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When we launched our second Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement funding call back in February this year, we weren’t expecting the months ahead to profoundly affect the way we work with the public. The challenges to PPIE posed by the pandemic have been difficult, but they haven't dampened the School's commitment to involvement and engagement activities - or our support for the winning teams of the recent competition as they embark on their proposed research.

We received a number of excellent applications. Proposals were dedicated to involving and engaging people whose voices often go unheard in the research process, such as marginalized and underrepresented communities. Additionally, the researchers included innovative ideas and creative methods in their research outlines. We would like to thank everyone who took the time to apply for this call.

A panel of public contributors, researchers, and involvement and engagement professionals reviewed the applications with the following criteria: reasoning for the project; the audience and whether the project would reach them; complementing the research’s original PPIE plans; novelty and creativity; value for money and if the project was achievable with the resources available.

Congratulations to Dr Charlotte Albury, former SPCR doctoral student based at the University of Oxford, and the SPCR PPI lead at Keele University, Dr Steven Blackburn.

Project summaries

Co-designing training to engage older learning disabled people and their carers as CoResearchers (Co-training for Co-research)

Charlotte Albury, Sara Ryan, Angeli Vaid

Learning disabled people have traditionally been marginalised in the research process. To avoid exploitation of seldom-heard groups in qualitative research, there is an growing move towards ‘co-research’. To be involved as co-researchers, it is essential that people can access the knowledge and tools that researchers use, such as interviewing; issues around informed consent; power differences; and research ethics. The danger is, if people are not supported to develop appropriate skills as a co-researcher, the endeavour becomes tokenistic. The training provided for people to become co-researcher has traditionally been designed by researchers, teaching what they think people should know, rather than actively co-designed with the people themselves.

Researchers will: Trial a novel way of designing training with learning disabled people and their carers (co-design), which we will deliver together (co-deliver); work with learning disabled people and their carers to prioritise what they think is important to learn in terms of conducting research and how training should be delivered; embed delivery of this training as part of the ‘Older Carers’ project; and, share our methods and what we learnt for this co-design process in a step-by-step guide (written by researchers, learning disabled people, and their carers) that will be freely available for other researchers, charities, and support-groups to access.

Engaging underserved ethnic communities to improve the diversity of Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement and support the collaborative transformation of evidence-based primary care services

Steven Blackburn, Opeyemi Babatunde, Kat Evans

The project will establish a group of professional and community members committed to engaging ethnic communities with research and healthcare, known as a Community of Practice.

Researchers will engage and build a relationship with underserved ethnic communities within the Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire and Shropshire regions. We will visit these communities and hold creative art-based sessions, making use of ceramics workshops. As Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire is the home of the Potteries, many people in the community have a fondness for ceramics or at least a familiarity with its significance in the region. Therefore, engaging people through creative clay-work provides a neutral and interactive environment for stimulating informal discussions between communities.

The project hopes these events will facilitate open discussions on access to primary care and opportunities for public involvement in primary care research. Outcomes of these discussion will inform activities related to Keele Deal | Health, which represents a commitment between Keele University and local healthcare partners to address the region’s health and care priorities.