An evaluation of the ‘About Being’ project

Snell, Laura, Goodwin, Victoria and Grimwood, Tom (2019) An evaluation of the ‘About Being’ project. Health and Society Knowledge Exchange (HASKE). (Unpublished) Item availability may be restricted.

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Abstract

Context:
About Being is an interdisciplinary and collaborative project that provides dance and movement sessions for stroke survivors in the Carlisle community. Between July and September 2019, Health and Society Knowledge Exchange (HASKE) undertook an evaluation of the ‘About Being’ project which is a collaborative and interdisciplinary initiative, facilitated by the University of Cumbria, to provide dance and movement sessions for stroke survivors in the Carlisle community. This research aimed to evaluate the model of practice used in the About Being project, along with the experiences and effects of being part of this group for the stroke survivors.

Methodology:
The research was designed to address three key questions:
1. How does collaboration and interdisciplinary practice shape the About Being project?
2. How do the dance and movement sessions support the ongoing recovery of the stroke survivors?
3. How do the stroke survivors benefit from being involved in the About Being project?

The data collection involved conducting five observations of the About Being dance sessions in July and August, along with 10 semi-structured interviews with the facilitators, students and stroke survivors. In addition, the dance practitioner shared her session plans with the researcher and took part in informal reflections after some of the sessions. Following the basic principles of thematic analysis (see Braun and Clarke, 2006), the qualitative data was coded and categorised to enable the identification of key themes which were used to articulate the model of practice being applied to the About Being project and the experiences of the stroke survivors.

Findings:
The evaluation evidenced the following conclusions to its research questions:
1. How does collaboration and interdisciplinary practice shape the About Being project?
- The model of practice used in the About Being project wholly embraces an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to supporting the ongoing recovery of stroke survivors.
- One of the main benefits of this interdisciplinary, intergenerational and collaborative practice is that reciprocal learning takes place during the About Being sessions, allowing stroke survivors, students and the dance practitioner to develop their practice.
- This collaborative and interdisciplinary model of practice is well-managed by the facilitators as they are open to working as a team and believe that this approach can be beneficial for their respective disciplines, the students and the stroke survivors. Their collaboration and decision-making (e.g. in relation to finding a suitable venue, the session content and the selection of appropriate students) has created a project which is accessible and beneficial to all those involved.

2. How do the dance and movement sessions support the ongoing recovery of the stroke survivors?
- It is evident that the About Being project takes a holistic approach to supporting the ongoing recovery of the stroke survivors as the dance and movement sessions are structured to provide adequate time for exercising the body, followed by dedicated time for socialising with the group members.
- The dance practitioner uses a range of techniques within the sessions to ensure that the content is varied and continually meets the individual needs of the group members. In addition, the inclusion of basic anatomy explanations can help the stroke survivors to understand how the movements can support their bodies.
- The person-centred approach to the About Being project focuses on individual needs and empowers the stroke survivors to take ownership of their recovery by exploring the possibilities of their bodies. The sessions are very inclusive and provide a safe space where creative adaptations of the various movements are actively encouraged.
- The collaboration with the university students supports the ongoing recovery of the stroke survivors as the students introduce new skills and perspectives to the group.
- The small size of the About Being group is advantageous as the dance practitioner has time to become familiar with the stroke survivors in order to identify their needs and tailor the sessions to provide appropriate support.

3. How do the stroke survivors benefit from being involved in the About Being project?
- The findings show that the About Being project makes a valuable contribution to the overall health and wellbeing of the stroke survivors.
- The stroke survivors reported a range of benefits through participating in the About Being sessions: body and mind; social connections; reconnecting with self.
- The findings also indicate that participating in the About Being sessions can provide support and enjoyment for the carers of stroke survivors.
- The stroke survivors indicated that limited support is available within the Carlisle area, particularly for those who are several years post-stroke. The About Being project is therefore a valuable resource for stroke survivors in the Carlisle community.

Recommendations:
- It is therefore recommended that opportunities for potential funding sources within the fields of arts in health and education should be explored.
- Given the significance of collaboration between arts practitioners and allied health practitioners, it is recommended that the scope of responsibilities and expectations of input to each iteration of the model is articulated as part of any bid for future funding.
- Similarly, formalising the student role would be potentially beneficial to the future running of the model. This would allow for more directed training, preparation and reflection by the students on their role within the model’s process.
- It is recommended that the model of practice for the About Being project is shared with other practitioners who are delivering arts and health initiatives across Cumbria, and throughout the country. Sharing practice could present opportunities for further collaboration with other disciplines and community projects that support people with various lived experiences.
- When sharing the model of practice, it is recommended that specific theories of change are drawn upon to demonstrate why particular practices are being used and to what effect, to ensure that the benefits of the project are communicated accurately. This will support the articulation of the specific nature of the changes taking place within participants – in particular the reconnecting of self as a result of the physical, emotional and cognitive benefits – which will be of particular interest to health-based audiences.
- It is further recommended that the aesthetic of the dance work practised within the model is explored and interpreted further, such that the significance of the arts (as opposed to, say, “exercise”) to stroke survivor wellbeing is framed in terms of the artistic artefact produced.

Item Type: Report
Publisher: Health and Society Knowledge Exchange (HASKE)
Departments: Research Centres > Health and Society Knowledge Exchange (HASKE)
Additional Information: This report was authored by Dr Laura Snell, Vicki Goodwin and Dr Tom Grimwood at Health and Society Knowledge Exchange (HASKE), University of Cumbria. HASKE is one of three themes which make up the Centre for Research in Health and Society, in the Institute of Health.
Depositing User: Laura Snell
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2021 11:35
Last Modified: 12 Feb 2021 11:35
URI: https://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/5937

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