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Mothers Uncovered and working with practice-based thinking

Practice-based thinking or theories potentially offer different ways to


understand change and activities such as the peer support offered to new
mothers by Mothers Uncovered. Since January 2016, Maggie has been
working with us ( i.e. a team of academics from three universities) as a
key community partner representing Mothers Uncovered, to help organise
and deliver a series of seminars exploring these practice theories or ways
of thinking. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, these
sessions have involved working with local community organisations,
charities, voluntary sector colleagues, patient and public groups,
practitioners, researchers and other academics. Each session has tried to
further explore how practice thinking can help us understand peer
support, care or learning. Using these ideas means that activities such as
peer support become seen as sets of practices operating in a given
context. These practices carry, contain or require specific sets of
meanings and motivations and knowledge, skills experiences to succeed,
as well as needing material things like technology or resources such as
having a room for meetings. The sessions have also explored how we
might intervene in our everyday work, our organisations, or in our work
with others, to create new practices that can bring about change. For
futher details on the seminar series see:
http://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/newpracticesfornewpublics/

At one of the seminar sessions held in Sheffield in December 2016,


Maggie and I participated in a workshop that focused on how we might
begin to think about change; the exercise was devised and facilitated by
Margit Keller and Peter Jackson. We would like to acknowledge our thanks
as we have used this format to explore whether practice-based ways of
thinking can be useful to the work of Mothers Uncovered. In discussing the
peer support that Mothers Uncovered offers, we wanted to explore how
these ideas might help respond to current priorities or concerns and how
this thinking might help to consider changes that would benefit and allow
Mothers Uncovered develop further.

Maggie and I met in early January 2017. We first mapped the people
involved in offering and participating in peer support. This first stage
included listing all the activities or routines involved, the resources and
crucially the environments needed to support the work of Mothers
Uncovered. We then explored the different motivations, needs or
understandings of the facilitators and the women who attend, as well as
the meanings the workshops hold for those seeking peer support. Then in
stage two, we identified two areas where Mothers Uncovered might want
to bring about change and what would need to be done differently to
produce that new normal. We used practice theory thinking to zoom in
on an area where we thought Mothers Uncovered might have some
influence e.g. working with NHS practitioners or securing funding from
primary care commissioners. We then tried to work out exactly who
Maggie would need to involve in the planning and organisation of that
change and also who could help initiate or sustain the intervention or
changes. Our work is summarised below in the following case study.

Our next step will be to begin to think what Mothers Uncovered need to do
to plan and achieve positive change for Mothers Uncovered and the
women who participate.

Mapping Mothers Uncovered and peer support using practice


theory thinking

1. Mapping Mothers Uncovered using practice theory thinking

Meanings, understandings and motivations


Motivation for attending is often women being postnatal with their
first baby but do have others with one or more children wanting to
attend.
Changed identity and status involved in becoming a mother means
many of the women want to explore their identity or status before
and after birth and how this impacts them and their partners and
relationships with others and how they are seen by society, feeling
invisible and ignoring self
Often anxious, physically recovering from the birth, sleep deprived,
feeling increased responsibilities
Emotional work involved in sharing narratives or birth stories
especially when expectations of a home birth did not match the
reality of hospital or technological intervention such as caesarean
sections, involving shame, anger, isolated, lonely
Frustrations, confusing anger over unrelenting work of motherhood,
lack empathy and understanding from partners or others
Recognition of the different experiences of birth, patterns of
motherhood and parenting
Seeking validity of their experiences, not wanting top down expert
or professional input
Emotional debates over breast and bottle feeding
Permanent base gives legitimacy and recognition or valuing of
activity involved in peer support for women as mothers

Knowledge, skills and experiences


Respectful listening
Sharing experiences or stories
Recognising boundaries
Honesty
Different skills, different needs, need to develop ways of working
together in the group or workshops
Valuing different status or experiences or needs e.g. disability, class,
sexuality as mothers and others knowledge or understanding of
motherhood
Signposting, other help or referrals
Developing respectful discussions about breastfeeding and bottle
feeding
Encounters with professional staff, find they are often defensive,
sometimes dismissive of the womens expertise by experience,
using their professional knowledge instead

Material resources, technology, our bodies and objects

Bodies changed, body image, size means lots of talk about eating
and cooking
Workshops involve materials like art equipment, paints, paper,
writing materials
Rooms or environment, seating and comfy chairs, floor cushions,
need a relaxed environment space for the babies, toys to play with
Space for and the organisation of workshops, need facilitators,
spacing of the sessions, the content of the sessions,
Technology involved in maintain a website, technical and financial
administration
Office space and a permanent base for both this and the
workshops/courses and drop-in sessions

2. Developing an example

Exploring how the peer support offered by Mothers Uncovered can change
or develop further using practice theory. For example, increasing activity
with and securing funding for work between the boundaries between
statutory or NHS provided and funded services and charities or voluntary
sector organisation working.

Meanings and motivations

Widening reach and scope and ensuring sustainability and


continuing legacy of peer support for women as mothers

Knowledge, skills and experiences

Consider how to change working relationships or open up dialogues


or conversations with statutory services, Clinical Commissioning
Groups, the NHS more generally, increase knowledge of Mothers
Uncovered with midwives, health visitors, practice nurses and7
health and wellbeing boards
Increase recruitment working in collaboration with Threshold,
Stopover, Local Authorities, Family information service
Develop work with the Sussex Peer Support Network to enable wider
recognition for the work and secure funding of activity
Material resources, objects, our bodies and technology

Permanent space, one place to run everything from workshops,


drop-ins and specific courses
To have more staff
To be able to offer evening or family sessions, being able to offer
free places
To be able to develop phone services
Increase advertising/publicity