REFLECT Lab, a professional development opportunity led by Helium for artists and healthcare professionals working with children in the North West, has been evaluated by Teresa Cawley on behalf of HSE West (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, West Cavan).
In 2011, participants from the arts and health sectors in the North West came together for a year to engage in a co-mentoring relationship with a view to sharing skills and experience between the two sectors. A Train the Trainers programme ran alongside the main co-mentoring programme so that Irish arts organisations could learn the skills required to implement future co-mentoring projects. Through the REFLECT Lab programme, Helium hoped to advance the understanding of the mutual benefits of arts and health partnerships.
REFLECT Lab is a model of cross-sector co-mentoring devised and delivered by The Sage Gateshead, UK. REFLECT Lab trainers from The Sage Gateshead facilitated both the Train The Trainers Programme and the Irish cohort. The Sage Gateshead also provided mentoring to support Helium’s management role in the process.
The evaluation followed the methodology of the UK REFLECT Lab evaluation (2008) and made additions to it. It was conducted mainly through conversations with participants and stakeholders, through semi-structured interviews at key stages of the project and a questionnaire which was administered at the end of the project. This was supported by a case study and some personal reflections from participants.
Eleven artists and eleven healthcare providers (HCPs) commenced the programme in April 2011. Seven artists and seven HCPs completed the programme in March 2012. There were three development days organised over the course of a year. Train the trainers participated in separate training days as well as working in pairs to mentor each other in order to gain a deeper understanding of the programme.
Key outcomes from the evaluation:
• Artists have increased knowledge and understanding of healthcare contexts for children and young people
• Both artists and healthcare professionals have developed creative methods of dialogue and engagement with children and young people
• Both artists and HCPs have broadened their visions of arts practice with children and young people in healthcare contexts and have explored how they might work together in the future
• The need for Arts and Health programmes was reinforced for HCPs together with a realisation of how they currently use the arts in their work
• The programme has enhanced the network for artists and HCPs which impacts on the HSE as an organisation regarding increased awareness of arts in health leading to new creative perspectives
• A number of REFLECT Lab activities have been planned beyond the pilot including a seeding programme in which one co-mentoring pair from Donegal are developing a six-week pilot project to benefit the healthcare worker’s service
• Six trainers have been trained in facilitating REFLECT Lab programmes
• Two trainers are developing a new programme with early years in the South
• One artist is working on developing programmes for arts festivals in both Local Authority areas that support children with disabilities
Key recommendations based on programme objectives:
A supportive framework to oversee the delivery and secure continuity of the programme
• Close attention needs to be paid to matching co-mentoring pairs and matches should not be made unless they are suitable;
• As artists are self employed and participation was very much self-motivated, it is not possible to establish clear channels with line managers. The nature of the support they receive from the programme manager, in this case Helium Children’s Arts and Health, may need to be more clearly defined;
• The timeframe is specified at twelve to eighteen months for the Education Sector. This timeframe needs to be examined in relation to the Health sector and a shorter timeframe is advised;
• An additional development day between day 1 and 2 should be considered;
• Scoping of the administrative role is needed to ensure that sufficient, systematic support is provided to all participants between development days;
• Day one needs to ensure that co-mentors make plans to meet and commence developing their shared focus;
• Mandatory number of meetings between co-mentors which need to be in person.
Recruit and train co-mentors from arts and health sectors (working with children) in the North West to enable cross-sectoral learning
• Commitment of participants to be made explicit from outset (query a contract);
• Sufficient time to be given for the recruitment process;
• Clear presentation of what REFLECT Lab co-mentoring is including specifying and articulating its deliverables in all marketing to potential co-mentors and the stakeholders;
• More clarity on the outcomes of the programme provided to stakeholders at the outset;
• A commitment from senior stakeholders to attend presentations at outset of recruitment phase;
• Consider recruiting people within the health service who will have time to engage fully in the REFLECT Lab co-mentoring process.
Deliver and adapt the REFLECT Lab co-mentoring programme to Ireland and the Irish Health Sector and support the sustainability of the model and its mainstreaming in Arts and Health
• Address cultural differences of Ireland and the Arts and Health Sectors in Ireland to support establishing a common ground before initiating a further REFLECT Lab co-mentoring programme;
• Engage Performance and Development department of the HSE as a stakeholder in supporting the management and leading of the programme;
• The REFLECT Lab Handbook needs to be adapted for working within the healthcare context (education was the context in the UK) and be more bespoke with a healthcare process;
• Consider focusing the programme on a smaller geographic area to ensure that participants can meet;
• Further examination of which sections of the health sector have time to participate fully in a co-mentoring programme (e.g. Hospital staff did not have sufficient time).
The Executive Summary by Teresa Cawley on behalf of HSE West (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, West Cavan) is available to download here: REFLECT Lab Evaluation – Executive Summary
REFLECT Lab is a model of cross-sector co-mentoring devised by The Sage Gateshead, UK. The 2011 REFLECT Lab cohort was led by Helium Children’s Arts and Health under the Arts Council of Ireland Local Partnership Scheme with Sligo County Council Arts Service, Donegal County Council Arts Office, HSE West (Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal), Letterkenny General Hospital, and Sligo General Hospital.