Create to Collaborate

Can we can make the process of building working relationships between academic researchers and community members more open and fun?

Create to Collaborate will bring community groups together with university researchers to see whether a shared creative experience – like an art workshop, in which no one is an ‘expert’ – can benefit the formation of working relationships, and begin to set up trust.

We want to see whether the process will be an opportunity for individuals to meet on common ground and in a neutral space – and whether this might inspire them to want to work together in future.

A partnership with ARC West

The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute is pleased to partner with NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) West on Create to Collaborate, and to work together on the following project aims:

  • Run and evaluate five creative workshops, each focused on a different health theme. Two workshops will link directly with ARC West research themes of Healthier Childhoods and Public Health, with the remaining three feeding into areas of health research supported by the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute
  • See how we can build stronger collaborative relationships with artsits, community partners, and members of the public who are under-represented in health research
  • Find out if creative activities can help people get involved in research who would not normally do so

Adapting to online working during the pandemic

In Spring 2020, when we hoped to be making some of our first plans for face-to-face workshops, we found ourselves reshaping Create to Collaborate to fit into an online world. The simple dream of face-to-face art classes – whether theatre, pottery, poetry or anything in between – was no longer available to us.

We faced the question: how could we use a platform like Zoom to bring strangers together in a creative way and deliver a shared experience that prompted interesting discussion about relevant health topics?

Learning from others

Our researchers Alice and Astrid set out on a number of consultations with ‘Critical Friends’. These were artists working in various fields, who were adapting their work to an online world, and whose brains we could pick to find out a bit more.

These discussions helped us move the project forward. We identified some of the creative partners we would later work with to deliver the project workshops. We also talked with community organisations, who were later vital in shaping the direction of workshops, and in connecting us with members of their communities.

Making progress

A lot of planning, conversation and relationship building goes into setting up an engagement project – especially one that ends up being quite different to what you envisaged when you set out! To read more about the individual workshops that make up the Create to Collaborate project, follow the links below:


Working with patients, carers, those with lived experience, or anyone else to whom the research is relevant can be vital. It brings different view points, new ideas, and essential discussion to projects. However, research is not always as well informed by voices outside of the University as it could be, and we know that some groups are particularly underrepresented. We need to work on building strong relationships, and think of interesting ways of doing this.

Jo Stubbs, Public Engagement Associate, Elizabeth Blackwell Institute

Create to Collaborate will deliver workshops focused on the following themes

Meet the team working on Create to Collaborate.

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