Eighteen months into a global pandemic and remote working, people from all 13 partnerships in the HARP programme came together for an inspiring and energised online event.
A six hour online Zoom event, to be precise.
Between Zoom fatigue and a guest list of 40+, there was initial apprehension within the HARP team about how we’d deliver an inspiring, engaging - and dare I say fun - online event. But by using a number of our HARP and people powered methods (and careful planning), I think we were successful...
This event marked the half-way point of the programme and we wanted teams to reflect on the successes and challenges of using the arts to tackle health challenges during a pandemic as well as dive deeper into some of the commonalities across the partnerships.
To kick things off, we had an ‘Emoji Disco’ as people entered the Zoom; this was a fun way to welcome attendees and it helped participants quickly get to grips with Zoom reactions, which was one of the communication tools we encouraged people to use (especially since Zoom now has a whole library of ‘reactions’). Rather than the usual Zoom housekeeping, we asked attendees to ‘Be Visible’ by keeping their cameras on, to ‘Lean In’ by using the chat function (and emojis) to share thoughts, comments and questions, to ‘Create Space for Others’ by actively listening (more on that below), to ‘Get Comfy’ and to ‘Siaradwch Cymraeg!’ - speak Welsh (we had a Welsh-English translator at the event). These instructions helped attendees make the most of their time and make our vision - of running an engaging online event - a reality.
To help ‘Create Space for Others’, we really wanted participants to demonstrate active listening skills. We believe the soul of active listening is empathy and by the end of the event, we all had the opportunity to place ourselves in someone else’s shoes and see the world from another perspective. To facilitate this journey we asked attendees to take notes on what they heard throughout the day; we invited them to see the world differently, to really feel something, to improve their understanding of an issue and to spark their curiosity and make them wonder. We purposely asked attendees to do this activity with pen and paper, so as not to overwhelm them with another digital platform. Plus, there’s something very calming about noting down your thoughts on paper, especially in the midst of Zoom activities and potential dodgy wifi.
So what journey did we go on?
Each team had a 'Showcase' moment to share their projects, with many stories of life-changing impact and moving creative outputs brought about through remote means. To help bring the projects to life, the teams shared a mix of video content, art work, poetry, storytelling, quotes, and even the launch of an online exhibition.
The ‘Showcases’ were scheduled throughout the day, which created short bursts of energy and sprinkled the voices of the people and organisations the HARP projects work directly with; these were shared moments of inspiration, admiration, sadness, and joy.
In our 'Spotlight' features we had some energetic discussions on the ingredients for success in different areas (Evidence, Pathways, Value, Delivery, Funding), as well as the challenges of scaling and sustaining this work, and what our asks would be of academics, policy makers and health leaders if we had them in the room. Organising specific discussion points, a facilitator and a scribe meant there was time for everyone in each room to have their voice heard without running over time (very important!).
We will use these asks and suggestions, and the teams’ reflections on what’s working well/not so well to shape our future HARP Learning Groups (see our HARP journals for more). The ‘Spotlights’ were an opportunity to look below the iceberg and we’ll continue to dive deeper over the coming months.
Breaks were a must for such a long event. We scheduled physical breaks from the event, or had activities where cameras could be turned off. But I think everyone’s favourite ‘break’ was a creative movement session led by one of the HARP participants. Amanda (from HARP project Impelo) took us through a 15 minute movement sequence after we returned from lunch. It was the perfect way to refocus and ensure everyone had moved around (and not just spent the lunch break catching up on emails). Impelo is a community dance charity based in mid Wales and it was wonderful to incorporate the expertise and creativity from one of the projects, for everyone to experience and enjoy - and it definitely helped us feel focussed and ready for the rest of the afternoon.
The bedrock of HARP is collaboration and people power, and we certainly felt that on the day! We look forward to sharing more creative outputs and learning from our HARP projects over the next few months. Thanks to our partners at WAHWN, Arts Council of Wales, Nesta and Cardiff University for supporting the day.
“What a totally fantastic mid-way sharing event today. You structured an event where our collaborators were totally engaged for a whole day, and given space and opportunities to share so much learning and aspiration and hopes for the future… Feeling inspired and invigorated!”