A growing engaged Community
Almost twelve months of work: at the crossroads of its first year, the ENGAGED network has been growing in size and in activism. Its community now encompasses a number of associated partners, interested in the project and plenty of other active connections within the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Agein.
But ENGAGED is moving beyond this point.Ageing is high on the agenda for both European politicians and those working in the healthcare sector. It is important that more awareness on age-related issue is raised.
Read more in the ENGAGED second newsletter !
Empowering the final beneficiaries: the ENGAGED Mutual Learning Workshop
The first User Empowerment Mutual Learning Seminar has been conceived by the ENGAGED partners (Noord-Brabant, EHMA and AGE Platform Europe) as a moment for gathering different interested stakeholders around the table (user forum) for a fruitful discussion about the empowerment of users.
The seminar, which took place in Eindhoven on October 23rd in the light of the “Smart Health Meets Design” fair, has been held in connection with the C2 Action Group of the EIP AHA, which identified the topic of “user involvement” as one the four major barriers to the deployment and uptake of innovative solutions in the European market for active and healthy ageing.
The plenary session was devoted to key presentations on user involvement. Ana Garcia, from ENOLL – European Network of Living Labs (gathering 340 accredited living labs all over Europe, but also outside the European borders), stressed that there are concrete good practices in user empowerment from real life experimentations, testing and cooperation, especially within public-private partnerships (PPP). Ilenia Gheno, from AGE Platform Europe, presented the perspective of user involvement in old age, highlighting the key benefits that older persons, research and the society as a whole can gain from the direct and early engagement of the final beneficiaries in both the research and the decision-making process. She further explains what some of the main challenges in user involvement are and reported on some good and bad practices to keep in mind when interacting with the beneficiaries. Jon Dawson from Jon Dawson Associate highlighted the rationale behind the Action Group C2, which focuses on independent living and ICT, tackling also aspects related to mental wellbeing. C2 works for the take up of interoperable solutions based on open standard, and focuses on removing some key barriers to deployment, among which the lack of user empowerment. He pointed out that user empowerment encompasses some essential elements, being: inclusion + co-creation + awareness raising + confidence building.
After the presentations, the interactive tables have been introduced and the concrete interaction among the participants has been encouraged.
The working group on “Benefits of user involvement and good practices” highlighted that the users’ needs are very diverse and each discussion cannot forget about this heterogeneity. The brainstorming exercise brought the group to agree that evidence-based stories are essential, as the real tool driving the choices of the users while finding their way into the European market place (both the virtual EC tool and the real world). The accent to the evidence and the trust on the source are key, besides the context in which the choice needs to be operated.
The interactive table discussing on “toolkit/ guidelines” concluded that the concreteness is what a toolkit should target to. General, not too technical toolkits suffer from the disadvantage that they can be only accepted, but without a proper validation.
One aspect to be further considered is that the generic toolkits loose the diversity of expertise from the different stakeholders and this is a barrier to innovation. It would be helpful to encourage lessons learnt to be transferred easily to other projects, so that the sustainability of projects and initiatives is not in the projects and initiatives per se, but in their successful methods; this moreover brings to conceive very dynamic and living toolkits.
The working group on “Understanding the users” made a list of all possible stakeholders that could be names as “users” in the EIP AHA context. Interesting enough, the oldest daughter came up to be one of the most mentioned users.
With regard to the classification of users, the group was unanimously reluctant in using it, and rather focused on the “life orientation” and on the process rather than the categorization, which helps also to avoid stigmatization.
Besides the group emphasized the importance of a peer coach, a person of trust, e.g. a retired postman who was contracted as computer help, and stressed that users themselves are those to benefit the most from the implementation of user involvement, and not only sociologically but also from an economic point of view, that is more appealing to hear for the industrial stakeholders involved in the EIP AHA.
The workshop raised interesting discussion in a very friendly and open atmosphere that contributed to the networking among participants and to on-going discussion also in the moments of pause. Upcoming is a next Engaged project’s mutual learning meeting and user forum. Details will be delivered soon.