Connecting, collaborating and co-designing: working together to make a difference


I’m Catherine and I’m part of the team at NICA which explores the ‘human experience’ of ageing by engaging with and involving the public in everything we do. In fact, our founding principle of VOICE is valuing the insights and lived experience of people throughout the life course, as it’s this ‘intellectual capital’ that will inspire and drive forward the research, design and innovation needed to develop the products and services of the future.

What I love about my job as Project Manager is that every day is different, as the projects we are involved with are so diverse and interesting. But most of all I love being able to make a difference to people’s lives. The project I’m most proud of, that really had an impact on families caring for someone living with dementia, was our Dementia Care: staying connected and living well online MOOC (Mass Open Online Course) course. It was so important to get the balance right, ensuring that the course offered a combination of academic expertise from our scientists and clinicians here in Newcastle and the actual lived experiences of family carers, in order to create a truly co-designed course.

Dr Alison Killen, Researcher and Dementia Care Course Mentor:

Although at times it seemed impossible to find the words in a few sentences to convey empathy for the distress being shared, offer reassurances for the way a role was being undertaken or suggest a feasible way to inform or address a particular challenge, like all the other mentors and educators I managed, and feel privileged to have contributed towards supporting a MOOC so highly valued by caregivers.

For me, working with families, hearing their stories and understanding their needs was such a rewarding experience and made me determined to ensure that the course gave credence to their experiences and ideas, as well as providing information and insights that would benefit other families or professional carers supporting someone living with dementia.  It was only possible to do this by having a real team approach: from our Digital AV team whose skills and creativity really brought the videos to life, the Learning and Teaching team who provide guidance in structuring the course, the researchers, scientists and clinicians who shared their vast knowledge and who acted as course mentors. And, of course, to the families who allowed us into their worlds and shared their insights and ideas which continue to resonate with learners who take part in the course from around the world.