Connect! was designed and delivered by a group of early career researchers with the support of more senior researchers (Professor Simone Fullagar and Drs Mike Silk and Emma Rich). It took the form of a day-long event that brought together 32 guests from local organisations, charities, government and academia in order to initiate dialogue around various aspects of children’s and young people’s wellbeing, an area of research the remit of the University’s Physical Cultural Studies Group (PCS).
The event encouraged the sharing of knowledge and experiences in this diverse research field through a mixture of keynote presentations, poster sessions, panel sessions, Q&As and informal networking opportunities. It took place in central Bath in the Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution (BRLSI). There are plans to host follow-up workshops with the aim of further developing further synergies with external organisations that can inform future grant applications.
- Dr Laura De Pian
- Dr Jessica Francombe-Webb
- Dr Andrew Manley
- Dr Stephanie Merchant
- Dr Brad Millington
All from the Department for Health.
What we gained from the experience
The benefits from Connect! fell into two broad categories.
Through the event we were able to:
- gather more information on the work being done with regards wellbeing and risk by key organisations
- share key insights from our own research
- explore potential collaborators in research, including collaborators offering a range of local ‘sites’ for research
- consider how our research connects with applied contexts, a crucial remit for Pathways to Impact statements in Research Councils’ funding pro-formas
- establish a good relationship with BRLSI for future events
Through the event we:
- enhanced event, project and time management skills (especially delegation and logistical planning)
- thought how to brand the event, thinking through how to articulate our research and using social media
- developed collaborative working within and without our research group
What our partners gained
Non-academic guests at Connect! commented on the value of networking, of developing new connections within the locality and of understanding people’s roles across a range of differing organisations. School representatives commented enthusiastically that the University’s research is helping them to 'keep on their toes' with regards the safeguarding of children and digital risks.
Other benefits expressed by partners included:
- the validation arising from knowing that their field and profession is a focus of academic research
- the linking of theory in the keynote presentation to professions and practice
- the opportunity to learn from one another and to have policy makers present
What we'd do differently
You can’t underestimate the time and effort required to engage people in events. You have to leave ample time for identifying, contacting and recruiting publics. Unfortunately, our keynote speaker was only in the UK over the Easter holidays so we missed out on a number of guests who had family commitments or were on holiday.
We hoped to use video as a means of procuring feedback but our guests were reluctant to do this. With hindsight, we should have structured feedback mechanisms into the event alongside panels and presentations and flagged upfront that video feedback would be sought.
Finally, whilst our presentations and panels were accessible with space for questions, we could have captured even more opinions and stimulated greater depth of discussion through 'workshopping' or breakout sessions.
Our tips for other researchers
Be attuned to the context of the engagement and the topics discussed and any associated sensitivities. For example, we decided having a media presence at Connect! would be inappropriate given the topic.
Work with local venues such as BRLSI to provide central and neutral event spaces. For things like catering, ensure you use companies that are on the University’s supplier list (your departmental coordinator should be able to advise you) to ease payment.
Think strategically about the legacy of your event and how you wish to build on it. Have a clear plan for how you’ll follow-up with people following the event to take full advantage of the contacts made.
Ensure the event is structured in a way that is beneficial to all those that attend—think through what each stakeholder will gain from the event.
Be strategic about who you invite. We invited key change agents within organisations (for example, headteachers).