VOICE North was established in Newcastle back in 2007 – and so in 2018 it seems particularly timely to reflect and celebrate all we have achieved together over the past 10 years, and look forward with increased energy and commitment to the next 10 years.
VOICE stands for Valuing Our Intellectual Capital and Experience – and this remains important as from the start, it was about co-production and knowledge exchange – built firmly on principles that citizens, members of the public (who sometimes happen to be patients), have immense knowledge, insight and experience and if we can share our knowledge - whether it’s lived experience or research evidence - then together we can be equal partners in tackling major societal challenges and critically co-designing and co-developing innovative solutions. The Knowledge triangle between citizens, research evidence and businesses/organisations is at the heart of our ethos – creating innovative solutions to major problems requires collaboration that is about “us” moving on from “us and them”.
VOICE North began as a relatively small panel of interested and enthusiastic volunteers in Newcastle and the North East of England, but soon grew rapidly! We are immensely proud of our members. Citizens from all backgrounds and walks of life, who have been dedicated and committed to getting involved and regularly taking part in meetings, events, workshops and discussions – each one an opportunity to understand and appreciate different perspectives and views. We have supported thousands of research projects and involved many more people - most of whom had not been involved in this kind of activity before but value and enjoy the experience so much, they are now committed members. New members join all the time and are enthusiastically welcomed but we also value the immense accumulated experience of long standing members - our growing community of “research literate and innovation savvy citizens” - after all, our founding values are about valuing experience!
Over the last two years, the launch of our digital platform has meant that we have significantly scaled our reach and developed new ways to involve people from far and wide. Our new(ish) strap line is that we can involve citizens in Bournemouth, Brussels or Beijing, or equally we could change the letter and involve citizens from Sunderland, Stockholm or Sydney – you get the idea! We will also be able to work with partners across the world so that members from the North East have many more opportunities to take part in research and innovation. The point is that we now have truly national and international reach – and this is vital as the societal challenges we tackle, especially around ageing and demographic change, are truly global.
Whilst the ethos and values of the organisation remain grounded and true to the original purpose, it seems the right time to make a small but significant change and move from VOICE North to VOICE. We would like to truly welcome new members and partners from across the globe and hope this will encourage those from the South, East and West to join up too! Of course we will always have the North as part of our DNA as our core team remains in Newcastle in the North of the UK.
Global challenges demand a global response and VOICE is a vital mechanism to harness citizens’ ideas and expertise - wherever you live and whatever your circumstances, we can facilitate connecting you and enabling you to contribute your ideas and insights and help your VOICE be heard and, vitally, listened to.