Launch of the MARCH Network
Updated: Apr 2
Blog post written by Saoirse Finn (Network Coordinator) On November 8th the UK MARCH Network was launched at the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH). Funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the MARCH Network aims to advance interdisciplinary research into social, community and cultural assets for the prevention and support of public mental health. The Network itself proposes that Assets for Resilient Communities lie at the heart of Mental Health (M-ARC-H), with assets ranging across arts, culture, heritage, libraries, parks, community gardens, allotments, volunteer associations, social clubs and community groups.
The launch opened with a welcome from Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of the RSPH. This was followed by a presentation from Principle Investigator for MARCH and ECRN Network Lead, Daisy Fancourt, which can be viewed here. This presentation outlined the six key priorities of the MARCH Network, including:
Supporting research on social, cultural and community assets and mental health
Developing cross-disciplinary methodological approaches
Nurturing the next generation of researchers in this field
Identifying and removing barriers to access at individual, organisational and policy levels
Supporting new strategies and policies on community assets and mental health
Encouraging greater participation and public engagement with community assets
Other major news was the announcement of £280,000 of research funding and plans for supporting early career researcher development.
Throughout the day there were a number of roundtable discussions led by Daisy, and Co-investigators Kam Bhui, Helen Chatterjee, Paul Crawford, Tia DeNora, Jane South, Geoff Crossick, Network member Paul Camic, Network Researcher Louise Baxter, and Network Co-ordinator Vas James. Roundtables discussed and documented how best to design the Network, Network goals, how to achieve aims, the roles people want to take on, and how to evaluate the Network as it develops over the next three years. There were also open discussions and networking across practice, research and policy around specific areas such as strategies for reducing loneliness.
A number of researchers, charity and community groups working in practice across the UK attended the event including representatives from the Arts Council, Public Health England, National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Libraries Unlimited, MIND, Mental Health Foundation, Historic England and the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance. However the launch was also opened BeyondTheRoom via Twitter thanks to the brilliant @Mental_Elf. You can have a look at what went on across the day by looking back over NetworkMARCH, listen to a podcast interview from Co-investigators, or read about our recent ECRN Twitter Chat on arts and mental health to mark the launch of MARCH.
To round up the event, there was a recapping of aims and encouragement to spread the word about MARCH. Overall, the event inspired energetic and innovative ideas for what the MARCH Network could achieve and demonstrated the enthusiasm and passion around social, cultural and community assets and mental health. The event has already led to the development of the first Special Interest Groups and sparked new collaborations. The website will soon be launched, which will help to connect Network members and publicise activities and events. In the meantime, to follow updates sign up here or follow @NetworkMARCH on Twitter. Also watch out for a progress report following the event that will be circulated by the end of the year and some exciting early career researcher plans launching in the New Year. If you have attended an Arts and Health event or would be interested in writing a book review for the AHECRN blog, please feel free to get in touch. (Robyn Dowlen - Blog Editor)