11 years in Dundee in SDHI and the School of Nursing & Health Sciences. Thank you and all the very best for the future.

Clear and unequivocal commitment to Europe and our partners

In the face of the ‘Brexit’ referendum SDHI would like to express its thanks to the many emails of support that have reached us from our European partners. We would like to assure you that – as the majority of academic institutions and partners in the UK and the majority of the Scottish public – we are committed to Europe and fully expect to remain key partners in research and development of the future. At the moment we are in a holding situation as a result of the fundamental lack of leadership from the UK government. However, for the time being we continue business as usual in anticipation of a continuation of the constructive working relationships with our partners in and beyond a Europe of collaboration.

Exciting week for SDHI

It has been a very exciting week for SDHI. Over the past 7 days, we hosted a major European conference on emergent themes in mental health and addiction with over 70 delegates from 13 countries at the University of St Andrews, IMG_3518we were principal collaborators in a Scottish Universities Insights Institute (SUII) funded 2 day workshop series at the International Futures Forum home turf in the boathouse in Aberdour on understanding and fostering cultures of transformative innovation using health and social care SUII group photointegration as an example with delegates from as far as Australia, ran a postgraduate and early career researcher annual retreat in Kindrogan with students and academics from multiple disciplines from Dundee and St Andrews universities, and chaired on behalf of the Scottish Improvement Science Collaborating Centre (SISCC) a combined workshop and advisory group meeting with pharmacists, GPs, academics and members of third sector organisations and the public at large on two workstreams: physical activity promotion in community-dwelling older adults and medicines prescribing safety. Moreover, SDHI Associate Director Dr Ed Hall and Dr Irena Connon presented a Dundee University Cafe Arts presentation to the general public on the Innovate UK co-funded collaborative project with Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution (SSE PD) on vulnerability and power failure.

The events and activities epitomise the diversity, vibrancy, creativity and organisational competence and expertise of SDHI. They are a reflection of the excitement, support, collaborative ethos and respect that the Institute has attracted over now more than 13 years. We just want to stop for a moment and thank our friends and colleagues for their engagement and support that make these events and activities so special.

Reflections and Outlook

As 2015 is coming to an end, it is a good time for reflection of what this year has meant for SDHI and what some of the personal highlights have been, and perhaps, even more importantly what is on the horizon for us in the new year.

It is probably not an uncommon sentiment – that is shared by many in December, the feeling that time is just going faster and faster and how could it be that another year has gone by at seemingly unprecedented speed. 2015 has been a good year. In Dundee, the University’s Transformation Agenda underpins the interdisciplinary work that SDHI began in 2003. In St Andrews, we see new opportunities for cross-disciplinary working and with close collaboration with NHS Fife with the appointment of Prof Alex Baldacchino in the School of Medicine there and as an Associate Director of SDHI. Over the past year we have worked increasingly in the context of local communities, whether we supported work on homelessness in Dundee or the work of Edinburgh based social enterprise, Crossing Countries in South Africa. We are working increasingly with non-governmental organisations and charities, including Sight Action, Action on Hearing Loss, RNIB, AMINA, Age Scotland, Alzheimer Scotland, Faith in the Community and many more. And we are making connections with business organisations such as Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE). In 2016, we are hoping to expand this further.

SDHI researchers have been involved in larger international initiatives and we have formed new research links across Europe, into the US, Brazil and Australia. This puts us into a good starting position for international research bids (e.g Horizon 2020), as well as ‘glo-cal’ collaborations.

We are pleased to see that several SDHI affiliated researchers have received personal achievement awards in 2015, including Dr Jenna Breckenridge, Dr Debbie Baldie and Gavin Wylie (we reported about these awards on this blog).

The year 2015 also gave us several inspiring events: We examined what it would take to ‘humanise health care’ in a one-day workshop. We had a full afternoon with presentations that explored the interface between ‘health, human rights and development’ and we engaged students, practitioners and academics at a breakfast roundtable to reflect about the emerging and current ‘social dimensions of addiction’.

These events show the phenomenal work that is happening in partnership with many partners at our universities. And they are testimony to the passion that many of us bring to this work, the caring spirit and the drive to make a difference, to have an impact, to transform lives.

In 2015 we had the pleasure to work so many new colleagues and disciplines, and we are very much encouraged to continue in this direction in 2016. It has helped us to see our local as well as our global environment with different eyes and produced new understandings of issues and solutions. We are working in close collaboration and in variable configurations with other interdisciplinary platforms and units at both universities, including CECHR, TCELT, Transforming Childhood, SISCC, DHSRU, DCHRR and many others.

In 2016 SDHI will review its current strategy ‘Connecting to transform lives’ (2014-2018), and while staying on course, we will seek further refinements and adaptations in discussion with our friends and partners.

We are pleased to co-host with ENTER the 2016 conference on emerging issues in mental health. And we will shortly announce a range of new webinars and seminars.

Join us on our journey into a new exciting year. Thank you for all your support and we look forward to working with you in 2016.

UK DFID Updates Disability Framework

On the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the UK Department for International Development (UK DfiD) has launched an updated Disability Framework – One Year On, Leaving No One Behind. The framework, which drives internal and external practices to meet the rights of people with disabilities under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) and in the context of the Agenda 2030 in relation to the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is reviewed annually. The commmitment to ‘leaving no one behind’ is sincere and the on-going process of revising and refining the framework in a transparent manner reflects the complexities of addressing ‘disability’ in a global context but is underpinned by a clear conviction that human rights have to be met everywhere. The updated framework emphasises mental health related disabilities to a greater extent as well as issues related to stigma and discrimination and economic empowerment. The document reports on progress that has been made in the area of violence against girls and women and illustrates how in Rwanda DFID has used a disability lens to examine their bilateral aid programme in terms of its inclusiveness, i.e. whether all programme activities are inclusive of people with disabilities. The document further provides insights into the difficulties of capturing disability data in an inclusive and comprehensive manner globally. The advocated use of the UN Washington Group Short Set of questions in censuses and national surveys will have to be accompanied by additional and more tailored methodologies to be inclusive of for example, children with disabilities.

Overall, the UK DFID approach is exemplary and progressive and we can hope for further updates in the near future on how this framework helps guide practices and national initiatives to eradicate disability-related inequalities.

Crossing countries: challenging boundaries, changing lives

SDHI has reported earlier on Crossing Countries, an inspiring social enterprise based in Edinburgh. This year Crossing Countries has completed another successful trip to South Africa. This blog post contains a guest blog entry by Jean Cathro, founder and director of Crossing Country as well as an interview with Jean and Laura Dendy, who joined Crossing Countries from the University of Dundee on their journey this year. Finally, find additional links to videos and publications as well as photographs of the trip.

By Jean Cathro

Working as a note taker for disabled students at the University of Edinburgh I am exposed to a myriad of theorists from different disciplines. A random/limited choice could include: Michel Foucault’s theories on the power of institutions to construct and categories people, Judith Butler’s destabilisation of gender identities through performativity and Homi Bhabha’s ideas of a hybrid space in between culturally designated identities. Mix these up with Mike Oliver’s work on the rights of disabled people, Colin Cameron’s Affirmative Model of Disability and the disparate research on the benefits of volunteering and travel to health and social wellbeing. Then add my own increased sense of self-worth and empowerment from the experiences I had in Durban, South Africa and you have the foundations of our social enterprise, Crossing Countries.11844990_10206063784727184_16240825781685073_o

Recent UK government statistics also support the social change we want to facilitate. 16% of working age adults in the UK are disabled and third of them have difficulty accessing services. They are less likely to be employed and less likely to volunteer. Scope found that a fifth of young British adults avoid talking to disabled people and a quarter of disabled people feel less is expected of them. Although much has been done since the 2010 Equality Act there is still more to do to provide equal opportunities for disabled people. Society tends to focus on practical access issues and although this is a barrier it is not the only one: attitudes towards disabled people and their own expectations also create barriers. We want to change this.

Crossing Countries provides a unique, individualised opportunity for disabled and non-disabled people to volunteer abroad together.11223988_10206064458344024_8529344037367292529_o

Last year, a team of six people, including two wheelchair users and a blind person, travelled to Durban and volunteered in township crèches, with abused children, on maternity wards with new Mums and gave presentations in schools to disabled learners and to the students at a township high school. On a trip to the Phoenix settlement, where Ghandi developed his philosophy of civil resistance, we were interviewed with Ghandi’s granddaughter, who said she was honoured to learn of such a worthwhile project. We also made the newspapers, when Agata, who is blind, went surfing and Jude, who thought she would never be able to be on a beach again, swam in the Indian Ocean.

76l_29_07_15This year’s team faced a different set of challenges as our Traveller did not look disabled which sparked many conversations about hidden disabilities. We facilitated the creation of an outdoor art instillation/ learning space using recycled objects at a rural school and held workshops in art, drama and study skills in township and special needs schools. We played with the kids in a township crèche and visited a school for children with learning disabilities and their affiliated residential welfare centre…these will be two placements for next year.

11864991_10206063749166295_1971411807801572385_oOur tag line ‘Challenging Boundaries, Changing lives’ epitomises our undertaking. We seek to raise awareness of everyone’s value to society and to empower people to be more than they thought they could be. Like Butler, we seek to destabilise constructed identities and categorises, we seek to challenge social perceptions and labels and to show that everyone is equal; that everyone faces challenges, that everyone has the ability to support each other. Philani, a young Zulu man’s quote epitomises our purpose…

‘I may look like I am a normal person, but mentally I believe I was disable. I had a stereotype… I believed there were things which were just made for white people. That was my barrier …But Suzi, Laura and Jean took me in to an adventure. I challenged my boundaries and I am so grateful about that.’ (Philani 2015)

11884731_10206063780727084_6397912334156897974_oIf you know anyone who would like to be part of this enterprise as a Traveller, Travel Pal, funder or an advisor please get in touch.

Email: cctravellers.edinburgh @outlook.com

And check us out on the Web at…





Aiden, H. & MacCarthy, A. (2104) Current Attitudes towards Disability. Scope

Department of Works and Pensions: Office for Disability Issues (2014) Disability Facts and Figures. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disability-facts-and-figures/disability-facts-and-figures retrieved on 07/10/2015

Grimm, R., Spring, K. & Dietz, N. (2007), The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A review of Recent Research. Office of Research and Policy Development, Corporation of National and Community Service

Interview with Laura Denby and Jean Cathro

In the audio interview, Laura and Jean discuss their experiences and impressions with their most recent trip to South Africa.thumb_IMG_2236_1024

YouTube Video of the Crossing Countries Durban Trip 2015 

Other related content: Video of Crossing Countries Fashion Show: Scottish/African fashion fusion to be shown on 30th October 2015 for fashion show for and by disabled students at the University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban.

Disability Horizons Article Challenging Boundaries Changing Lives: http://disabilityhorizons.com/2015/10/crossing-countries-challenging-boundaries-changing-lives/
Publication in Cosmopolita Scotland’s special issue on disability at the end of October 2015 http://cosmopolitascotland.org/

Recycling for life – Centro Marista de Inclusão Digital: An Innovative Project from Brazil

The Centro Marista de Inclusão Digital (CMID)

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is based in Santa Marta and supported by the Colegio Marista. Nova Santa Marta is one of 40 barrios in Santa Maria, RS Brazil and most of its inhabitants live below the poverty line. the CMID is an innovative initiative that ‘recycles’ old electronic and computer material and involves children and adolescents in a range of activities, including the refurbishment of computers, digital art, design of robotic equipment and even assistive technologies (e.g. electric wheelchairs).

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The Centre offers instruction in how to reuse materials, engineering, software design and information retrieval and sharing. Pupils learn individually and in teams how to design and use IT products. They acquire skills that are highly sought after in the labour market and they receive certificates of attendance for classes. What they develop does not only work well, it is significantly cheaper than any commercially refurbished product. This in turn benefits those who have limited means and would otherwise never be able to afford computer equipment or certain assistive technologies. The staff at the Centre are supportive, highly engaged and creative. Their initiative pays off in terms of advanced skills in the young generation.

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