The Talking Deck is a new resource that has been co-designed by researchers from the University of Exeter, staff and volunteers at CoLab Exeter’s wellbeing hub, people with lived experience of homelessness, and artist Hugh McCann. The project is aligned with Project HAIRE and is based on the Guided Conversation model, showing how the HAIRE toolkit can be customised for different target groups.
The Talking Deck aims to facilitate conversations that are led and shaped by individuals seeking support. Sometimes the purpose of a conversation is simply to allow individuals to share their experiences with staff and volunteers at CoLab Exeter. As seen below, the cards in the deck include a collection of symbols, words and place-based images. They are carefully curated to help people speak about the issues that are important to them.
“Listening and co-production has been at the heart of this project. We’ve created these together with people from all sectors and walks of life. The cards are a way to facilitate conversations and help people find a way forward without getting to crisis point. People want to be listened to, first and foremost. To be seen and be validated.” — CoLab Joint CEO Fiona Carden
The project was a partnership between researchers from the University of Exeter (Catherine Leyshon and Shukru Esmene from the Social Innovation Group‘s HAIRE team and Lorraine Hansford from the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health), CoLab Exeter and Devon Mind, funded through HAIRE and an ESRC Impact Accelerator Account (IAA) award. The IAA helped to translate the main principle of HAIRE’s Guided Conversation tool into a resource that suited CoLab Exeter’s working culture and the individuals who use their wellbeing hub. The principle here being the use of meaningfully co-designed visuals to facilitate wellbeing-related conversations.
“Seeing the Guided Conversation transform into the Talking Deck has been an incredibly exciting and rewarding process. Transferring our tools into new settings to help different groups and organisations always depends on successful co-design. We have worked alongside staff from CoLab and people with lived experience to produce something that can genuinely help people to have more in-depth, productive conversations about their needs, aspirations, hopes and fears.” — University of Exeter researcher Professor Catherine Leyshon
CoLab Exeter’s wellbeing hub hosts around 30 voluntary sector and statutory organisations who support people in Exeter with experiences of homelessness, addiction, the criminal justice system, the care system and domestic abuse. Over a series of workshops, staff, volunteers, researchers and people with lived experiences came together to co-design the Talking Deck pack. The packs are currently being trialled by staff and volunteers at CoLab and in other organisations, for example Julian House have experimented with using the Talking Deck in key worker support sessions with young adults in supported accommodation. So far, feedback from users of the Talking Deck has focused on how the cards help facilitate conversations that are led by the individual, rather than the staff member.
“It’s been really exciting to hear people’s reactions to the new cards. Support workers who have tried them out reported back that they were surprised how well such a simple tool opened up conversations, and helped people to talk about things that were important to them that they hadn’t raised before.” — University of Exeter researcher Lorraine Hansford
Workers commented that using the cards had given them more insight into people’s interests and concerns, and ‘opened different doors’ for people to talk about what is important to them, with issues sometimes emerging that would not necessarily come up in standard assessments used by the organisations:
“I was sceptical at first… I was quite surprised at how it was more powerful than I thought.”
“It’s another way of communicating with people, pictures have a connection to memories. For people who are vulnerable, talking can be intimidating, and it can bypass that in a gentle way.”
There is still work to be done, as the project does not intend to be prescriptive about how the resource is used. Ways of using the cards need to consider how some individuals may find engaging with the entire Talking Deck overwhelming and/or feel unsure about where to start. Continued exchanges between organisations that use the cards will be valuable in promoting the flexibility of the resource and in sharing new practices. Importantly, a Mental Health Alliance, including CoLab Exeter and Devon Mind, can potentially provide a platform for practice-led exchanges and skills sharing to take place. The Talking Deck’s launch will engage members of the Mental Health Alliance in scoping the coordination of such a platform.
Overall, the Talking Deck can be used informally in different settings to help guide conversations. The cards predominantly intend to give people choice about the topics that they wish to discuss, whilst helping to start conversations that may be difficult for people to raise.
After collating a last round of feedback, the finalised Talking Deck was launched at an event at CoLab Exeter on 3rd May 2022.
For more information, contact: Professor Catherine Leyshon (email@example.com) or Lorraine Hansford ().