Knowledge exchange event – social prescribing and the cultural sector
Thursday, 23 June 2022
On 23rd June 2022, a knowledge exchange event was held in Oxford, organised by staff from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine and the University of Oxford’s Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM). It stemmed from our study on the cultural sector, older people and social prescribing, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
The research suggested that link workers and cultural providers do not currently interact very much. This means the latter can be unsure about what social prescribing is and the former are not always clear about how the cultural sector might contribute to social prescribing. Hence, we organised a knowledge exchange event (after receiving some Knowledge Exchange Seed Fund from the University of Oxford). At the event, we brought together link workers and cultural sector staff, giving them a space to discuss the topic of social prescribing and the cultural sector’s involvement in it. We provided an opportunity for networking and for trying out cultural or creative activities.
The event was attended by 48 people – mainly link workers and staff from the cultural sector, although we had researchers and city/county council representatives present as well. The morning was a mixture of presentations and group discussions. In the afternoon, a range of activities were run that those attending could try. Activities included:
- Slow art
- Knitting, crocheting and pom pom making
- Drawing based on museum objects
- Drawing cartoon dinosaurs
- Mindfulness and meditation (in nature)
- Object handling
There were also stalls run by cultural providers, including Teabooks (a project by Age UK Oxfordshire, which organises sociable book groups for the over-60s), the Museum of Oxford, the Oxford Social Prescribing Research Network (OxSoP) and GLAM. Those attending could talk about cultural provision with stall holders that might be relevant to social prescribing.
During the day, participants were invited to contribute ideas and suggestions to boards we had in the room around three topics.
1. Current cultural provision that could form part of a social prescription – here is what those attending listed as examples of existing activities/events/institutions in the cultural sector that could form part of social prescribing:
- Brampton Community Hub (exhibitions/workshops)
- Oxford Dance Festival – engagement projects
- Dance for Parkinson’s programme
- Age UK Oxfordshire social prescribing are going to work with Hope project at the museum
- Libraries – scrabble club, crochet groups, lots of activities
- Oxford Youth Partnership Networking – monthly online meetings
- The Mill Art Centre – Banbury
- Cutteslowe Garden Project – offers experiences of micro-enterprise (e.g. crafting/art and selling products to visitors)
- The Story Museum – dedicated early years story based play available – cost-free to target families
2. Ideas for new cultural provision that could form part of a social prescription
3. Suggestions of topics/areas for future research - ideas proposed by attendees included thinking about diversity and how to engage different communities in cultural offers; understanding the relative impact of number of sessions, to explore the value of occasional sessions as opposed to regular, frequent sessions; how to measure impact (e.g. using a recovery star) and specific benefits of specific activities; how to evaluate arts/cultural/heritage sector in a way that gets health policy makers to take notice; how to build bridges between different stakeholders and mapping the infrastructure needed for this to succeed; use of augmented reality technology to support those who are more isolated.
On the day, topics covered were captured by an artist, Zuhura Plummer, who recorded what was discussed as a picture. At the end of the event, she talked through the key aspects she had picked up that are illustrated in the figure below. She highlighted things that came up in conversations as necessary for the cultural sector to be involved in social prescribing. Some issues raised were common across link workers and cultural providers – e.g. funding, developing relationships to provide bespoke provision to people in need. Other issues were specific to one of these groups. For example, link workers talked about doing risk assessments, identifying what people might be interested in, how to sell cultural activities to a range of individuals (who might not see this as their ‘thing’). For cultural sector staff, issues covered included perceptions of people engaging in social prescribing and their needs, representation within activities and those attending activities (diversity), health funders/commissioners seeing arts and culture as ‘fluff’, a need to evidence benefits of cultural engagement, involving a range of people in the planning of cultural activities/offers.
To view a report produced on this event, please click here.
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The research mentioned in this text was funded by UKRI/AHRC (AH/V008781/1). Views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of their host institution, organisations mentioned or funding bodies.