PPI. Learning it is.


What can Yoda teach us about public involvement in research?

Turns out, I have a favourite Yoda quote and it’s this:

“Always pass on what you have learned.”– Yoda

For me, learning through conversations with other people is what involvement is all about. If I was going to get all hippy on you, I’d say it’s what life’s about and fundamental to everything that people do…

Very specifically, I’d suggest that what researchers learn from involvement, from their conversations with patients, carers and the public, often leads to the impacts on research which are widely known – but far too often what the researcher learns isn’t passed on. It’s not captured or properly described. It can be easily dismissed as ‘anecdotal’.

For decades, PPI people have been on a quest for the holy grail – ‘a tool to measure impact’ – but nobody’s quite managed it. Why is that? I’d argue it’s because we’ve been looking at involvement all the wrong way. Maybe it’s time to change our thinking and listen to Yoda.

When involvement is understood as learning, then very different questions (and answers) emerge around how to do it, why do it, who to involve, what difference it makes, and how to report it.

This is the first of six blogs in which explore the implications of understanding involvement as learning. I am hoping to pass on what I’ve learned from the many conversations I’ve had with lots of brilliant people. A big thank-you to all of them for sharing their ideas, knowledge, expertise and experience. I always learn something new from each and every conversation, so I hope these posts will be the start of many more.


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