As part of the Making Waves series, find out how Versus Arthritis, Joint Creativity Project has made an impact on self management.
As winners of the 2018 Self Management Project of the Year Award, we want to share with you the learning from Joint Creativity and how they’ve adapted a flexible working approach to support self management.
Joint Creativity is an arts project hosted by Versus Arthritis for 10-18 year olds with rheumatological conditions. Running since January 2015, each year the project hosts a series of workshops and a public exhibition. The artworks explore experiences of living with a chronic condition, diagnosis at a young age, the invisible nature of joint conditions and what joint cells and proteins look like under the microscope.
Since the beginning of the project, the work has been shaped and developed by the young people alongside the staff and volunteer team to continue to improve the work of Versus Arthritis in line with what the young people want, see as a need and enjoy, or don’t enjoy, as much. The project continues to be flexible and develop in line with these needs and it’s enabled Versus Arthritis to turn learning and feedback into project development, Gill Meens, Young People and Families Service Manager outlines a couple of examples below.
“During our workshops we originally had young people pick what they would like to do from a menu of options where workshops ran concurrently. However, the young people told us that they did not like that they couldn’t join every session and the team felt like this put extra pressure on them with planning and delivering several elements at once. In line with this feedback we then decided to focus on one medium for each workshop. This meant that young people can really delve into one area to learn new skills, for example sculpture or textiles, as well as pick and choose between events that are more of interest to them.
At the start of the project we had an exhibition at the end of each workshop for a week running in that local area however we found that footfall for these exhibitions were low and we were struggling to source suitable venues to showcase the work. Therefore, we decided to continue to run our workshops throughout the year across Scotland but showcase the work in one, larger exhibition. This has proven to be very successful and part of this development has also been to have a theme each year. This means that the workshop medium is different, but the overall theme is the same which then gives us a body of work for our exhibition at the end of the year. Parents and young people have given us great feedback on the professionality of the exhibition where we have had more time and resource as well as a suitable venue each time. Members of the public also tell us how moving and professional they find the work and this is achieved by putting our effort into one excellent event rather than three smaller ones.
Another key area of learning for us has been working to ensure we make sure everyone has felt heard with their suggestions and feedback and then managing future expectations. Therefore, in addition to anonymous evaluation forms at the end of events we have regular forums where young people can share their thoughts in the group and discuss changes they would like to make. Our volunteer and staff team also have a debrief after every event and meet regularly to turn feedback and learning and into developing our workshop and annual delivery plans. We feel our continuing success and growing project reflects the success of this to date, but we remain committed to being flexible enough to allow young people to continue to shape the project.
Over the years we have sought out opportunities to share the learning from our work with others to shape self management in a wider sense. This has resulted in showcasing this project at the NHS Scotland event this year and speaking at conferences over the years, including at the Self Management Network Scotland.
Without a doubt the project has had a huge impact on the lives of the young people and their families. However, the exhibitions have also raised the profile of this type of work and given the public an insight into the experiences of the young people. Our guestbook gives some insight into this:
- “The exhibition was amazing and very engaging. Is a good way of communicating the struggles and the positiveness of the illness. I think every illness whether it is physical or mental should have an exhibition like this to celebrate!”
- “What an inspiriting exhibition. Honest, positive and full of life, the stories are really touching. I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to see experiences through the eyes of others in such a beautiful way. Thank you!”
- “This is a very much touching and moving exhibition. I never thought about young people could be touched by arthritis and feel strongly compassionate towards them after seeing this exhibition. Please go on with it, it’s amazing and really accomplished.”
- “Touching artwork offering insight. Exhibition really well done by all. This art speaks. Grateful for the insight.””
Find out more about this project by visiting their website: https://www.versusarthritis.org/news/news/young-people-in-scotland-take-control-of-their-arthritis/ (this link will take you away from our website).