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"We know that social networks are key to health."

In 2016 Enrico Bellazzecca started working with Craft Café Govan and its members as part of his PhD studies at the Yunus Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, researching how the Craft Café impacts members health and well-being. He has since completed his PhD and his research on the Craft Café. 90,000 words later, his thesis (in 2 volumes) is complete! The thesis is due to be published in the British Library and we wanted to share some of the conclusions from the thesis and what motivates Enrico.

What was the aim of the research with the Craft Café?

The aim was to see what the health benefits are of attending the Craft Café and how this is achieved. I looked at how it effects mental health and mood and how it affects physical health as well as the social gain.

How did you carry out your research?

I spent a lot of time at Craft Café in Govan, attending sessions, getting to know the members, their motivation for going along and what it gives them in return, as well as the structure and routines of the workshops. After becoming familiar with the place, I carried out a series of interviews with members. Following this my research became more focused, with the help of 10 members. I asked them to keep diaries for 10 days, monitoring both mood and physical activity. In total 3 years has been spent at the Craft Café, gathering research.

From a range of observational, conversational and monitoring research, in-depth analysis could be made of what is the Craft Café effect!

What were the conclusions from your research?

The research concluded the following points;

Craft Café is a place where the members feed included. It's a place where there is choice to do your own thing or take part in projects. It's also a place where there is support, whether is be what someone is making or what someone is going through; sharing problems, challenges or the positive things in life.

"These points lead to members continuing to attend and feeling that they are part of something bigger. "Being in an environment where you are listened to, where you are supported, where you are encouraged, you are put into long term projects that actually triggers interest, triggers motivation, brings goals, expectations as well and then leads to celebrations, exhibitions. I think that was really the key in how the programme is designed and activities are carried out, that is the key message."

All of these elements positively affect mood and health. These are things the members and staff know, but now this has been thoroughly evidenced. We have been very fortunate to have such in-depth academic research done about the Craft Café that we would not have been able to do ourselves.

What motivates you and what's next for Enrico?

Over the years I have studied social sciences and am interested in health, believing that everyone should have fair access to the things that keep them healthy and that things should be more fairly distributed in society. That is what drew me to Craft Café in the first place. I am also interested in the health of older adults because often as we get older we can become more vulnerable through ill health, so this is where the attention is needed to promote independence.

"Aging is a matter of process, we all age, we all reach that stage in our lives - hopefully, and I think it is really important to think holistically on the whole spectrum, and I think we shouldn't deny any rights to any groups of people.

It's been a fantastic 3 years together. You made my PhD possible and I will never forget your kindness. I have always felt welcome and supported by each of you. Thank you!"

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