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Science, Sun and Snacks: public engagement with the Newcastle West End Foodbank

Post Type: Blog
Year: 2023

By: Eugenie Evelynne Johnson, Emily Hunter, Sean Gill, Rhiannon Potter, Victoria Harbottle, Niina Kohlemainen and Fiona Pearson

Engaging members of the public in research is important. At the Innovation Observatory we are always learning about how to do it better and with different groups of people - including through our ongoing public partnership with the Newcastle West End Foodbank.

The Innovation Observatory seeks to identify new innovations that are only just emerging – as well as gaps where innovation is not yet happening. Our Insights Research Programme aims to involve and engage members of the public – including children and young people – in doing this.

We know from our research so far that there is a lack of innovation for children and young people, compared to adults. Historically, there have been few opportunities for children and young people to participate in research.  To change this, the Innovation Observatory is a partner in CHISEL, the national project to identify the Top10 challenges to research involving children and young people.

In August 2023, members of the Innovation Observatory’s together with members of the CHISEL team, headed to the Benwell community centre. This is the home to Newcastle West End Foodbank and increasingly a number of place-based welfare services.  We couldn’t wait to work alongside the Foodbank and CHISEL teams again.

This time, we wanted to find out what children and adults thought about research, and about barriers and challenges to research participation and involvement with children and young people. We were particularly interested in listening to foodbank service users who may not have had many opportunities to be involved in research.

Our previous work has shown that place-based arts and crafts where children and adults can creatively express their views helps to facilitate accessible, friendly, open and honest discussion with public partners. You can see some of the creative efforts above!

Using participatory arts really helped us to begin conversations with both the children and adults who came along on the day in an accessible manner. Engagement through the activities allowed the space needed to develop mutual trust and have open, honest conversations – as well as being a lot of fun for everyone!

From the conversations, and questions people were posing we learned a lot about their assumptions about research and scientists, and the potential barriers that might stop children and young people being involved in or participating in research. Chatting with children and adults meant we began to understand what people think about children and young people being involved in research or participating in clinical trials.

The ideas and thoughts from discussion on the day will go on to help inform the CHISEL project and the way the Innovation Observatory involves children and young people within their research.

If you have any queries or want to find out more, contact insights@io.nihr.ac.uk