11 November 2020
Bristol-based charity Brigstowe have benefitted from a collaboration with NIHR ARC West to help them develop new peer support services using the best evidence. An ARC West researcher, Emer Brangan, was based at the charity part time for eight months as a Knowledge Mobilisation Fellow.
The charity, which aims to improve the welfare and health of people living with long-term health conditions, provides a range of peer support services. Emer’s role was to help them find, understand and use evidence to improve their services and the way they communicated about them.
Emer’s placement aimed to help Brigstowe identify and assess evidence that would help them make the best possible decisions on the design of their peer support services. She also got involved in work to identify key messages about Brigstowe’s peer support services to communicate to different groups, including potential peer mentors, those being mentored, partner organisations and potential funders.
Her work focused on:
This placement has helped the Brigstowe team secure funding to continue their diabetes peer support service, and they are in discussions with another local organisation about commissioning the trans peer support service.
Brigstowe Chief Executive Officer Rami Ghali said:
“This project has been extremely beneficial in assisting us to understand better the evidence base for peer support. This has helped us to develop a realistic and thoughtful “theory of change” as well as agreeing the language that best communicates our services to different audiences. We have also been able to formulate proposals offering our peer support services to potential partner organisations.
“Emer had a really great understanding of the voluntary and community sector which really helped the project run more smoothly. Our regular update meetings and Emer’s flexible and responsive approach meant that we were able to get the most from her time. The relationship of trust meant that we could be frank and direct with each other. Emer was also able to challenge our thinking where it was vague or based on untested assumptions.”
Emer Brangan, Knowledge Mobilisation Fellow, said:
“This project helped me to appreciate just how much can be achieved in small amounts of contact time, particularly when that contact time is in the context of a strong relationship of mutual trust. Much of the benefit of the fellowship came from being able to explore our different perspectives and approaches. Ways of looking at things which were relatively normalised in our different sectors generated new insights when applied within the collaboration.”
Brigstowe Development and Training Coordinator Sean Hourigan said:
“It’s all too easy to take and use evidence and data that fits with what you want to achieve, and discard information that does not support the same conclusions. Emer was very effective in supporting us take this into account, which has made us very careful in portraying our services adequately and with reference to an appropriate and relevant evidence base.
“Doing this has also allowed us to see where there is a deficit of information in regards to peer support, a knowledge base with which we would like to be able to contribute to and develop in order to make sure peer support is recognised as a beneficial, legitimate and essential element in the support of people with long-term physical or mental health conditions, and protected characteristics.”
This project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).