Events Cancelled! Postponed! How do we roar for rare in the midst of an events crisis?

Events Cancelled! Postponed! How do we roar for rare in the midst of an events crisis?

Events Cancelled! Postponed! How do we roar for rare in the midst of an events crisis?

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - Events Cancelled! Postponed! How do we roar for rare in the midst of an events crisis? 1

At CRDN our focus is on raising awareness and building networks to address the unmet needs of those affected by rare disease and the professionals that work with them.  So how do organisations like ours maintain momentum during this extended period of lockdown?  

We create original and inspiring events, we collaborate with other engagement teams to drive rare disease onto mainstream  agendas to reach wider audiences, we attend and exhibit at others’ events and help promote these. The world of rare is used to operating in challenging circumstances but none more so than right now.

In recent days we have all found ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic with COVID-19,  a virus to which we have no immunity, having an unprecedented impact on health systems, businesses and on the way we live our lives, both locally and on a  global scale.

In order to slow the infection transmission rate and avoid overwhelming our health services, we are experiencing a seismic shift in our ability to travel freely with many parts of the world  imposing restrictions and bans.  As a direct result we are seeing large numbers of events being postponed and cancelled.  The impact on the rare disease community’s opportunities for sharing research and breakthroughs in drug development, for patients and their advocates to have a voice and for networking and collaborations to be made, cannot be underestimated.

 

vent ORGANISERS FEELING THE PINCH

In addition to the lost opportunities for sharing and networking, charities and organisations like ours, for whom events are their bread and butter, are just some of the many being hit hard by the huge financial burden of mass cancellations. Very few event organisers will have had insurance for communicable diseases and will be left to foot the bill for lost deposits and reimbursing speaker’s and attendee’s travel and accommodation costs. Of course the impact stretches way beyond the organisers with local communities also losing out to loss of footfall and many small businesses, from printers, designers, catering and AV hire to security firms, feeling the pinch.

At CRDN we have recently had the cancellation of the RCPCH Conference and exhibition 2020 where we were excited to be hosting a half-day symposium with fellow rare disease champions BPSU, Medics 4 Rare Diseases, Findacure and Rare Revolution Magazine. Dr Richard Lynn from the BPSU is disappointed but remains optimistic:

It is with great sadness that the first official collaborative event between our five organisations has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is clear from the interest the event was generating along with the speed and willingness of speakers to sign up, that there is an appetite for such events aimed at paediatric trainees. Watch this space – the collaboration goes on.

Dr Richard Lynn, BPSU (British Paediatric Survelliance Unit)

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - Events Cancelled! Postponed! How do we roar for rare in the midst of an events crisis? 2

Day-by-day we are being given new directives by the UK government, bracing ourselves for the next set of restrictions, trying to pre-empt and plan to best protect our delegates, employees and society as a whole. Factor in that we work within the rare disease community, a group that is classed as a high-risk and particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, this is a hugely important time for us to review how we can continue to raise awareness and build networks whilst social distancing and self-isolation is being advocated and implemented to protect us.

IS THIS CRISIS THE CATALYST WE NEED TO DELIVER TRULY ACCESSIBLE EVENTS?

The rare disease community can find travel problematic at the best of times:  the expense incurred; the time it takes up;  difficulties with managing a condition and medication when travelling; issues with mobility and accessibility.  In a fair and accessible world we would be offering everyone an equally do-able pathway to take part in our event, whether in person on virtually.

Could this current crisis be the catalyst we needed to make events better for all and to reach a far wider audience than is physically able to attend?  Rather than traditional face-to-face conferences and classrooms for learning, will we hold more events via social media channels, live stream conferences and give those attending from home or work the technology to engage meaningfully?  Will MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) become even more popular  and online learning platforms replace the classroom?

At our last two summits we have made some inroads into engaging an audience outside of the lecture theatre by allowing people to attend via Glisser technology and take part in the Q+A. We even tried out No Isolation’s AV1 avatar allowing a parent advocate to attend from Scotland through a robot perched on stage. It all went swimmingly well until the robot began to heckle the speaker! There is certian appetite for change and this feels to us like an opportunity to do better for our patients and to be more flexible in our offerings.

THe Meaning of “grasp the nettle” in English

is to force yourself to be brave and do something that is difficult or unpleasant.

In most organisations and charities there is never enough time or resources to do everything we know we should do, so we prioritise.  Perhaps the current lockdown will provide some breathing space to refocus some of our awareness raising efforts and invest in those aspects of our work which we’ve been putting off?

Social distancing means people are spending more time in their homes with many feeling isolated and turning to digital platforms to keep in touch and stay informed. This could be a great time to invest in your digital marketing campaigns and raise awareness through these channels.

Online learning platforms

Findacure, a Cambridge-based rare disease charity are leading the way with their e-learning portal, a central hub of information and training for rare disease advocates and patient groups. Here they host educational materials including animated videos, webinars and written guides. Perhaps there is more we could all be doing to provide high quality educational experiences on online platforms?

 

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - Events Cancelled! Postponed! How do we roar for rare in the midst of an events crisis? 3
Cambridge Rare Disease Network - Events Cancelled! Postponed! How do we roar for rare in the midst of an events crisis? 4

virtual conferences the future?

In recent years there has been an increasing presence of virtual events and the COVID-19 health crisis has spurred a number of organisations to adapt and move their conference online rather than cancel.  Two brilliant examples are the EyeforPharma 3 day event which was due to take place in Barcelona last week and Eurordis’s ECRD event taking place mid May (check out our events calendar for registration details).  As rare disease teams are contemplating next steps, will they grasp this opportunity to look to the future and decide to move more events online to improve accessibility and reduce their financial risk?

 

In May, CRDN was due to run rare disease expert talks as part of the international  Pint of Science festival. This has been rearranged for early September, but if this proves impossible, perhaps we could move to Glisser Live,  an enterprise software service solution engaging with audiences, gathering data from live and virtual events and pushing out events live to mobile devices?

Other such as Eden Lord, Founder of My City Med and parent of a child with a rare condition, is already ahead of the crowd.  My City Med is an online health and medical site but they also run a growing and successful online event, Rare Fair, a truly inclusive event for the rare disease community which is entirely virtual and draws in rare patients, caregivers, advocates, non-profits, healthcare professionals, researchers and other stakeholders from around th world.  Eden also facilitates other non-profits to host their own virtual conferences through My City Med Events and we’ll be taking  a demo of the platform so as to be as prepared to take our own flagship event, RAREfest20, online on Nov 27 and 28th if needed. 

 

FUNDRAISING ONLINE

As well as cancelled events, charities are also feeling the pressure of missed opportunities to fundraise with events like the London Marathon cancelled. Virtual fundraising events such as online quizzes are gaining popularity with companies enabling charities and supporters to schedule fully hosted online events which can be played virtually from the comfort of peoples’ homes.

In these incredibly challenging times, it is important that we adapt to the changing environment protecting and looking after our rare community and that we continue to raise awareness and create stimulating  ways to stay connected, now more than ever.

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2019 Rare Disease Day Cambridge Lecture

2019 Rare Disease Day Cambridge Lecture

2019 Rare Disease Day Cambridge Lecture

Put over 150 passionate and motivated people together to talk about rare disease research and you can expect a fascinating evening. 

That’s just what happened at the recent public evening, hosted by Cambridge Rare Disease Network in collaboration with the NIHR BioResource for Translational Research at Addenbrooke’s Hospital to mark International Rare Disease Day 2019.

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Cambridge Rare Disease Network - 2019 Rare Disease Day Cambridge Lecture 7

Short research talks were followed by a Q+A panel facilitated by Dr. Gemma ChandratillakeCRDN Trustee (pictured left)

Full agenda and biographies from the day. Click on the links below to view the audio and presentation slides for each talk.

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - 2019 Rare Disease Day Cambridge Lecture 8

Welcome Address
Prof. Patrick Chinnery
NIHR BioResource Co-Chair, Head of Department for Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - 2019 Rare Disease Day Cambridge Lecture 9

Improving Patient Health in CNO and SAPHO
Dr. Jagtar Singh Nijar
NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Rheumatology, University of Cambridge

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - 2019 Rare Disease Day Cambridge Lecture 10

Whole Genome Sequencing for susceptibility to infectious disease
Dr. James Thaventhiran
Consultant Clinical Immunologist, University of Cambridge (slides and audio not available)

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - 2019 Rare Disease Day Cambridge Lecture 11

Next Generation Children Project – Rapid Genome Sequencing for critically ill children
Dr. Isabelle Delon  Clinical Scientist, EMEE Genomic Laboratory

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - 2019 Rare Disease Day Cambridge Lecture 12

Imaging in the diagnosis of Rare Diseases
Dr. Tomasz Matys
University Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Radiology, University of Cambridge

Screenprinting for RAREfest & Unique Feet

Screenprinting for RAREfest & Unique Feet

Screenprinting for RAREfest & Unique Feet

The RAREfest logo comes to life…

Our Graphic Designer has been to summer school, learning to screenprint at Cottenham Village college under the tuition of Ricki Outis – local textile and community artist.

The set up was not commercial so everything was done in a way that was possible to set up at home in a garage, or on a kitchen table, and where all masks and templates are made with paper.

The RAREfest logo offered the perfect opportunity to try out the process of printing with multiple colours and needing to get the registration of all 4 colours as close to each other as possible.

So she cut out four masks, one for each colour, mixed in ink to match the RAREfest colours and away she went – hoping that the logos would work well enough to be useful.

We’re really pleased with the results and are excited to see what she makes for our Unique Feet group…

Cambridge Rare Disease Network - Screenprinting for RAREfest & Unique Feet 14
After the first mask is removed 
Cambridge Rare Disease Network - Screenprinting for RAREfest & Unique Feet 15
First colour done, 3 to go 
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Second and third colours having been added 
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9 RAREfest logos ready to be used

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