SDHI was represented at the 2015 Dundee Science Festival with a stand to illustrate its applied interdisciplinary work. Dr Fred Comerford, SDHI Institute Manager invited displays related to the topic ‘perceptions’. Using visual illusions Fred demonstrated to visitors that what we see and hold for being ‘real’ or ‘true’ may be deceptive. The theme was also reflected in the display by Kirsty Miller, PhD student in psychology who presented a very timely topic considering for example the refugee crisis in Europe: perceived in-group vs out-group differences that may impact on how likely we act to help others. Jean Cathro of the social enterprise, ‘Crossing countries, challenging boundaries, changing lives‘ engaged children and adults through art work, craft and video presentation. SDHI has repeatedly reported on this innovative social enterprise on this blog. Crossing truly challenges mis-perceptions about disability, ethnicity, gender, age and other characteristics that so often create unnecessary and hurtful divisions. Finally, Dr Ed Hall, Geography challenged in his display concepts of place-based vulnerabilities of communities that experience prolonged electricity failures. Simple categorisations of ‘vulnerable people’ are not useful or informative as ‘vulnerability’ is always contextual and relational. The event at the Dundee Menzieshill Community Centre was very well attended with some families spending several hours there to explore the many exciting displays and presentations.
SDHI had a successful day in the Overgate shopping center in Dundee on November 2nd.
We set up stall for 9.00 am and entertained the public with puzzles about multidisciplinary working and some of our research projects through until 6.00pm. We were joined GoSHARE who were recruiting people for their database. We estimate that around 200 people visited the stalls throughout the day. SDHI was supported by Lia Poeder and Bradley Grier from North Carolina and Peter Rome from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Dundee. We were funded by the Economic and social Research Council as part of the ESRC’s Festival of Social Science and the event was also part of Dundee Science Festival.
SDHI contributed to an event on the 23 October in the Steeple Church in Dundee that brought together many community organisations, Dundee city council and academics from various disciplines departments. The purpose of the four hour meeting was to explore how the university can engage and work more closely with local community organisations (e.g. Sign Post; Hot Chocolate). The event was led and organised by Dr Fernando Fernandes, School of Nursing & Midwifery/SDHI who – in his introductory remarks – highlighted the role of Brazilian scholar, educator and social activist, Paulo Freire in guiding the vision for more participatory and collaborative work between the university and the communities of Dundee. The afternoon was organised around round table discussion and a World Café style exploration of the issues that matter to communities. Many organisations struggle with limited resources and had mixed experiences with past engagement with the university. There was a strong wish for a real, not a tokenistic or temporary commitment for a joint working relationship. Value was seen in having the university build local capacity (accredited short courses), support practice-based evaluations, develop important technologies that reduce the monitoring and reporting burden, contribute to the volunteering programme. Academic expertise may also provide the evidence for promising interventions, which in turn may make funding more sustainable. The role of local businesses in potentially contributing to programmes that seek to address inequalities in pragmatic ways was also discussed. The event was just opening the discussion between the interdisciplinary ‘Engagement and Participation’ group at the University of Dundee and the community.
Among several exciting projects presented to the public on Saturday were studies into loneliness of people with cancer, ways of improving patient feedback, the evaluation of a cancer screening tool, and opportunities to register as a future research participant. Masters of Design students from Duncan and Jordanstone College of Art and Design came along to showcase work on improving communication between patients, their families/carers, and health care professionals, through design. People were invited to show how they would re-organise their GPs surgery for more positive experiences and were asked what they thought was important in helping recovery from a stroke. The program was completed with a performance of the one-woman play ‘Acceptance’ in the Steps Theatre by Lisa Nicoll, a writer, actress and filmmaker. The play is about a woman coming to terms with her reliance on alcohol as a social crutch. Lisa’s work is based upon people’s real experiences, which are researched through her interaction with groups and communities across Scotland. The variety of projects and the time commitment of the staff, is testimony of the commitment of the SDHI and the two universities to sharing knowledge, engaging the public and improving the health, wellbeing and participation of people in their local area and beyond.
About a year ago, SDHI adopted its current strategy, entitled ‘Building Bridges’. It was not a radical departure from the work that the institute has so successfully engaged in since its inception nine years ago. Rather, the strategy was a document that positions SDHI as a modern, innovative, creative interdisciplinary, inter-sectorial, and inter-university platform for research, learning and knowledge mobilisation. Key elements of the refreshed strategy are internationalisation, diversified funding, and public engagement. Over the past 12 months, we have made considerable progress towards reaching our operational objectives. We have had successful international conferences, seminars, symposia and webinars, exchange visits with participation from academics from the United States, Brazil, Australia, and Belgium. Moreover, our website – which was completely redesigned in the summer of 2011 – has received visitors from 103 countries, over 17,000 hits. We see increasing interest in our working model from academics and universities in the United States and Australia. This has been very encouraging.
As part of the Economic and Social Research Council Festival of Social Science and Dundee Science Festival, SDHI are once again hosting a day of public engagement ‘Taking control of wellbeing and social participation’ on Saturday the 3rd of November from 10am to 3pm in Dundee Central Library, Wellgate Shopping Centre.
This event will showcase locally based research which aims to improve the social wellbeing and participation of people within the local communities. The Social Dimensions of Health Institute and some affiliated research groups will invite shoppers and library patrons to take part in games and puzzles which will help illustrate our research and research outcomes.
For further information please see flyer Public Engagement 031112 or contact Dr Fred Comerford (fac1 @st-andrews.ac.uk)