A collaborative community engagement project,
co-created between Boomerang Community Centre and the University of Dundee
The Reminiscence Group from Boomerang Community Centre, located in the Stobswell area of Dundee, worked in collaboration with the University of Dundee to co-create a community project, spanning over several months to collect the stories from community group members, about their lives and memories from early 20th century Dundee.
Over several sessions, the group used material from the University Archives to prompt memories and discussions about their own lives and how Dundee has changed and developed in the last 50 years or so. The last session was spent recording individual members about aspects of their lives. The project concluded with a tea dance celebration with the local community, as part of Stobsfest, the local community festival.
The community group secured funding from Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership, and used the funds to purchase two AV exhibits, which house recordings and pictures from the sessions, along with display boards which the community used to create a storyboard to tell the journey of the members throughout this project.
The AV exhibit and display boards visited various venues and events across Dundee to inform the wider community about the project and encourage other community groups to consider similar projects.
This project is a fantastic example of effective engagement between local communities and universities. The evaluation highlights the skills and the confidence developed in both the community group and the University staff, throughout this project. This project demonstrates how communities and organisations can work together to transform lives, locally, nationally, and globally.
Boomerang Community Centre invited University of Dundee’s Community Engagement lead Shabnam Wasim, to find out about what the centre offered to local people. It was during this introduction when Shabnam first heard about the Reminiscence group.
The Boomerang Community Centre, based in Stobswell, Dundee, set up a Reminiscence community group to offer people with the early onset of dementia a place to come and talk about their history. Reminiscence has been shown to improve wellbeing and reduce symptoms arising from loneliness amongst elderly people, by giving them a sense of competence and confidence. Community leaders had attended training about Reminiscence, which would support them in facilitating discussions of days gone by with this group, and providing them with activities to bring out their memories.
The community group come together on a weekly basis, to share stories of their history with each other. The community group leaders are keen to capture the group’s stories about the history of life in Dundee.
Shabnam was asked by the community leaders if the University
of Dundee could support them in this project of capturing these stories in a meaningful way. The project that developed followed core principals of Community Engagement. The key to co-creating and working together in any situation is dialogue. To begin engaging with communities, we must start by listening to them.
After working with the community to identify the desired outcome, Shabnam brought together colleagues from across the University, as well as the community, to co-create a project with various strands in which to support the community in capturing these memories.
Together, through dialogue, the community and the University of Dundee created the aims and outcomes for this proposed project.
- Reduce social isolation.
- Improve community connections.
- Improve health and wellbeing.
- Contribute to the University’s research and archival material.
The expected outcomes were: -
- To capture and collate stories from the Reminiscence group about their history and their lives in Dundee.
- To share these stories across Dundee to encourage other groups to come together socially within, and outwith, their communities and discuss their own memories.
- To make links with local communities to enhance our civic engagement.
In addition to the Reminiscence Group at the Boomerang Community Centre in Stobswell, the project also reached people across Dundee through the celebratory tea dance, and encouraged people to join the Reminiscence Group, whose members have doubled in number since the project.
The community used their AV post to share the stories from the community group, and to reach out to different audiences in sheltered homes to raise awareness of the group and the opportunities in the community centre. The University shared their AV post to share the stories with wider audiences through festivals and conferences, as well as to other local community centres across Dundee.
How the project developed
The University worked together with the community to develop a project that took place over seven sessions. These sessions were co-created with the idea of building relationships between the two groups of people from both the community and the university, which would encourage dialogue amongst them. The sessions comprised of workshops and discussions, each with meaningful engagement and mutual benefit. The community group had never been to the University campus before, and they asked if they could incorporate a visit to the University of Dundee. This formed one of the sessions, in which they received a guided tour of the campus, and a visit to the University’s Centre of Archives. The various sessions all led towards the final session
whereby the stories from the group were recorded.
The community took the lead with the application to fund AV posts, an exhibit which would play the collection of recordings, and chose to put in an application to Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership for this collaborative project.
They were successful in their application and the funding was awarded to the community.
The community used the funding to purchase two AV posts, one for each organisation. To unveil the AV post to the rest of the local community and beyond, and to celebrate the partnership between the two organisations, the community decided to host a tea dance party, which was held during the annual Stobsfest community festival.
To unveil the AV post to the rest of the local community and beyond, and to celebrate the partnership between the two organisations, the community decided to host a tea dance party, which was held during the annual Stobsfest community festival. The posts have since been displayed in local sheltered homes, community centres, libraries and at conferences and festivals, including the University’s Festival of the Future.
At the Boomerang Centre, there is a youth group who currently work together to create videos about their local area, and about the issues that affect them. The youth group will work with the Reminiscence Group to take this project to the next level, and create videos of the Reminiscence group telling their stories. These videos can then be added to the AV posts and will also encourage inter-generational working.
With the community taking the next steps on their own, this gives them ownership and sole control of the project now and in the future.
Being able to critically evaluate work is essential when creating any project. Shabnam worked closely with the community to create a questionnaire that could capture the impact of the project on all involved.
We asked everyone to complete the evaluation, before and after the project so we could see the impact. Here you will see some of their responses from group members, community leaders, and University of Dundee staff:
A selection of feedback from the group members:
- “I found out things I didn’t know before.”
- “A friendly crowd, a group of really nice people.”
- “Gave me an insight into the other people’s way of life compared to mine.”
- “I found the University very interesting and very helpful.”
The words and actions of this group were really touching. The members feel empowered knowing that their “voices are being heard across Dundee and beyond”, their "confidence has grown” and they can now see that “even they can make a difference.”
It was inspiring and humbling to meet so many wonderful people from the group, to hear their stories and learn about their lives. I was also immensely impressed with the friendly staff and volunteers at the community centre, a dedicated and motivated team who work together for a common goal of supporting their local community.
This project was co-created with the idea of being a long-term, collaborative and equalitarian partnership, which builds community, fosters transformation and promotes social change. One of the key learning points about working with communities is that everybody has something to bring to the table. This project was a true demonstration of that.
Jan Merchant, Senior Archivist, University of Dundee said “[We became] aware that we needed to always suggest rather than instruct, and generally found suggestions and advice appreciated. The centre's more laid back approach was refreshing and beneficial; implementation of the project benefited by the relaxed atmosphere.”.
Eddie Small, Public Engagement Officer, University of Dundee said "It was lovely working with the group because, although they all had different natures, a real dynamic of oneness and co-operation soon ensued. This made the whole project so much more rewarding."
This project was designed to capture the knowledge and skills from both the University and Community participants. It was created to allow for flexibility of all participants. It has provided opportunities for the community to enhance the project in
the direction they choose, allowing them to maintain power and control of the project.
As Tracie MacMillan, a Senior Community Learning & Development worker from Dundee City Council said, “By now leaving this group with the skills and confidence to take this project further to the next level on their own, it brings the project full circle, just as effective community engagement and development should do”.
Shabnam Wasim – Public Engagement Officer (Community Engagement)
University of Dundee