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gardens, libraries, museums © Shutterstock

In November 2018, members of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine and Gardens, Libraries and Museums division (GLAM) were awarded a joint Knowledge Exchange Seed grant to explore the ways in which these  gardens, libraries and museum collections and spaces could contribute to health and wellbeing and become a part of the social prescribing.  

The project culminated in two knowledge-exchange workshops that took place in July 2019. Members of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine and GLAM Division at the University of Oxford, delivered two workshops to explore how gardens, libraries and museums could support social prescribing initiatives. The team delivered one workshop to members of the public  and the second workshop, held at Kellogg College, to a wider stakeholder group which included those delivering and commissioning social prescribing services as well as representatives from the arts and cultural sector.

The objective

The aim of the workshop was bring together key stakeholders with an interest in social prescribing and who were keen to explore how gardens, libraries and museums could become support this initiative. A key objective of this workshop was to encourage networking amongst those attending, fostering and building, new and accelerated relationships where mutual research and implementation priorities could be identified.  


The project team were keen to invite a range of key stakeholders to the workshop. Some stakeholders were identified through existing networks and received personalised invitations to the workshop. The workshop was also advertised on the departmental website and Eventbrite. A number of stakeholders were invited after initially getting in touch expressing an interest in attending the workshop for members of the public (link to blog for day 1). The workshop was attended by 33 stakeholders representing a range of institutions and services. There was considerable representation, including from the Royal College of General Practitioners, Wellcome Trust, Arts Council England, The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, Mind UK, the Citizens Advice Bureau, the local Clinical Commissioning Group, the local council, as well as many local charities and social prescribing service providers.

The workshop

Following coffee and introductions, the day opened with a series of short presentations from the project team providing, followed by a presentation from Louise Bradbury (Director of Health and Care Services at OxFed). Dr Bradbury provided the audience with insights into how the local federation of GPs were supporting social prescribing activities. Each of the presentations generated a number of questions and much discussion from the workshop participants. Discussions centred around understanding existing social prescribing infrastructure in Oxford and the potential of the third sector to contribute; funding models to support and ensure the sustainability of social prescribing; regulation and quality assurance of activities; the importance of high quality evaluation; and sharing examples of best practice.

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The amount of interest in the topic and the desire to connect and share interests was striking. The energy and enthusiasm generated through discussions continued over lunch where participants were able
to sit in the Kellogg College gardens and network.

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The final session of the day was an open discussion. This flexible approach helped ensure that all stakeholders wishing to make a contribution were able to do so. It also allowed the research team to explore issues that were most pressing for stakeholders, particularly in terms of future research priorities.

Discussions covered a range of topics and included: the need for high quality evaluations of social prescribing initiatives including evaluations of how they are delivered; ways in such initiatives can be implemented in “harder to reach areas such as rural communities or areas of high socioeconomic deprivation; the importance of considering the sustainability of social prescribing activities; ensuring that commissioning and implementation structures are in place to make sure that social prescribing activities align with local needs and assets; and the importance of sharing examples of best practice.

Next Steps

This workshop generated a great amount of interest among stakeholders to collaborate with us, hear more about the new Social Prescribing Research Network we have established and any future workshops. As an example of this the CEBM team recently secured an SPCR Award to run a PPI/PPIE event on social prescribing in rural areas. The one day workshop helped establish a relevant link with a national charity that aims to increase and support community development and businesses in rural areas.

Throughout the day it was evident that participants enjoyed the opportunity to network and learn from each other. Business cards were exchanged as stakeholders identified opportunities for collaboration with one another as well as with the GLAM and CEBM teams.

Participant Feedback




Listen to Alex Coulter, Secretary to the All Parliamentary Group on….describe the event.

All participants provided feedback on an evaluation form that asked what they had learned on the day; actions they would take forward; and whether they would like to attend a similar event in the future. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive and it was clear that the day was a valuable knowledge exchange and networking event for everyone involved. Examples of what attendees said included:

“I thought arrangements were perfect- timings/chairing/facilitation were very impressively managed.”

“A very helpful and accessible event. Very well organised. Thank you!”

As well as generating ideas for future research, the workshops provided new insights into how these initiatives can support social prescribing as well as fostering new relationships to encourage closer working together across different stakeholders.


Amadea Turk is a Researcher in Evidence Synthesis at the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, and is part of the School for Primary Care Research’s Evidence Synthesis Working Group.

* The CEBM/GLAM project team consisted of Tony Meacock (public contributor), Stephanie Tierney (CEBM), Amadea Turk (CEBM), Kamal Mahtani (CEBM), Lucy Shaw (GLAM) and Emma Webster (GLAM).

Acknowledgements: The project team would like to acknowledge the contributions from the participants joining these workshops. Also, the wider members of the CEBM and GLAM division who have directly or indirectly supported this work. This work is supported by the University fo Oxford Knowledge Exchange Seed Fund and NIHR School for Primary Care Research.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author and not necessarily those of the host institution or the National Institute for Health Research.