Slide 1

“Fairytales” & “Failures”:
lessons from the collaborative
Alice Hicks, Ann Jackson & Julia
It began with the three
The enchanted forest?
• The nature and topics of
collaborative research
• Sent (n=71)
• Researching our own
processes through 5
taped reflective
Fairytale One
• Building good relationships
Getting to know each other
• Exploring relationship and
research process
• Analysing reflective
• Feelings of being valued
and respected. “We are
learning so much from each
• 30 projects from survey
Types of Projects
• 7 evaluation of services
• 7 evaluation & user involvement in
• 3 users’ views/experiences of services/treatment
• 6 user involvement (in service provision & research
• 7 ‘other’
We knew little of their experiences…from our
own, we were aware of..
Pitfalls and dangers
• TIME factors - Julia and
Alice’s anxieties about
• Lack of skills (IT and
• Alice only working one
day a week -huge
“intellectual effort”
• Organisational issues –
researcher left
…and it blew down…
It was built on comfy things…. Relationship with
1st researcher
And when that researcher left
• Weak support strategy
• Insufficient focus on ‘tasks’
• Hidden anxieties
Fairytale Two (there was light..)
• Alice becoming more
confident and skilled
• Presenting at
• We had a plan with a
lovely gantt chart(!)
• Building a network of
other user researchers
• Finding new bond
But there was also…
• Lack of support for Alice
• No steering group
• Intense relationship ‘Lone
rider syndrome’
• Becoming unwell, illness.
• Other factors at RCN
• Waiting to be rescued –
where’s the white knight?
• Sometimes lack of clarity for
Alice. “What do I do next?”
• “It’s such intellectual effort”
for Alice
Was this the castle?
• New researcher…a
• 2nd postal survey designed
and sent
• Not a lot of information – 7
• Developed interview
schedules for professional &
service user researchers
But then…
Yes, you’ve guessed it…
The new Professor left for ventures new!
The ‘collab’ castle
• Was this a dream?
• Would we ever get there?
• Did we know the path to
• Where was the enchanted
forest – and how enchanting
was it going to be?
We talked to the two
project sites:
Key Issues and Quotes…
A voyage of discovery
I found it very engaging
We wanted to change attitudes eg student nurses
I wanted to evolve practice
To give the users voice
I started with trepidation
A huge personal investment
Very moving experience and felt privileged
Users great humour, intelligence and skills
Difficulties with powerless student nurses
Difficulties with very vocal user ‘axe to grind’
Not wanting to bring up old wounds
Respectful heated debates
Power of the researcher
Exceeded expectations
Equal, values partners and team members
Need for more time? – going off the boil?
Planning before research starts
Issues with ethics
And again………
• We ‘failed’ to learn our own
• We doubted our journey
• We forgot we were on a
• How do we ‘get heard’
within this collaborative
The wolf was at the
It was dark…..
And dramatic………
• We were honest about
our anger
• We shared our
reflections – but did not
listen to each other
• We became intensely
• “Is my input valued?”
There was no knight on a white horse…..
Where would our story ever
• We created some
space…for ‘love’ and
• We ‘clapped our hands’….
• We honoured our own story
• We are honouring our
‘together’ story…
A fairy godmother reminded
• We had to find our own
• We had to be honest
• We had to struggle through
• We drew inspiration from a
shared purpose
• We drew strength from our
passion & humour
And to re-visit our own
“it just shows how espoused values are so much more
difficult to live out!” (AJ reflections)
Some key messages:
• Relationship building
• Shared values, purpose and ‘newness’
• Accommodating ‘difference’
• Coming from different viewpoints
• New learning and insights
Maybe this is what
collaboration feels like….
That it is a journey…beginnings,
middles and endings
Messy, uncertain and not straight path
Complex, challenging with extra sensitivities &
Ever changing roles, personnel, agendas, levels
of support
Personal investment, commitment, belief in the
purpose, trusting the process isn’t easy to do
‘Role strain’ needs to be addressed properly
..and “we make the path by walking