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Public Engagement

Funded projects 2023

11 Projects were funded as part of the 2023 Participatory Research Fund. You can read more about the projects below.

A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words. A photovoice study exploring determinants of mental health among adolescents

Victoria Bird and Madison Stephens (Wolfson Institute of Population Health)

‘A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words’, will explore the social determinants influencing mental health among adolescents living in East London using a participatory research method called Photovoice. Photovoice uses photographs and storytelling to explore the lived realities of individuals and can allow community strengths and weaknesses to be communicated. Photovoice enables participants to engage in all stages of research and was considered a relevant and engaging method that could enable adolescents to communicate their perspectives and experiences of mental health. An understanding of the social determinants influencing adolescents’ mental health is needed in light of the Covid-19 pandemic which disrupted research and impacted adolescents’ mental health. Adolescents in this study will be trained in ethical research practice and photography before spending two weeks collecting ten photographs of places and 3 things that make them feel happy or sad. Next, adolescents will attend an in-person meeting at a local library where they will caption the photographs and select one photograph each for group discussion. Adolescents will return to the library the following week to discuss photographs using the SHOWeD framework that guides the analysis and interpretation of photographs. Adolescents will then be invited to an online meeting where they will be able to comment upon the key themes arising from the focus group conversations. Lastly, adolescents will be consulted on the best ways to disseminate the findings and outputs of the research. 

Breaking down the barriers to accessing mental health care experienced by neurodivergent young people: a participatory approach

Giorgia Michelini and Shiqi Lu (School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences), and Jennifer Lau, Georgina Hosang and Danilo Di Emidio (Wolfson Institute of Population Health).

Neurodivergent young people (i.e., with traits of one or more neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism and ADHD) experience mental health challenges (e.g., depression, anxiety) at much higher rates than non-neurodivergent peers. Yet, they face significant barriers in receiving prompt recognition and support for these challenges through NHS services, and the drivers of these health disparities remain unclear. The goal of this participatory project is to work with a Young People Advisory Group (YPAG) of neurodivergent young people (aged 18-25) to chart a clear research roadmap towards prompt access to mental health care in this vulnerable group. This project will co-design a new research project forming the basis of funding applications directly addressing the priorities of key stakeholders, thereby recognising their experiences and enabling future participatory mental health research with this population. Co-dissemination activities will promote awareness of the mental health needs of neurodivergent people and build capacity for participatory research within our team and QMUL more broadly. 

The outputs of this and follow-on participatory projects promise to improve mental health outcomes in neurodivergent young people and inform training provisions and guidelines for clinicians and educators working with this population.

Crowdsourcing Development of Inclusive Health Reporting

Robin Lerner, Shwetha Ramachandrappa (Blizard Institute) and Saadia Rahman (UCL)

Health and policy experts frequently ask participants in clinical trials to assess their health and quality of life after treatments. These subjective measurements guide important clinical and policy decisions about which treatments to use. Quality of life questionnaires are recommended by NICE as the best way to gather evidence of how (in)effective new treatments are.

Understanding how quality of life tools relate to the health of each patient is complicated. One patient reporting a poor health state might be healthier than another, and this might be for a number of reasons. These reasons include age, sex, expectations of health, history of illness and recovery, and many more. One factor that has not been explored is the impact of culture & ethnicity on self-reporting of health. The validation work that underpins the use of quality of life questionnaires in the UK almost exclusively involves white English-speaking British people, partly due to a legacy of low levels of participation in research for British South Asian people. That means data from these questionnaires are difficult to translate into policy and health decisions that work for everyone. This is especially true for communities with a high proportion of non-white people, such as East London. Data from UK Biobank has shown us that the impact of major illnesses like type 2 diabetes on quality of life are reported differently by British South Asian vs white people. This project will train and deploy community researchers to perform high quality qualitative research among their networks of British South Asians participants. This research will identify the important factors that influence reporting of health and quality of life for British South Asians, develop quantitative approaches for addressing existing imbalances, and provide guidance for researchers on how to design better studies. 

Diabolical Architectures of Colonialism

Kerry Holden, Kathryn Yusoff (School of Geography), Casper Laing Ebbensgaard (University of East Anglia), Michael Salu (House of Thought)

The Planetary Portals collective was established in 2021 as a participatory research collaboration involving artists, academics, architects and curators from across the world. The collective uses archival research and artistic practices to develop the portal as a speculative methodology for mapping spatial and temporal patterns that sustain the planetary through on-going colonial infrastructures. In dialogue with art, architecture, design and earth sciences we reimagine the shape of the planetary through portals, showcasing through publication and performance the racialised geopolitics of changing states of materiality in the calculative orders of human, non-human and inhuman geographies.  

In this project, the Planetary Portals collective explores how the ‘diabolical architectures of colonialism’ continue to hold open Africa as a continent for extraction. Bringing together participating artist Michael Salu at the House of Thought, with geographers Kathryn Yusoff and Kerry Holden at QMUL, and Casper Laing Ebbensgaard at University of East Anglia, the proposed project combines speculative, creative and archival methods that include film and photography, poetry, materials from the Rhodes archive at the Bodleian Library, and ethnographic data to showcase our work in different environments and formats. In the context of the #RhodesMustFall and broader decolonialisation movements, our work shows how colonial infrastructures such as the mine, railway and telegram connect to digitalisation in transforming one world into another through promissory capital leveraged on racialised debt, redemption and displacement.

Engaging communities in the monitoring of sharks in Cabo Verde

Christophe Eizaguirre, James Gilbert (School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences) and Berta Renom (Project Biodiversity)

Project Biodiversity is a conservation organization working to protect all wildlife of the island of Sal in Cabo Verde. After the successful implementation of sea turtle conservation programme, using protocols developed in collaboration with the Turtle Project from Queen Mary University, Project Biodiversity wants to expand its shark conservation project using standardized protocols and community led monitoring. Similarly to the Turtle Project, the idea is to engage with communities to report sharks observations and train community leaders to using drones for coastal monitoring. This project will therefore support 1. The establishment of a standard protocol following Queen Mary experts’ advice. 2. Train local authorities and community leaders to drone monitoring and video analysis, 3. Report shark occurrence and distribution. This project is a co-creation between a local NGO and scientists from Queen Mary. It builds on the success of citizen science established by both Project Biodiversity and The Turtle Project. It shares the vision that biodiversity belongs to local communities and that to protect biodiversity it is essential to engage with them.   

Evaluation of the “Water only Schools” Programme in Greater London

Huda Yusuf, Manu Mathur, Ali Golkari, Anjali Gareja and Maria Josefina (Institute of Dentistry)

Around 2 in 5 London children are overweight or obese by year 6 and 25% of 5-year-olds in London experience tooth decay. Evidence suggests that intake of sugary drinks is associated with both tooth decay and weight gain in children. Therefore, reducing their consumption is an important public health priority. 

“Water only schools” is a public health intervention that encourages schools to adopt policies that ensure that only water (or low-fat milk) is available to pupils within schools. This policy is supported and promoted by a range of partners including The Mayor, the GLA (Greater London Authority), Association of Directors of Public Health London, NHS and the Office of Heath Improvements and Disparities within Department of Health and social Care. Expanding “water only schools” across London was a key recommendation made by London’s Child Obesity Taskforce, convened by the Mayor.  

The GLA introduced “Water only Schools” toolkits in 2020 (for primary) and 2022 (for secondary schools) and is now in the process of evaluating their implementation. The evaluation includes the estimation of the proportion of schools that are water only and feedback from children and young people, their parents and school staff on their perceptions and experiences of water only policies. (please delete)The aim is to evaluate the implementation of “Water only Schools” toolkit in primary and secondary schools in London to(please delete this sentence). This will support the roll out of the programme across London. The results of the evaluation will be disseminated in London and nationally as an example of good practice. 

Peopleless Houses for Houseless People: Community Reconsiderations and Reimagining of Housing as a Public Benefit

Elsa Noterman (School of Geography) and Cheri Honkala (Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign)

Emerging amid activism responding to growing homelessness in the 1980s, Title V of the U.S. McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (1987), allows for the use of underutilized and surplus federal properties to assist those experiencing homelessness at no-cost. This 
transfer (and eventual ownership) of surplus Federal property to eligible non-profit organisations and local governments for “public benefit” must be considered before the property can be transferred or sold for any other purpose.

This participatory research project involves the collaborative evaluation of the successes and limitations of Title V thirty-six years after its enactment. As a collaboration between Dr. Noterman and the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC), an 
anti-poverty organisation advocating for a right to housing for over twenty-five years, the project will involve those often left out of conversations about national housing policy, specifically those most affected by housing insecurity and involved in localised struggles 
over securing shelter. This project will involve participatory workshops in four U.S. cities (Chicago, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Oakland). These workshops, facilitated by PPEHRC, will involve the collaborative analysis of the latest data on Title V, presented by 
Dr. Noterman, and the collaborative development of recommendations for how to improve the accessibility of Title V, and more generally the use of surplus Federal properties to address pressing housing needs. Cumulatively, this work will inform the development of a public educational tool about Title V, and a related set of recommendations to share with policymakers and housing advocates across the country.

Putting method into practice: participatory co-created film practice research integrating the creativity of neurodivergent collaborators

Steven Eastwood (School of Languages, Linguistics and Film) and Chloe White (Whalebone Films)

Autism Through Cinema is a research project funded by The Wellcome Trust. The key question driving the research is: how can neurodivergent perspectives and processes transform the language of cinema?   

One of the project’s core methodologies is participatory film practice involving collaboration between autistic and non-autistic thinkers and makers. PI Steven Eastwood has worked closely with The Neurocultures Collective, a group of five autistic artists formed through workshops, to develop a unique co-creation film practice methodology. Working with collaborators producer Chloe White, curator Gilly Fox, autistic scholar Damian Milton and charity Project Art Works, this methodology has been honed remotely and in small groups during the development and pre-production phase. The process uses Mural visualisation software to support collective members who prefer visual thinking schematics, providing accessible materials in a range of formats, and deploying techniques which value and enable different communications styles and needs.  

The co-creation method involves a number of the collective taking up apprenticeships on the film production, working with trained professionals to acquire new skills. Each has co-directing responsibilities on specific days. These roles and tasks necessitate trained support structures. This includes engaging a trained, skilled first assistant director with experience working with autistic individuals, as well as covering costs for collective members with specific care/support requirements. 

The participatory method exists as an innovative model that can be taken up by autism-focused charities and cultural organisations who wish to adopt co-creation approaches. The funding will allow the project to better collect, compile and communicate the data we gather while putting these methods into practice, enabling us share the findings effectively for future use in a variety of settings. 

The artists’ perspective on MotionPerfection: working with end users to refine an app for digital support of dancers, dance teachers and choreographers

Elisabetta Versace (School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences) and Raymond Chai (Dance teacher and choreographer)

Dancers, dance teachers and choreographers need to refine motor practice to achieve good dance technique and obtain excellent performance. Visualisation of performance, assessment, expert feedback and effective communication are crucial to achieve these goals. However, live feedback and experts are not always available in person, and post-session records could better help the dancers to improve and teachers/choreographers to support their students and practitioners. To address these needs, we have developed MotionPerfection, a prototype app to support dance assessment and feedback for dancers, dance teachers and choreographers. In this project, we will embed the ideas and feedback of end users to enhance MotionPerfection and its benefits, via an iterative co-design and co-refinement conducted with 2 dance teachers/choreographers and 12-16 dancers. Teachers and dancers will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the app, and suggest new development avenues, with the final outcome of release the MotionPerfection v2.0 app, that will address the needs of dance teachers and dancers at large.  

In our previous projects, we have recorded interest of the stakeholders in this app, providing their feedback for improvement. Our team will implement the changes and check the outcomes iteratively. As a final outcome, we will release an improved MotionPerfection app to the general public, increasing the benefits for artists and the general public, as well as the impact of our research products. 

The Peoples Stories: Assessing the Replicability of Place-based Filmmaking as a Participatory Research tool for Global Development

Jessica Jacobs (School of Geography), Hadeer Saeed Dahab (Megawra|BEC ), Josef Palis (University of the Philippines), Vitor Hugo Costa (Metafilmes)

Place-based community-led filmmaking is a collaborative approach to research and engagement that combines film training with storytelling as a means to empower participants and foster meaningful social change. This project will build on previous filmmaking initiatives carried out by Dr Jacobs in collaboration with filmmaker Vitor Hugo Costa (Metafilmes) from Portugal and the urban heritage initiative Megawra|BEC in Cairo and apply them to a mapping research project involving a community of urban farmers in the Philippines to test replicability and scalability.  

The project team will join forces with new partners from University of the Philippines  who are working with the Pook Aguinaldo community and deliver our filmmaking workshop while their mapping initiative is underway. Participants will work together to develop their stories, plan, and shoot short films that capture their unique stories of place for an international audience in a way they can control.  An integral part of this process is the use of smartphones to allow the participants to continue to develop their skills beyond the three-month duration of this project and the use of agreements ensuring the community own their own films as digital assets. 

The films produced can be used to illustrate the importance of supporting urban farming initiatives and highlight the potential for community-led solutions to global development challenges. In addition, each member of our research team will be able to contribute to a evaluation of this approach to participatory research for global development that includes an assessment of effectiveness from academic and non-academic perspectives.  

The Hear/Say Project: Co-producing creative analysis to community safety with young people 

Heather McMullen (Wolfson Institute of Population Health), Aoife Monks (School of English and Drama) and Emma Chapman, Poppy Green (Poplar HARCA / Spotlight)

The Hear/Say project will be a participatory project run in collaboration with Spotlight Creative Youth Service, based in Poplar, and co-developed with young people aged 16-25. 

The Health Engagement to Avoid interpersonal violent injury in young Londoners (HEAL) study, is a qualitative ethnographic study, which has been collecting qualitative data for the past 9 months, with the objective of better understanding issues of safety and interpersonal violence affecting young people in East London. Hear/Say will provide a larger platform and opportunity for young people to engage in the analysis and interpretation of research findings from the HEAL study, as well as contribute to shaping its outputs and dissemination strategies. 

The project will support the development and facilitation of youth-led creative responses to the data in collaboration with specialist Creative Youth Workers. Both the HEAL team and Spotlight youth service are committed to using creative approaches to support young people to develop the right tools to engage with public health issues and facilitate these discussions within their community using creative approaches. The project will centre young people’s voices through creative interpretation of findings, exploring how they resonate for young people in the borough where the research took place. Hear/Say will also focus on personal and professional development for young people to increase their confidence, comfort, and conviction to hold key stakeholders accountable and contribute to the research process and knowledge development. The outcomes of Hear/Say will be greater insights about the data, collaborative analysis about the emerging findings, community developed dissemination strategies, and the co-production of knowledge through creative methods.

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