In 2018 National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) produced ‘Guidance on co-producing a research project’, suggesting that co-production may help to evolve and improve patient and public involvement in research. The Research Design Service South East have been tasked with leading on raising awareness and understanding of co-production as an approach to research. A key way in which we have done this, and in addition to the face-to-face advice and guidance the Research Design Service provides, is via a new podcast series: ‘That Co-production Podcast!’ In this podcast series we seek to explore experiences of, and views about, co-production, from the perspective of a wide range of people including members of the public, researchers and commissioners of research.
In this blog Kati Turner and Julie Wright, two public members on the RDS South East Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement Team, reflect on their experiences of working on ‘That Co-production Podcast!’ recorded during the lockdown as a result of covid-19. They talk about the confidence and skills they gained as well as their highlights from the podcast series
Kati: Julie, how did you get involved with these podcasts and what were your initial thoughts and feelings about it all?
Julie: When the RDS SE PPI team decided to work in a more co-produced way, I loved the idea of us practically exploring principles like 'sharing power' and 'valuing all perspectives and skills'. And suddenly I found myself invited to do a wider range of things, like creating podcasts. My initial response was 'oh yes, I'd love to be involved.... but I'm not actually going to interview people, no way am I entertaining or knowledgeable enough to do that! My self-confidence has suffered due to the impacts of on-going health issues, and it took encouragement to convince me to step into the interviewer role. But actually I took to it like a duck to water, and relished the thought-provoking discussions with our inspiring guests.'
Kati: That's great to hear that you went from feeling initially apprehensive to really enjoying the process. Like you, I got invited by Gary (PPIE Lead at RDS SE) to be involved in doing the podcasts. I also felt a bit nervous about it - mainly the recording bit as I hate listening back to recordings of my voice. I thought this was just me but have since found out that this is quite a common thing! I really liked the idea of exploring with people their thoughts and experiences around co-production and also having the chance to discuss some of the challenges and criticisms that have been levelled at the whole co-production movement. Julie, can you say a bit about what the process of doing the podcasts was like?
Julie: It was a real surprise to me that just an hour’s conversation led to such deep interactions and strong sense of connection with strangers! And I gained so much more insight about co-production - from real life examples like our incredibly moving interview with John and Rebecca, as well as being recommended some excellent podcasts by our guests.
Kati: From the perspective of being one of the interviewers, I have to say I've enjoyed the experience more than I thought I would! I've gained a lot personally from being involved: feeling more confident about doing these types of things in the future and also building on my knowledge of the area. I think you can get a bit complacent about your own area of experience and doing these podcasts gave me access to lots of other opinions and experiences and really provoked and added to my own thinking around co-production.
Julie, what key phrase or reminder about co-production principles has stayed with you from the experience?
Julie: Ah well that’s easy – it was Roz Davies saying “When people feel truly valued incredible things happen”. It’s a simple statement that has huge power. We interviewed Dan Wolstenholme about creative approaches in research and he put me on to a podcast she featured in. And that phrase really rang true when we interviewed John Donovan and Rebecca Baines in ‘That valuing relationships episode’ – both said they could never have anticipated the incredible impact working together on research projects would have – on them personally and on the research outcomes. John was a resident in a homeless hostel when they first met but his life has really turned around - he said “You realise you’re a valued person… my own health and mental outlook has improved inestimably, I am indebted to this project”. For Rebecca, this was the best outcome she could ever have hoped to achieve “it taught me it’s not all about the final output, it’s also about the process you adopt, and the connections you make along the way.”
So finally Kati, did it make any difference to you that the podcasts happened during lockdown?
Kati: Gosh, that's a good question! It's hard to think that this time last year most of us hadn't heard of zoom and the thought of doing most if not all of our work online would have felt very strange indeed! But I think it has had unexpected benefits and opened the door to possibilities like regular podcasts that perhaps we wouldn't have thought of doing otherwise - or at least, not in the same way.
This podcast series can play a role in raising awareness and understanding of co-production in research – an approach that has gained traction in NIHR and to which researchers often turn to RDS for advice. You can find the podcasts via the RDS South East website. They are also downloadable from Soundcloud and Spotify. We hope you enjoy them! Also let us know if you have any ideas for future podcast guests.