What are Connectors?

We are defining Connectors as individuals, agencies, creatives and other organisations who play key roles in bridging the gap between research and communities. They could be engagement experts, local charities, creative agencies, artists, private businesses or community groups. These people can have unique skills and experience, existing ways of connecting with the public, and can be central to the success of a community engagement project.

Why are they important in engagement?

Some of the most successful community engagement projects have emerged from a collaboration between researchers, community members and professionals who come from another sector entirely. This could be creative industries, media, charity or humanitarian, sports and leisure, education, film/television or popular culture. Engagement projects built on these kind of multidisciplinary collaborations have the advantage of bringing alternative perspectives to health research, reaching new public groups and ensuring scientific research is accessible and relevant to everyday life.

What is 'Connectors 2021'?

Mesh, Eh!woza and Interfer are working together to explore and support the role of Connectors in health engagement. We will host three free virtual workshops across September, October and November 2021. These events will focus on co-learning, networking and new collaboration. Find out more about the aims of the project HERE.

We have carried out two rounds of consultation to determine the topics of discussion that are most relevant to you. We are now in the process of refining the final themes from the long list below. Please check back here soon for details of the final workshops!

Workshop 1: Making the case for engagement and the role of Connectors (September 2021)

Part A - Understanding and defining engagement

  • What is engagement? Crossover and divisions between engagement and social science research, PR & communications, healthcare provision, and humanitarian action
  • What are the purposes of engagement? Rights based and values based thinking vs focus on instrumental outcomes
  • Understanding true participation and co-production
  • Philosophy of knowledge - hierarchies and barriers to knowledge translation 
  • Engagement in Practice – developing theory in practice
  • Research vs Engagement (tensions and synergies)

Part B - Making the case

  • Advocating and demonstrating the need for engagement (to all stakeholders)
  • Defining the benefits and impact of engagement - improved research and better health
  • Ethics of engagement
  • The value of interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Unpacking the various roles of the Connector
  • Demonstrating the power of Connectors - gaining acknowledgment and recognition

Workshop 2: Managing collaborative projects (October 2021)

Part A - Who sets the agenda?

  • Finding collaborators and developing collaborative proposals
  • Defining and crossing boundaries – inc roles and responsibilities
  • Planning and leadership - power dynamics between parties
  • Managing differing approaches/ambitions/motivations/visions within in the team
  • Encouraging equality and equity
  • Developing and maintaining relationships and communication

Part B - Addressing challenges

  • Gaining genuine commitment from researchers
  • Relationships/personalities that don’t work well – competition/egotism
  • Pressure on the Connector – managing failure
  • Resistance to change/adaption
  • Lack of listening and understanding

Workshop 3: Practical considerations and measuring impact (November 2021)

Part A - Considerations for planning

  • Funding and timing – at decision making stage, who manages it, admin procedures
  • What support structures are needed?
  • Practical skills - project management/design, managing budgets, digital skills, facilitation skills
  • Engagement during COVID-19 pandemic – distancing, social media, risk
  • Managing technology and communication

Part B - Evaluation and sustainability

  • Measuring impact and success (and return to discussions on making the case)
  • Challenges with traditional evaluation methods – the value of relationships and collaboration
  • Making positive changes in communities and informing policy
  • Sustainability and the future

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Our Aims

The event series will bring together individuals and organisations playing important roles at the intersection of the engagement, health and research. We hope to explore current challenges, successes, experiences, innovations, skills and capacity development, and the role of collaborations and support structures relative to Connectors and Researchers. 

We want to:

  1. Explore and document the challenges faced by Connectors in health research engagement
  2. Encourage participants to work together to determine opportunities and solutions
  3. Facilitate new tangible collaborations for the better
  4. Establish an active and supportive network for the Connectors community in Africa and across the Global South
  5. Create a lasting legacy (through sharing learning, creating new resources and piloting ideas)

We hope the project will culminate in a face-to-face symposium in Cape Town, South Africa in early 2022 (dependent on restrictions related to the pandemic).

Email the team: mesh@tghn.org

 

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