Blog: Reflections on the March Community Committee meeting

Last updated on 22 Apr 2024

As the first HRA Community Committee member asked to write a blog about our meetings, I am excited to share with you how we are developing in these early days.

My name is Jan Speechley and I joined because I wanted to make a difference and bring lived experience to the HRA, as well as to work with people who share a passion for ensuring that the public and patients are part of the everything we do.

Jan Speechley, smiling at the camera. Close up shot.

Jan Speechley, Community Committee public member

Getting to know each other and working together

As a strong advocate of public involvement and with experience of being part of different committees for health research, this one was different. There was no fixed plan, and as members we discussed, agreed and set the ground rules for its operation.

Flexibility and accessibility

I was interested to see how our agreement to have three hour meetings, take breaks every hour and have an optional middle section (recorded so that everyone can contribute when they want to), works in practice.

I have never seen this done before, but feel it gives everyone time to take a break and be comfortable and fully involved. I hope it allows all voices to be heard and makes everyone feels valued. So far, the feedback is very positive, and we have the flexibility to alter and change things if we need to do.

Time commitment

It has become obvious that to be part of this committee, there will be more of a time commitment than first thought, but the group have embraced this and their enthusiasm and passion for their public contributor roles shines through during discussions and feedback. I know good public contribution does take time, and there never seems to be enough for high-quality discussion and decision making.


We have agreed all communication about and for the committee should be easy to access and easy to understand. The notes from our meetings will be published on the HRA website which shows the openness and accessibility of our work. I think it is fundamentally important to be transparent and share what we are doing and how we are doing it.

Operational decisions

Several HRA staff attended the March meeting, and as a group we are still getting to know each other, and match names and faces together. It was agreed that staff would have cameras off to allow us to concentrate and be more familiar with each other. The exceptions to this would be those facilitating the meeting. Developing our relationships online is different to face-to-face, and I hope this can help us.


We were asked to consider allowing observers to attend committee meetings and how this could be done. We discussed several options and agreed a poll should be set up to gather our responses out of the following:

  • No observers
  • No observers and record meeting for those interested
  • Allow observers and ask them to provide feedback on the experience

I really like the idea of a poll and hope we hear the results very soon, it's a great way to decide on next steps.

Reporting to the HRA Board

We are going to be able to take turns at attend board meetings to give our views and opinions. I feel this shows how the committee voice is valued.

Co-Chair of the Committee

There was lively discussion on how we should decide upon a co-chair. We agreed a poll with the following choices:

  • Members asked at random and offered the role
  • Members who have expressed an interest approached at random and offered the role
  • Members complete an expression of interest with relevant skills which is scored and a decision made based on scoring

We should have a Co Chair chosen for our next meeting which is great.

Strategic reporting

We were able to suggest ways that reports can be presented to us and were able to offer suggestions that enabled clearer, easier more accessible ways of presenting reports which should make our roles easier as we start to review them. Personally, I enjoy reviewing documents so look forward to this type of work.

HRA research systems programme

This was our optional session which was all about work underway to update the digital services used to apply for research and amend studies. We asked for:

  • Further detail on the phrase ‘the UK is a great place to do research’
  • Opportunity to decide how often we should receive updates on this work

HRA strategy

I am looking forward to working on the strategy as it feels like it is a great opportunity for public contribution to be a key factor. The committee wanted to know about the lessons learned from the previous development of the strategy and what had worked well, what less so, and who would be involved to give a public perspective. I know we can contribute so much to the strategy, and it is great to see your suggestions incorporated into final documents.

Community engagement

The committee shared their views on the time, capacity, resources, and challenges of engaging with underrepresented groups. We discussed the importance and value of working with community groups, small, targeted audiences, and the resources for interpreters to help with accessibility for all.

Future of the Committee

We are taking shape as a committee and developing our role within the HRA.

I am looking forward to our next meeting and the next blog!!

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