A (nearly) knockout day

Mandy Naylor reflects on the UK Community Partner Network (UKCPN) regional event at Lancaster University that took place on the 26th March.

This was UKCPN first event aimed purely at those new to community-university partnerships (CUPs), and we had 16 partners coming along, most of them completely new to this field of work. In the past we’ve always had groups of mixed experience which had made it difficult to make content relevant for all parties, and the new focus worked well on the day. 

The group were mainly from the Lancaster area with a few others from Cumbria and Preston, which gave the day a real North West atmosphere! It also meant that the group were keen to stay in touch afterwards and share their experiences: being in the same area meant that they had the potential to build a collective body of knowledge (although the suggestion to have a 'Good Contacts' and 'Bad Contacts' list might not be one they want to make public!). 

It was great to see the amount of reflection and learning that people experienced during the day, and a real boost to this was a short presentation by Professor Chris May, the Associate Dean for Enterprise at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at Lancaster University, who partnered with us to stage the event. Chris gave a 'warts and all' perspective on CUPs that was not just incredibly useful, but also very funny, and packed with top tips. 

With the morning covering putting together a pitch and thinking about what partners could offer the university; and the afternoon looking at why universities wanted to work with communities, plus a reflection on tackling any barriers, there was a lot to take in! Participants were unfailingly enthusiastic throughout the day, even when the mist cleared and the hoped-for sun raised temperatures in the room to record levels. Fortunately at that stage we broke for coffee, and several university representatives came along to discuss their areas of interest and network with the attendees: conversation was still going strong an hour later! 

Core learning points from the day? The following comments from people both during and after the event may help give a flavour:

  • "Universities are people too."
  • "It’s just like any other partnership – we find the common ground between our different experiences."
  • "It’s just networking really, and I know I can do that."
  • "I hadn’t appreciated the other side of things till now – we both need to empathise with the other person’s perspective."
  • "Having a clearer focus of what we want and what we can offer as an organisation is going to make starting conversations much easier."

The group may have been new to the world of CUPs, but I thought they’d done a pretty terrific job of pulling out the core elements to good partnership working – and it was great to see them realise that they already had the skills they needed to get out there and build some great partnerships.

Oh, and the title of this post – a (nearly) knockout day? So focussed was I on someone’s question as I moved down the room towards them that I walked straight into a monitor at head level that I hadn’t even seen! There was a moment of small cartoon birds fluttering round my head…but fortunately that was at the point where some of the health faculty turned up for networking, so at least I timed it right to get some expert support!

Thanks to everyone who took part in and helped to organise the day, and look forward to seeing some new commentators on the UKCPN jiscmail soon.

Were you at the event? What did you take from the day? If you have experience of CUPs, what's the one piece of advice you would give to somebody just starting?

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