The forum had its first meeting late in 1997. It was based on an idea put forward by Age Concern Bristol (now Age UK Bristol) Trustee, Professor Phyllida Parsloe that one of the functions of Age Concern Bristol, beyond delivering services and campaigning, should be to communicate the results of relevant policy research to planners, managers, service providers and users in the Bristol area.
From the start, the forum illustrated this principle by working alongside Brunelcare, a Bristol based organisation that has been involved for over sixty years in providing support for older people of limited means, ranging from home care through to residential care. Over the last twenty years, quarterly meetings have been held in premises run by Brunelcare.
Care has been taken to select researchers whose work is of practical relevance to practitioners and managers. Most of the speakers have been from the Bristol area (particularly from the two universities in the city), though limited funds have occasionally enabled the Forum organisers to call upon researchers from further afield. Some of the speakers are regular attendees at Forum meetings. This adds depth to the linkages between the research and the policy communities. To enhance this service, summaries of speakers' presentations (together with e-mail contact addresses) are circulated to people on the Forum mailing list. In this way, the results of research are disseminated to a wider group of people than those who are able to be at a particular meeting. In addition, there is an Information Exchange standing item on the agenda for each meeting and informal opportunities to meet over coffee before and during the break.
We would not be believed if we claimed that visible consequences flowed from every one of the 50+ talks given so far, but some positive outcomes can be identified, for instance, in terms of good practice in relation to dementia care; and the researchers themselves have been able to discuss with people present the sensitive issue of access to staff or service users in future projects. Equally important, the discussion, comments and questions that flow from the presentations have a broader effect on the overall climate in which valuable work in support of older people is undertaken. One obvious measure of success of the Forum lies in the fact that since 1997 the numbers attending have, if anything, tended to rise. The organisers of the Forum do listen to the audience and try to respond to their concerns by identifying and calling upon well based research that addresses their preoccupations.
If you are not on the mailing list for the Research Forum and would like to know more, please contact:
Tanya Vasquez, Age UK Bristol, Canningford House, 38 Victoria Street, Bristol BS1 6BY (tel: 0117 929 7537; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).