This post is inspired actually by exploration and a desire to travel to ‘bring back fresh ideas and new solutions to today’s issues, for the benefit of others in the UK” via  The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowships. Has this caught your attention and set off sparks of excitement? I do hope so.

If you may have been inspired by an approach being used in another country to a challenge you are facing in your work which you think may be transferable to the UK or you  have established an exciting international relationship with a centre of excellence and are looking for a way to spend time with them learning more about their work, then the Fellowships are well worth checking out.

Whilst the Fellowship are designed to enable you to bring a different perspective to your work or your community on a personal level they also, ‘serve as a catalyst that unlocks an individual’s potential, accelerates their career, developing them as a leader in their field of expertise or as a role model.’

The Fellowships fund projects of 4-8 weeks in duration and, whilst funding is awarded according to the specific project, it usually ranges between £6,000 -£10,000. One thing to flag up is that the Fellowship is not about providing funding solely to attend a conference it is so much more than that. The categories applications can be submitted under are:

  • Crafts & makers
  • Designers
  • Early years prevention and intervention
  • Education
  • Enterprise
  • Environment, nature and sustainable living
  • Medical practice and education
  • Nursing and allied health professionals
  • Mental health community based approaches
  • Migration and living well together
  • New approaches to housing
  • Science & technology
  • Young people
  • Open

This link takes you to the page which outlines what the fellowships do and do not fund and is important to read. The funding can be used to cover:

  • flights and internal travel
  • food and accommodation
  • visa fees, vaccination costs, insurance

To give you a flavour of the kinds of projects people have undertaken they have included

  • Using music in speech and language therapy to improve communication skills
  • Innovative support to young adult cancer survivors
  • Participatory theatre wth people with dementia and their carers
  • Challenging mental health stigma in rural communities
  • The emergency response to mental health crisis
  • Art therapy in palliative care

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 15.29.46There are overviews of some of the projects undertaken by previous fellows and if you’d like to get more insight into the experience of undertaking a fellowship here is a link to the report written by Dr Deanna Gibbs, an OT, who was awarded a Fellowship in 2013 to travel to America to explore support for parent and infants in neonatal intensive care.

If you are interested in making an application there is a section on the website outlining the benefits for employers which is well worth reading before exploring this possibility with your line manager. If they are supportive all of the information you need to complete the application process is available on line. The application process is outlined clearly with lots of advice and guidance  Applications are open now and close on 19th September 2017.

There is a personal reason for flagging up these awards. Early in my career my hospital awarded an annual travel scholarship which I was awarded. I was working in rheumatology at the time and this was in the 1980s before the existence of the Expert Patient Programme and the focus on the promotion of self-management of long term conditions. My award enabled me to travel to America for 4 weeks to visit 3 rheumatology centres to learn more about their self-management programmes and the Challenging Arthritis Programme which informed the Expert Patient Programme in the UK. It was an experience I will never forget which informed my practice and shaped the service when I returned to the UK, it challenged my thinking about different systems of healthcare and expanded my personal and professional boundaries informing the approach I took in my PhD.

It is easy to look at these opportunities and fall into the self-critical talk of ‘I don’t stand a chance’, maybe my idea isn’t good enough’ or, ‘my manager won’t support this’ but if this post has lit a spark inside you check out the WCMT site and listen to some of the experiences of those who have been awarded fellowship. Explore the idea with colleagues or your manager, phone up the Trust and talk to them and look at this from the perspective of, wow what an exciting opportunity. The Trust site describes the fellowship as a journey of personal transformation and I would totally agree.

Nowadays it’s much easier to travel but the travel grant gives you the time and space, with full financial support, to learn, reflect, network and develop in your chosen field, returning revitalised and with renewed enthusiasm for your subject. You may have to operate out of your own comfort zone and will learn from doing so.