Exploring co-production in a virtual world – what we’re learning

By Louca-May Brady,

Blog post by Louca-Mai, Jacq, Elena and Orla

On 14th July we were asked to join a UCL Centre for Co-production network meeting about “Breaking down barriers to virtual co-production”, to talk about how we use co-production in our work and what we’re learning from having our meetings online during lockdown. You can read the Centre’s blog post about the meeting here.

We thought about what is good about meeting online (pros) and what is not as good as face-to-face meetings (cons). These are some of things we said:

Pros

  • Meeting online is more convenient for adults and young people – we’ve been able to have shorter meetings more often, and you can do it from your own home (some people travel quite a long way to our meetings). It’s less disruptive in the day as it takes less time.
  • Online meetings are more accessible and inclusive for some young people than face to face meetings. For children with physical disabilities, public transport can be quite hard. Zoom meetings are easy to access and you don’t need to get up so early!
  • Zoom has worked really well, we’ve all found it easy to use and we like being able to have have breakout groups, chat and polls.
  • We’ve been able to move forward and continue with some big group decisions which we had been working towards (a group logo and shared agreements/ground rules).
  • Group members have said they really enjoy the meetings and we’re all learning together about how to make them better.
  • Group members can contribute in different ways which suit their individual needs and preferences, for example some people who don’t want to join a Zoom meeting have been able to take part by email instead.
  • “I feel that having meetings online is less nerve racking, contrary to popular beliefs. I get anxious around people in real life, and I find that I have become more confident and comfortable with the group”.
  • Shorter and more frequent meetings online mean there is not a loss of focus, especially with younger children.
  • Since there is a chat icon in the Zoom app, children who would usually be quieter may talk more in the chat. Therefore, their voices are amplified. You might also be more comfortable to speak when you’re in your own home.
  • There are no travel costs for group members and the organisers don’t have to pay for room hire, food etc.
  • It’s easier to share the PowerPoints via Zoom. When we had face to face meetings some group members needed presentations on iPads in order to be able to see them properly. We make sure presentations are clear and accessible and send information we’ll be looking at to group members at least 5 days before meetings in formats that work for people, so they have time to print things out or put them on a different device and read them beforehand.
  • “You can choose your own snacks for the break!”

Cons

  • Online meetings don’t work for everyone so it’s important to provide alternatives.
  • Accessibility: e.g. some of us really like polls in Zoom but the small font size means others can’t read them. The standard font in Zoom is also not very accessible. We are still figuring out the best way to collect everyone’s preferences and opinions.
  • It’s harder to concentrate for a long time in online meetings.
  • We did lots of creative hands-on activities in meetings, which helped make things fun and easier to understand. We can’t do this easily online so need to think of new ways to present projects and ideas online in ways that mean everyone can understand and contribute. “In normal meetings, we sometimes do art activities but you can’t do that via video – and some children may not have all the art supplies at home”.
  • It can be difficult for the facilitators to manage all the technical aspects of online meetings as well as running them. We’ve had to learn a lot very quickly!
  • When doing groups with young people it’s important to manage and plan for online safety.
  • Technology poverty. Not all children will be able to engage in meetings. This reduces diversity.
  • We have quite a few siblings in the group and sharing a screen means there is a lack of flexibility of text size, especially where half of the participants in the group have sight impairment. “I’m thinking about this as a sighted person (my sister is vision impaired), but zoom meetings may be really hard if you can’t see very well”
  • “I like having face to face meetings as it means you can talk to your friends in the break”
  • “After the meetings we normally spend the rest of the day in London which is a treat for us”
  • Video calls can crackle so you can’t hear what people are saying.
  • Sometimes we have lunch together and that’s really fun.

Orla talking at the meeting

A screenshot of a recent eyeYPAG Zoom meeting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgements and more information

A big thank you to Elena and Orla for coming to the meeting and representing the group. Thanks to Niccola and colleagues at the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research for inviting us to the meeting and making us so welcome.

We’ll keep blogging about our virtual meetings as there is still a lot to learn, Have a look at these posts written by group members about our first meeting and second meeting and we’ll post about our most recent one soon.