‘Disrupt mental health’ is the first in a series of social disruption programs designed to give vulnerable groups a voice in both Parliament and Whitehall. The program of disruptions will eventually cover fifteen overlapping groups of citizens including those with drug addictions, the homeless, and care leavers.
Unlike top-down consultations, the program is designed to combine two complementary processes. On the one hand, it allows vulnerable citizens to channel personal experience into a combined story through art, music and personal narrative that will culminate in an event in Parliament. The event will present art and music to Parliamentarians to help them understand the experiences and opinions of service users. It will also produce a quantitative document through a more traditional stakeholder-mapping exercise to be presented to Whitehall.
The project is incredibly interesting for two reasons. Firstly, it manages to introduce experiential evidence that can be experienced on a very human level by the legislature – creating the potential for genuine empathy and understanding – whilst still ensuing it provides solid evidence that Whitehall can help use to formulate the application of Government policy. Secondly, the evidence produced will be directly understood and recognisable to citizens who participated. This could reduce alienation of citizens throughout (and from the process) and, seeing their experiences communicated in this way to Parliament, increase their sense of feeling heard and therefore confidence in their authentic voice.
The process already has support from vital institutions, including the Department of Health, the AAPGs, the famous South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, NHS England and even the Police and Crime Commission of the pilot location.
As this coming year is the pilot year, there is everything to play for. There is potential to show that more radical forms of citizen-to-institution communication, taking in to account the needs and wants of citizens not just in the data but in the process itself, can have a powerful impact on how services and service user experience can be understood.
The process has sidestepped the risk of being ‘too woolly’ by combining with a more traditional model of consultation.
I am genuinely intrigued as to the outcome of the mental health pilot, and I think that those projects and organisations working in bringing citizen voice into policymaking processes should prick up their ears.
‘Since the dawn of humanity’s existence the Arts has been used to help those without firsthand experience of an issue, develop an emotional understanding of it. With Disrupt Mental Health, Tarakin is attempting to bring that artistic voice back into central societal decision making. It’s not new, as a species, I think we just forgot that we already know how to do this.’ – Katrina Krishnan Doyle, Disrupt Mental Health, Tarakin Ltd