Our workshop series exploring and supporting interdisciplinary collaboration in engagement with health research

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.

Connectors Workshop, South Africa 2022

Image courtesy of Deon Hanns

Mesh, Eh!woza and Interfer are working together to explore and support the role of Connectors in health engagement. We held the first in-person Connectors workshop in Cape Town, South Africa in November 2022. This brought together 54 people from all over the world to share experiences from their work and engage in formal and informal discussions and guided workshop activities.

Discover the full report and videos of the workshop presentations

Online Workshop Series

During 2021, we hosted three free virtual workshops exploring the topics and themes you have told us are most important to you. Find videos, illustrations, materials and reporting from the workshops by clicking on the orange headings below.

Workshop 1

Making the case for engagement and the role of 'Connectors' 

In this first workshop in the Connectors 2021 series held in September 2021, we explored definitions of community and public engagement from different perspectives and how social action and research can be integrated through true community participation and co-production of knowledge. 

Participants at the workshop shared their understandings of engagement and what they value about interdisciplinary collaboration in health engagement work. They also explored the role and benefits of Connectors in the process and the challenges that often arise.

 Workshop 2

Managing collaborative engagement projects

In our second workshop held in October 2021, we looked at the realities of planning and managing an interdisciplinary engagement project. Who sets the agenda and how do you negotiate differing ambitions and motivations within a team? We heard from Connectors who shared their experiences, learning and top-tips. 

Working in parallel sessions, participants at the workshop also discussed some of the common challenges experienced by those running collaborative projects and also began to share solutions.

 Workshop 3

Practical considerations and measuring impact

In this final workshop in the Connectors 2021 online series, held in November 2021, we delved into the practical side of turning an idea into a fundable project. We also explored how we can begin to address the complexity of evaluating the impact of engagement and how projects can make positive changes in communities and inform policy.

Participants shared their thoughts on the support structures and changes that are needed to allow excellent engagement work to happen.

Aims of the project 

In early 2021 we carried out a series of consultations reaching out to community and public engagement professionals, researchers, creatives and others to determine the most pressing themes for discussion in our field. This research was streamlined into three broad topics with a number of sub-themes and shaped into our event series.

We want to bring together individuals and organisations playing important roles at the intersection of the engagement, health and research. We aim 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 aim 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 2022 (dependent on restrictions related to the pandemic).

To be added to the Connectors community mailing list please get in touch: mesh@tghn.org 


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