My innovative life really began with a phone call.
Back in 2009, our team had just published a report on the experiences of young people in the United States who had been homeless. Frances Beecher, Chief Executive of national charity Llamau, rang me to say how interested she had been to read about our research in the Western Mail.
This was followed by a pause, before "you do realise we are only half a mile from your office; why don’t you come and talk to us?" Cups of tea and biscuits followed in short order and within a couple of meetings we realised there was an opportunity to work together innovatively.
Emails about Knowledge Transfer Partnerships were ‘doing the rounds’ in the University at that time. Staff at Llamau were interested in a partnership that could help them address ineffective use of resources, which affected service delivery and support for vulnerable people.
Our findings were used to develop a toolkit for Llamau to check whether service users were vulnerable for mental health problems, and for staff to increase their support and advocacy for young people. Moreover, simply conducting research interviews led at least one young person immediately to support services.
It’s been personally rewarding to be part of discussions about how our research findings should be interpreted in a practical setting. Working with Llamau has given me the confidence to consider how my work can be of value to outside organisations well before it bears fruit in the form of publications.
In fact, working in an innovative way enhances the quality of research because end-users play a role in problem solving, opening doors and helping to understand the sensitivities around particular research questions and projects.
It is my sincere belief that through sustained efforts to establish meaningful partnership-working, high-quality and innovative research can be conducted that resonates with the communities it is intended to serve.