Cross-border Learning: Belgian and UK partners exchange experiences

In early November, SIG‘s HAIRE team were delighted to welcome our Belgian partners Sofie Schepers and Katrien Serroyen who were visiting Cornwall from Laakdal. After a weekend of cultural and historical activities – taking in Guy Fawkes’ night and a tour of Falmouth’s Tudor castle, Pendennis – they spent a day exchanging experiences with Feock (one of our pilot sites) before travelling to East Sussex pilot sites and meeting our partners at Rother Voluntary Action and East Sussex County Council.

The East Sussex team were keen to give as broad a picture as possible of their locality and took our Belgian colleagues on a tour that took in the quaint beauty of Rye (cobbled streets and the fifteenth century Mermaid Inn), Tilling Green social housing estate, new housing in Winchelsea, and a relatively new community hub – The Hub on the Hill – which runs many classes and services for the community with an emphasis on older residents.

Katrien and Sofie are smiling, standing in front of Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, Cornwall

Katrien and Sofie at Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, Cornwall

The cultural exhange and sharing is important for Interreg2Seas funded projects. They promote cooperation between regions and countries to enhance economic and social development in our own countries and across borders. Our HAIRE 2Seas partners share the common challenge of supporting people to age well in rural areas, where loneliness and isolation and mobility problems are just some of the themes being tackled. Having had very few opportunities to meet due to restrictions brought about by the Covid pandemic, it was inspiring to share experiences and perspectives from nearly three years of HAIRE action and learning in our respective locations.

The HAIRE teams from East Sussex and Belgium are looking over a vista of housing and fields near Rye

Steve, Sue and Naomi from East Sussex taking the Belgians on a tour of their locality

At the initial meeting in Devoran, the village in Feock parish where the council offices are located, the difference between locations felt quite stark to our Belgian colleagues: Laakdal is a municipality with a population of around 16,000, whereas the population in Feock Parish numbers around 3,700. The larger East Sussex pilot sites felt more familar to the Belgian team. Yet one of the most difficult challenges for all locations has been reaching members of the community who may be in need, or may benefit from HAIRE’s activities, but who are almost “hidden.”

The extended HAIRE team pictured in the "warm space" at Feock parish council

The extended HAIRE team pictured in a community space at Feock parish council

However, as a result of the emphasis the HAIRE toolkit placed on listening to residents, the needs of the older population as a whole can be better taken into account. Now that HAIRE and its ethos of co-creation and listening is familiar to each department and area of responsibility, the views, opinions, needs and ideas of residents are being heard, and this has led to subtle changes in the system. Different methods to listen and co-create products and services have been introduced in all of our pilot sites to ensure their older residents are included in important decisions.

Feock now has an information and help line, originating out of the Covid pandemic, but which has become a staple of the parish. A legacy of HAIRE is that parish-based decisions take into account any impact on the older population in a way that they may not have been so obviously before. It is the same in Laakdal: the planning department, for example, is aware of the way its decisions impact the elderly – and they are now prepared to consult the HAIRE team for information about how they might best move forward with their works.

East Sussex partners have done an excellent job by instigating local and national design innovations after working with the RSA, the royal society for arts, manufactures and commerce (“committed to a world that is resilient, rebalanced and regenerative, where everyone can fulfil their potential.”) Their Hastings and Rother Ageing Network meets monthly to network with local organisations, groups and individuals with a focus on how they can work together to make Rother and Hastings healthy and supportive places to grow older in.

From a longer term, strategic standpoint, Feock has made the decision to work with partners to develop a formal age-friendly community as our partners in East Sussex have done. The Guided Conversations in pilot sites illustrated the multiple dimensions of ageing well, which prompted the need for a holistic system response, and the UK arm of the World Health Organisation’s Age Friendly Communities programme is well aligned with the aims of the HAIRE project.

As Katrien and Sofie pointed out, the pilot site comparisons were useful, showing commonalities and differences and making them reflect on what went well in their own communities – and how “HAIRE thinking” could be built into longer term planning.

“Feock felt very isolated in comparison to Laakdal. The lack of public transport, the lack of shops, the very rural environment, the huge amount of second homes … I would think that building the community would be very difficult. Yet they succeed to organise meetings where 80 people attend and they make the most of small things (the red phone booths made into small libraries). Well done Feock! Rye felt more like Laakdal. What stood out was that both pilot sites are much more in contact with the church. In Belgium the church doesn’t organise much and in our pilot site the church isn’t involved. What was also different is the health part. I think that in the UK the health partners and health “input” is bigger than in Belgium. In Laakdal it’s more community building and well being than health. What I think both pilot sites did very well is thinking about life after HAIRE right from the beginning of the project. I believe that that will make it possible to continue and embed HAIRE better.”

The Belgian team are pictured with people from Feock and the University of Exeter - and the HAIRE mascot, a Corgi called Treacle

The Belgian team with Feock and the University of Exeter – and the HAIRE mascot, Treacle

East Sussex Conference: Innovations in Healthy Ageing

View from the De Warr Pavilion

19th October 2022 saw our colleagues at Rother Voluntary Action and East Sussex County Council hold a Healthy Ageing social innovation workshop at the De Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea. The conference brought the community up to speed on what the team has achieved so far through HAIRE. It was a thought provoking day, with our partners not only sharing innovations devised so far, but also brainstorming with the community about new place-based innovations for healthy ageing.

Kate Leyshon stands with two colleagues from RVA

HAIRE’s PI Catherine Leyshon with colleagues from Rother Voluntary Action

Collaboration between VCSOs, public and private sector and older people continues to lie at the heart of much-needed changes to the design and delivery of services, and it was exciting to see so many people present who were clearly committed to improving the lives of older people. From the start, there was a lot of energy in the room, and there was a very high level of interaction and ideation throughout.

Four key themes emerged from the HAIRE project’s Guided Conversations and form the basis for innovations in Rye and Robertsbridge and beyond: Loneliness and Isolation; Transitions and Life changes; Planning for the Future and Staying Active.

A tweet describing the Life Transitions service briefly and calling for volunteers

The Life Transitions Service pilot was launched in summer 2022

One result (that crosses multiple themes, in fact) is the team piloting a “Life Transitions Service.” This has, at its heart, the simple truth that the further ahead you can plan, the better the outcome. The Guided Conversations showed that sometimes, the decisions people make when moving to rural areas are not always ideal, as they can fail to take their ageing needs and later life changes into account – and end up encountering loneliness, isolation and other difficulties.

The aim of the service is to help people arrive in later life as prepared as they could be, and to provide a listening ear and a signposting service to help individuals make important decisions that can help make a positive impact on later life. Volunteers have been recruited and trained in using the approach as an example of a new model of service focused on prevention. The volunteer model for the Life Transitions service is being rolled out next year, and the team are considering ways to extend the service beyond their local area.

Designers were asked: How might we create joyful place-based opportunities for people across generations to improve planetary health?

Another innovation scheme in progress is the RSA/HAIRE Design Competition. The RSA – the royal society for arts, manufactures and commerce – is all about social impact, and the competition includes factors that go beyond personal, social and community issues. The partnership came up with a competition for design students to combine planetary health and ways to work intergenerationally to inspire healthier communities.

Winning designs will be tested in the summer of 2023, and included in the Age Friendly programme to ensure a long-lasting legacy. In parallel, there will be a community design competition, which was kicked off at the workshop: “How might we create fun opportunities in local communities for younger & older people to come together and improve each other’s health & the health of the planet?” All sorts of ideas were mooted: from Ready, Steady, Cook at the local food bank to a rickshaw club for greener, healthier, intergenerational transport.

Attendees all smiling as they write down their ideas for green healthy ageing initiatives

Kudos to product design student Jacob, who travelled down from Loughborough to hear all about HAIRE in order to better shape his design team’s submission.

Regarding strategic, system level innovation, East Sussex continues to develop a formal ‘age-friendly community’. The Guided Conversation analysis illustrated the multi-dimensional and interconnected dimensions of ageing well, which prompted the need for a holistic system response. The team (ESCC and RVA) worked with Rother District Council  – who are an official observer partner – to write an application to join the UK arm of the World Health Organisation’s Age Friendly Communities programme, as their approaches and domains of interest are well-aligned. The application was approved by the Rother District Council Cabinet and then by the Centre for Ageing Better, who run the UK AFC Network. The HAIRE Project collaborated with Rother District Council, local volunteers, and other stakeholders to develop the local AFC programme, holding a visioning workshop with key councillors and other local stakeholders to identify and agree priorities. These were presented and discussed at the conference, which finished on a futuristic note and a brainstorming session creating innovations 50 years into the future.

It was an inspiring day! 

Paul Bolton standing at the podium at the HAIRE conference

“It was great to bring aspects of the HAIRE partnership together and highlight the wider dimensions of the project. Our aim was to focus on the innovations to boost the momentum around Healthy Ageing going forwards and to set out the HAIRE legacy.” – Paul Bolton

 

Kate’s Grand Tour Part 3: Training in Adjacent Areas

One of the objectives of our project is to extend the use of the HAIRE toolkit beyond the borders of our pilot areas. Kate’s visit to Laakdal (one of our pilot sites) included training new volunteers in the village of Bergom in the neighbouring municipality of Herselt. This region is a good example of how the toolkit can be customised to suit the community it is used in. Assisted dying is legal in Belgium, and the toolkit needed to include training volunteers in conversations about end of life. This is the third of four short blogs about Kate’s visit to Belgium in April, 2022.

On my second full day in Belgium, myself and the local project team (Katien, Sophie and Severine) train Jill Van der Auwera from the neighbouring municipality of Herselt, which comprises the villages of Herselt proper, Ramsel, Blauberg, Bergom and Varenwinkel. The sat nav takes me to an empty field about 5k from our meeting point. Thank goodness for Google Maps.  

We meet in a community hall in a small village surrounded by farmland and forests. This area feels more remote than Vorst, with more small, scattered settlements. The team in Laakdal – including the volunteers – will help to train professionals and volunteers in Herselt in the next few weeks. The issues that face their older community – especially the rising cost of living – are very familiar. We incorporate the insights from Laakdal’s volunteers into the session, which really helps with the practical aspects of applying the HAIRE toolkit elsewhere. After our session, we walk through the quiet, neat village to the magnificent Catholic Church with its lofty, modern interior and high, vaulted wooden ceiling.  In the evening, I drive to Bergom to attend the training of volunteers in conversations about end of life. This is a particular focus for Herselt and an issue for which they have adapted their Guided Conversations. Although the training is in Flemish, I keep up with the slides by putting a few key phrases from each into Google Translate. The training covers why and how we should talk about and prepare for the end of life along with useful case studies. Assisted dying is legal in Belgium, so some of the training is about that. A new model of palliative care is presented which introduces elements of palliative care alongside continuing treatment in a more gradual way. This breaks down the cure/care dualism in which only when the search for a cure ends does palliative care begins. Instead, this model seeks to open up the conversation about the journey towards the end of life more gradually and in a supportive and empathic way. It is a moving and very productive session.

 

Extending the HAIRE toolkit: Guided Conversations with In The Mix Project

Over the past couple of months, a small team from the University of Exeter’s Social Innovation Group has been working on adapting HAIRE’s Guided Conversation tool for use in youth work. Two interns, Matilda Ferguson and Lewi Connor, have been involved in this process, and Matilda very kindly agreed to write a blog about it. Read on…

The HAIRE project aims to support older people in rural areas. One of the systems tested by the HAIRE project is Guided Conversations. These take the shape of a semi-structured discussion, prompted by images, general themes and talking points such as the local area, relationships, interests and community. Using the Guided Conversation tool, the HAIRE project has been able to explore the isolated situation of older people in rural areas, and identify their needs and desires. The Guided Conversations became not only part of a study into the rural isolation experienced by older people, but a tool for combatting it.

We have been working alongside In The Mix to explore implementing the Guided Conversations tool into youth work in rural areas. The In The Mix Project (ITMP) is based in the small town of Wiveliscombe, Taunton Deane. However, the charity provides youth and community services across Somerset. ITMP offers informal educational, activities and positive opportunities programmes to provide learning, skills and experiences, which supports young people’s personal, social, emotional and professional development, as well as boosting self-esteem and confidence. Their approach to youth work is flexible and based on issues and values prevalent to young people, their communities and their environment.

Image taken from In the Mix Project website

Working alongside the charity’s project manager John Hellier, we have tailored the prompts and structure of the HAIRE Guided Conversation to fit the focus of ITMP and context of youth work. Our version of the Guided Conversation covers three themes: place-based’, ‘people-centred’ and ‘empowerment’. We have also adapted the tool into a new format: an app. The app shows participants these themes, as well as some sub-topics, image prompts and radars which shows how positively they rate the topics discussed.

We hope that the Guided Conversations will help us to understand the situation of young people living in rural places in terms of the issues and relationships they have with their areas. This research will help youth work in rural areas to be responsive to young people’s needs. As well as this, we hope that like we have found in the HAIRE project, the Guided Conversations themselves will not just be research tools. The discussion provides opportunity for people to open up, share, connect and be heard. This itself will combat isolation and prompt discussion about solutions. The app also provides the opportunity for action through its ‘signposting’ feature, which will allow young people to find existing services to support them.

Over the last week, Lewi and Matilda went up to Exeter to meet with John to try it out. Our practice guided conversation lasted almost three hours and was a great way to understand how the tool would work in practice. After a few adjustments, the app is ready to be tested and we look forward to trying it out at ITMP sessions over the next couple of weeks.

Matilda Ferguson

Image taken from In The Mix Project website

 

 

 

 

Talking Deck to help people with life and health issues

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.

A variety of Talking Deck cards are in the photo, e.g. a key, a heart, trainers, animals, pictures of Exeter and words such as 'yesterday', 'future' and 'fear'.

Over a series of workshops, staff, volunteers, researchers and people with lived experiences came together to co-design the Talking Deck pack.

“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 (c.brace@exeter.ac.uk) or Lorraine Hansford ().

Picture of collaborators from MIND, CoLab and the University of Exeter

Left to Right: Tom Cox (Devon MIND), Fiona Carden (CoLab), Lorraine Hansford and Catherine Leyshon (University of Exeter)

 

 

Kate’s Grand Tour, Part 2 of 4: Arriving in Laakdal, Belgium

Professor Catherine (Kate) Leyshon, our Principal Investigator, was able to travel for the first time since our project launch in early 2020. She referred to her trip as the “Grand Tour”! We asked her to write about her journey to East Sussex and subsequent visit to Laakdal in Belgium, and give us a writerly flavour of what those places look and feel like, since we’ve been unable to visit. Here’s part two: her first glimpse of Laakdal. More to follow!

I arrive on the Eurostar in Brussels and pick up a hire car for the drive to Diest, the town where I am staying about 25 minutes away from the municipality of Laakdal, in the province of Antwerp. The municipality comprises the towns of Eindhout, Veerle, Vorst, Varendonk and Vorst-Meerlaar, all of which are involved with HAIRE. Diest is a pretty, well-kept town with narrow cobbled streets and new buildings tastefully blended into its historic town-centre. I take a walk up through a leafy park and back through the town square, lined with canopied restaurants where diners are enjoying the warm spring evening.

The next day, I drive to Vorst in Laakdal. Initially my car’s sat nav wants to take me to Vorst near Brussels but I realise this is in completely the wrong direction! I drive out of Diest and I’m quickly into the flat, farmed landscape of this part of Belgium. The road is straight and quiet. As I reach Vorst, I notice how quiet and tidy it is. We are meeting in the fantastic Gemeentehuis. Recently constructed and serving the whole municipality, it contains the library, a post office, meeting rooms, the only bank machine in town and some local council functions.

I meet four volunteers who have some fascinating insights into their experience of using the HAIRE toolkit. They are very generous with their knowledge, and – with a retired Alderman amongst their number – we have an in-depth discussion about new models of service design and delivery. The issues in this part of rural Belgium are familiar across the project: people growing older sometimes become less confident and stop going out as much. They become isolated and suffer some consequences to their overall wellbeing. The Guided Conversation has helped to reconnect them to the community. The partners are especially looking forward to taking ownership of a new minibus; transport here is very limited – it’s no surprise that getting around is a problem in all our pilot sites.

Kate’s Grand Tour Part One: A Visit to Rother

Professor Catherine Leyshon, our Principal Investigator, was able to travel for the first time since our project launch in early 2020. She referred to her trip as the “Grand Tour”! We asked her to write about her journey to East Sussex and subsequent visit to Laakdal in Belgium, and give us a writerly flavour of what those places look and feel like, since we’ve been unable to visit. Here’s part one, starting in Rye, East Sussex. More posts to follow!

I arrive at Rye station in afternoon spring sunshine opposite Jempsons, which looks to be a well-stocked grocery store/deli with attractive displays. It’s a short walk to the Ship Inn through the historic redbrick town centre. It’s rush-hour in Rye, with children eagerly getting on the train home from school. The offices of the Bluebird care agency remind me that Rye has an aging population, many of whom suffer from isolation and loneliness. This is why Rye is part of HAIRE, along with the nearby town of Robertsbridge, both in the county of East Sussex.

I turn off the delightfully named Wish Street onto Wish Ward in the direction of a disused factory, a piece of industrial heritage referencing the area’s past. A former bakery, it now houses a pottery. I walk past picturesque redbrick and half shingle houses. The pretty townhouse along a cobbled street with a new Jaguar parked outside tells a story that I’m only too familiar with from Cornwall where the picturesque rural setting can hide great disparities in wealth. Mermaid Street, with its ancient, rounded cobbles, opens up to my left. The Ship Inn – my destination after 7 hours traveling from Cornwall, sits in an attractive riverside location. After dumping my bags, I go for a run along a levee between the river and a nature reserve. It’s a lovely part of the world – startlingly flat compared to Cornwall.

The next day, I meet four volunteers from HAIRE and the team from East Sussex County Council, Rother Voluntary Action, and Lorna Ford, the new Deptuty CEO from Rother District Council. We all feel thrilled to be able to meet up after two years on Teams. In that time, 16 volunteers have been recruited and trained, 76 Guided Conversations have been held and more than 200 hours of information about health and wellbeing have been used in the research analysis. Key themes prioritised through the innovation process are loneliness, accessing information, life transitions, and staying active.

We have a great meeting, discussing the volunteer experience of using the HAIRE toolkit – especially the Guided Conversation – and the legacy of HAIRE which will be felt through the pilot projects in Age Friendly Rother, now officially a part of the World Health Organisation’s Age Friendly Community programme.

The eight domains of Age Friendly Communities are illustrated. They are: Communication and Information, Community and Healthcare, Transportation, Housing, Civic Participation and Employment, Outdoor Spaces and Buildings, and Respect and Social Inclusion. 

Above: the eight domains are Communication and Information, Community and Healthcare, Transportation, Housing, Civic Participation and Employment, Outdoor Spaces and Buildings, and Respect and Social Inclusion. 

 

 

HAIRE is about “a good old age”: project progress in Laakdal

Thanks to our colleagues in Laakdal for sending us a news article which was published after a large stakeholder event discussing the co-creation and prioritisation of local social innovations. Below is a translation into English of the article by Annelies Frederickx published on Wednesday 20th October, 2021. You can read the original article at source here.

The seniors of Laakdal debate four themes: mobility, leisure, caring for tomorrow and communication — © AF

Laakdal is the first municipality to undertake the European participation project HAIRE.

HAIRE’s pilot site in Laakdal involves a partnership between the local government and Welzijnszorg Kempen, an organisation specialising in the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable in society, including older people. In Laakdal, 28% of the population is senior, so the municipality is ideally suited to explore the possibilities of co-creation with older people. There is also interest from adjacent areas, Mol and Herselt, in working with HAIRE.

Katrien Serroyen of Welzijnszone Kempen takes an active part in the debate. — © AF

The first part of the started in September 2020 with a neighbourhood analysis (a mapping of resources with residents in the neighbourhood; see this earlier blog post for an overview of what this entailed in Feock, UK, one of our other pilot sites.) Volunteers were then recruited to carry out “Guided Conversations.” Sixteen volunteers set out from the community to interview 71 older people. The respondents were 60, 70, 80 and 90 years old and they lived all over Laakdal. The Guided Conversations contain place- and person-related questions, as well as a section on personal empowerment. The results yielded a long list of more than a hundred action points. In consultation with the municipal council, the project team has filtered four priorities from this: mobility, leisure, care for tomorrow (dementia and early care planning) and communication. The older people surveyed all expressed the wish to rename the HAIRE project ‘A good old age in Laakdal’, as the English acronym did not resonate as strongly.

Sofie Schepers is an expert community-oriented care provider in Laakdal. — © AF

During the kick-off in the local meeting centre, some thirty people over sixty set to work on the four priority themes. In each domain, they identified the most important difficulties and looked for possible solutions. Rosa Wilms took an active part in the debate as she has been involved from the start: “When I read the call in the municipal information sheet, I immediately applied to be a volunteer”, Rosa Wilms reveals. “I was alone and this seemed to be an ideal pastime for me. I like to chat and through the project I was also able to make new contacts. I had a total of ten conversations, four online and six at home. They were all intense but wonderful conversations.”

Rosa Wilms has been involved in every phase of the project. — © AF

“My chats showed that older people in Laakdal struggle with a lack of respect from neighbours, young people and from traffic”, Rosa Wilms adds. “Of course there’s not much a municipal council can do about that; we all have to work on that together. I completely agree with the four chosen themes. Choices must of course be made and it seems realistic to me that the municipal council can achieve things in those four domains. The most important thing for me, however, is that we are being listened to.”

Difficult points to resolve or improve were noted for each theme. — © AF

Sofie Schepers, who leads the project for the municipal government, had good news for the participants. “The municipality is buying a van and it will be available to all older people in Laakdal. It can be used to provide transport to activities in all boroughs and we are also looking at the possibility of, for example, providing transport to the local market. The aim to provide ‘A good old age in Laakdal’ has only just started, but we are well on our way.”

Q-Sorting: A Participatory Method for Innovation Development

In preparation for the CREATE phase of our project – the cross border development of social innovations for older people – our Research Fellow, Shuks Esmene, produced some guidance for partners around alternative methods of approaching idea generation and prioritisation. Below is an explanation of how the Q-Sort approach can be used and adapted in relation to HAIRE and its tools.

An adapted Q-Sort

The Q-Sort approach is part of a larger methodology (Q-Methodology1). Q-Sorts involve participants arranging a set of statements into a grid based on how much they agree and disagree with the statements. Therefore, the approach is more suited for situations where stakeholders can be presented with a set of statements. This approach may be useful for collating stakeholder opinions on what types of innovations would benefit the local area the most.

Note: If you wish to engage stakeholders in a more ‘open’ activity to generate ideas, a different spotlight method (to be released in the coming weeks) may be more appropriate.

i. The participants

Traditionally, individuals carry out Q-Sorts. However, for HAIRE, it may be more appropriate to arrange small groups (around 4 people in each group) to take part in and agree on a Q-Sort. For consistency, you may choose to group stakeholders with common characteristics or those that are working in a similar field to carry out Q-Sorts together.

ii. The statements

Q-Sorts are usually carried out using around 20 to 60 statements. Based on HAIRE’s timeframes and the highly likely remote delivery of the CREATE sessions, it may be best to lead a Q-Sort with around 15-20 statements!

The statements should be easy to understand and, where possible, structured similarly. We recommend using no more than two sentences per statement. See below the examples from our imaginary pilot site, HAIREbridge:

 

The statements chosen for a Q-Sort can be led by the findings of a pilot site’s draft Community Report (these were released at the end of April 2021). However, feasibility is important, e.g., if it is unlikely that you will be able to implement a transport-related innovation / change, we recommend that a transport-related statement is not included for your Q-Sort.

iii. The grid

The grid that is used to help participants sort the statements they are presented with is usually structured as shown below:

The grid shown above may be adapted to reflect the number of statements that are presented to the participants. However, the ‘bell-shaped’ structure (i.e., where there are fewer options at the extremes of the grid compared to the middle) is important. This structure enables participants to make a judgement call (usually through discussion) as to which statements they agree and disagree with the most.

Generally, statements grouped in the categories ranging from -4 to -2 in the example show above are classed as ‘disagree’. The statements placed under -1, 0 and 1 are classed as neutral, and the statements placed under 2, 3 and 4 are classed as ‘agree’. Once more, this is not a strict rule. You may wish to adapt the numbering in your grid to make the Q-Sort easier to conduct with the specific stakeholders you wish to engage.

Note: The section at the bottom right of the image included above, listing the ‘Agree’, ‘Neutral’ and ‘Disagree’ classifications, is used to collate the statement numbers that were assigned to the respective classifications. Remember to label / number the statements you present to participants clearly!

iv. Remote delivery

A remote delivery adaptation of a Q-sort can be relatively easy to implement. A facilitator can run a Q-sort with a small group (up to 4 participants) in a break-out session. A Q-sort grid can be shared on screen and statements (referred to by their numbers) can be collectively assigned to the appropriate places on the grid through discussion. The facilitator can write the relevant statement numbers into the relevant squares of the grid as the participants agree on their position. In such a circumstance, the statements can be sent to participants prior to the session.

1 Further Notes

The Q-Sort approach is part of a larger method known as Q-Methodology. The full method involves collating all scoring grids compiled by all participants. A statistical analysis of the results is then conducted to generate a ‘best-fit’ grid for groups of participants that share certain characteristics. Further, the full method dictates that individual participants produce their own scoring grids.

Given the purpose and timeframes of HAIRE, using only the Q-Sort component of the method can help facilitate group discussions and still generate an understanding of what types of innovations would be most valued in a pilot site. Overall, we hope to build CREATE approaches that are best suited to each pilot site. Each pilot site may choose to use a combination of different participatory tasks in their CREATE activities.

CREATE: New Models of Service Delivery for Older People

(This blog is written in English and French – please scroll to the end for the French language version.)

It’s been a cold and reluctant spring for us all in the HAIRE community: the UK saw the lowest April temperature since 1922. The sun is shining today, however, and we are feeling more hopeful as we get ready for summer and the opening up of our communities. By the end of April, HAIRE partners had compiled the initial Community Report drafts for our pilot areas, which combines information gleaned from Guided Conversations, Action Plans and Neighbourhood Analysis. Our partners are now preparing for our next major challenge: co-creating innovative service delivery in the pilot sites and beyond that respond to the challenges identified in their areas. Some challenges are unique to the pilot sites and some stem from issues that are commonplace in rural Europe.

For the past several weeks, the University of Exeter has been hosting drop-in Teams sessions for all partners to discuss progress and to share participatory methods for innovation and idea generation. We’ve looked at such techniques as mind-mapping and Q-sorting. We’ve discussed key practical considerations, such as tailoring sessions to different audiences and sizes and making sure all the exercises are inclusive. Our colleague Femke Verthé at iDROPS – a Belgian organisation skilled in social innovation development – led sessions on Human Centred Design Thinking, a participatory tool for inspiration, ideation, focusing and prototyping.

Throughout May, partners have been gathering ideas and meeting with their volunteers, stakeholders and communities in unique ways. For example, in East Sussex, the HAIRE enablers have been going on walks with their community, and this act of getting volunteers to talk to the community members really engages them in the idea generation process and makes for powerful, insightful input.

Drawing on their experience of piloting actions locally, the partners, older people, local partners, volunteers and agencies will come together in June in a joint CREATE workshop (Crossborder European Activity Testing Exercise) to share their experiences and support and mentor each other. Partners will organise themselves into Action Learning Sets, cross-border groups that want to work on shared innovations together. Action Learning is one of the methods effective programmes use to help participants apply learning in a support group. This approach encourages partners to make meaning from direct experience and supports genuine cross-border idea exchange.

We are also taking the time during the June CREATE workshops to “get to know each other” more personally. All the Covid restrictions have meant we haven’t been able to travel or meet with our counterparts in different countries. The socialising will have to wait a little longer, but we’ve integrated a creative writing workshop into the sessions, in which we’ll look at poems about ageing in all our languages, listen to each other speak in our native tongues, and write and share our own personal and cultural experiences of ageing. The atmosphere of mutual support, shared experience and cultural learning will provide another layer of depth and understanding in our cross-border exchange as we drive towards positive change for our older people.

Here’s one of our chosen poems.

Long Life, by Elaine Feinstein

Late Summer. Sunshine. The eucalyptus tree.
It is a fortune beyond any deserving
to be still here, with no more than everyday worries,
placidly arranging lines of poetry.

I consider a stick of cinammon
bound in raffia, finches
in the grass, and a stubby bush
which this year mothered a lemon.

These days I speak less of death
than the mysteries of survival. I am
no longer lonely, not yet frail, and
after surgery, recognise each breath

as a miracle. My generation may not be
nimble but, forgive us,
we’d like to hold on, stubbornly
content – even while ageing.

French Translation follows:

Ce fut un printemps frileux pour la communauté HAIRE, le Royaume-Uni ayant connu ses températures les plus basses depuis 1922 pour un mois d’avril. Aujourd’hui cependant, le soleil brille, et l’optimisme est lui aussi au rendez-vous alors que nous nous préparons en vue de l’été et de la réouverture de nos communautés. D’ici la fin du mois d’avril, les partenaires du projet HAIRE auront compilé les versions préliminaires des premiers rapports communautaires de nos sites pilotes, qui cumulent les informations récoltées lors des Conversations Guidées, des Plans d’Actions et des Analyses de Voisinage. Nos partenaires se préparent désormais à affronter notre prochain grand défi : non seulement cocréer une prestation des services innovante au sein de chaque site pilote, mais aussi résoudre les problèmes qu’ils ont distingués dans leur région respective. Certains problèmes sont propres à leur site pilote tandis que d’autres découlent de problèmes répandus en Europe rurale.

Ces dernières semaines, l’Université d’Exeter a animé des séances de discussion ouvertes sur Microsoft Teams, afin que tous les partenaires puissent discuter de l’avancée du projet et partager des méthodes participatives d’innovation et de conception de nouvelles idées. Nous avons testé des techniques comme la carte heuristique ou le Q-sort. Nous avons débattu de sujets clefs d’ordre pratique, par exemple comment adapter les séances à des publics différents et des groupes de tailles différentes, et comment s’assurer que tous les exercices sont inclusifs. Notre collègue Femke Verthé, de la société belge iDROPS – spécialisée dans le développement de l’innovation sociale –, a animé des séances sur le Design Centré sur l’Humain, un outil participatif d’inspiration, d’idéation, de concentration et de prototypage.

Au cours du mois de mai, nos partenaires ont recueilli les idées des uns et des autres et ont rencontré bénévoles, intervenants et communautés par le biais de méthodes uniques. Par exemple, dans le Sussex de l’Est, les Aidants HAIRE font régulièrement des promenades avec les membres de leur communauté. Cette démarche d’échange entre les bénévoles et la communauté les implique réellement dans le processus de conception de nouvelles idées, apportant au projet une contribution percutante et instructive.

Mettant à profit leur expérience pour mener des actions à l’échelle locale, les partenaires, les personnes âgées, les partenaires locaux, les bénévoles et les organismes se réuniront en juin lors d’un atelier CREATE (« Crossborder European Activity Testing Exercise ») commun, afin de partager leurs expériences ainsi que se soutenir et se guider mutuellement. Les partenaires se répartiront dans des « Sets de formation-action », des groupes transnationaux désirant travailler ensemble sur des innovations communes. La formation-action est l’une des méthodes que les programmes efficaces utilisent pour aider les participants à appliquer les notions apprises dans un groupe de soutien. Cette approche encourage les partenaires à trouver du sens dans leurs expériences directes et promeut un véritable échange d’idées à travers les frontières.

Pendant les ateliers CREATE de juin, nous prenons également le temps « d’apprendre à se connaître » de façon plus personnelle. Toutes les restrictions relatives au COVID19 nous ont empêchés de voyager ou de rencontrer nos homologues d’autres pays. Le retour de la vie sociale devra attendre encore un peu, mais nous avons mis en place un atelier de création littéraire parmi les différentes sessions. Cet atelier nous donnera l’occasion de découvrir des poèmes sur le vieillissement dans toutes nos langues, d’écouter les uns et les autres parler dans leur langue maternelle, et d’écrire et de partager notre propre expérience personnelle et culturelle du vieillissement. Cette atmosphère de soutien mutuel, de partage d’expérience et d’apprentissage culturel apportera une nouvelle dimension de profondeur et de compréhension à notre échange transnational, alors que nous avançons vers un changement positif pour nos personnes âgées.

Voici l’un des poèmes que nous avons choisis:

Longue vie, par Elaine Feinstein

 

Fin d’été. Soleil. L’eucalyptus.

C’est une chance que nul ne mérite

d’être encore ici, avec des soucis de tous les jours et rien de plus,

à placidement accorder des vers de poésie.

 

J’examine un bâton de cannelle

enroulé de raphia, des pinsons

sur l’herbe, et le buisson râblé

qui cette année a donné naissance à un citron.

 

Ces temps-ci je parle moins de la mort

que des mystères de la survie. Je ne suis

plus seul, pas encore chétif, et

depuis l’opération, je réalise que chaque souffle

 

Est un miracle. Ma génération n’est peut-être pas

preste mais, pardonnez-nous,

nous voulons tenir bon, obstinément

satisfaits – même en vieillissant.