#COT2017 S98. Closing Plenary

IMG_0316It’s always great to come together at the end of conference rather than all drifting off homeward and boy was this a session worth coming together for.

A session which informed, provoked thought, was full of humour and ended with the usual video roundup of photos you may have wished you knew were being taken at the time.

Jennifer Creek started the session by taking us on a journey from the origins of our profession to present day proposing that we should pay more attention to practice that is happening on the margins if we want to seek answers to some of the major challenges we face currently. It really challenged by thinking about what how power is invested in the centre and the influence this power exerts on a profession and the way it practices.

I had never really thought about the relationship between the origins of our profession and the rise in women’s movement from the late 19th century onwards but of course it made sense. How the liberation of women from the home and the domestic roles they had been cast in previously opened the door for them to take on wider more influential roles and responsibilities within society. Education, housing, contributing to the war effort and supporting those marginalised within society all became a focus of their work. Women started moving into professions where they had greater influence and ability to effect change.

Jennifer traced this journey across the Atlantic to the founding of the first school of occupational therapy and back to the origins of occupational therapy in the UK. It is of course always important to be reminded of our history but Jennifer’s journeying didn’t stop there.

Rather than this closing plenary being a lesson in our history we were taken one step further a step which felt a little less comfortable as Jennifer explored how thinking and practice in the USA and UK began to colonise our practice on a global level and dominate the centre ground of occupational therapy practice. Perhaps sharing her definition of margin may help illustrate this:

a physical place, a social space or a personal experience on the periphery of the social mainstream or dominant order. For every margin there is a core that represents some form or position of authority, power and privilege.

Jennifer shared how her experiences in South Africa had provided her with an opportunity to witness the resourcefulness, innovation and expertise that are occurring when you move further away from the constraints of the centre ground. She explored some of the characteristics of working at the margins – summarised on the slide below


Having worked in a small voluntary sector user led organisation in the late 1980s where funding was always an issue, the organisation was transitioning to becoming user led at the height of the rise of the disability movement and we were seeking new responses to meet demand – these all sound familiar. Exciting, challenging, liberating and scary are all be words I would use to describe that time.

Jennifer’s call: Explore the margins, places and spaces away from the mainstream if you want to discover places where creativity happens. This resented strongly with me.

DCxnlbvXgAEaYixTina Coldham. Chair of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) Co-Production Network, SCIE Trustee and Mental Health Campaigner

Last night an OT Saved my Life

Well, what can I say – I’m not even going to try to summarise Tina’s presentation for you as I know I won’t do it justice. There are some great moment captured on twitter for you to explore – just explore the hashtag #COT2017.  You really did need to be in the room to experience the heartfelt, side splittingly funny way in which Tina talked about the impact of occupational therapy on her life.

Describing herself as, “a practicing depressive – because I’m still practicing!” and through all the laughter, banter and jokes there was a serious message as Tina reflected on the different ways in which her encounters with occupational therapists have supported her at different times in her life. She talked about what it meant to have someone who was interested in her rather than her diagnosis. How no area of discussion was out of bounds.

Perhaps it is enough to leave you wth Tina’s description of occupational therapy as ‘the art of the possible rather than the science of the impossible.’

If you didn’t make it to conference I really want to flag up that Tina will be hosting one of the weekly #OTalk researchers on co-creation in research. Watch this space because I just need to pin them down to a date but it will be the 1st Tuesday of the months some time in the future!

What a fitting note to end conference on – but then of course came the photos!

Written by @lynnegoodacre


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