Breaking Down Barriers: INHSU’s Networking Event for Researchers and Community Members

At INHSU 2022 in Glasgow, our INHSU Early and Mid-Career Researchers (INHSU EMCR) Special Interest Group and Community Committee collaborated to create a networking event to break down barriers between researchers and community members with lived/living experience of using drugs and/or hepatitis C. Key findings from the event have now been published in Drug and Alcohol Review.

Read the full paper

The pre-conference event was designed to promote equity and inclusivity, fostering connections that would enhance both research and community engagement. It was a huge success, bringing together approximately 65 attendees, including 35 community members and 30 early- and mid-career researchers. The format was innovative, pairing community members with researchers in a speed-dating style setup, allowing for meaningful, structured interactions followed by unstructured networking. This approach ensured that everyone had the opportunity to engage, share experiences, and build potential research collaborations.

Members of INHSU EMCR and the Community Committee, and event facilitators, M. J. Stowe, Louise Hansford, Rachel Halford, Jason Wallace and Lise Lafferty have since collaborated on a paper published in the most recent issue of Drug and Alcohol Review. The paper highlighted several successes:

  • High engagement: The event’s format, which included guided questions and a rotating pairing system, facilitated lively discussions and meaningful connections
  • Community participation: The high attendance from both community members and researchers indicated a strong interest in such networking opportunities
  • Feedback and lessons learned: Attendees appreciated the inclusive atmosphere and the opportunity to connect on an equal footing. However, some logistical issues, such as room acoustics and the need for more seating, were noted for future improvements


The success of this event at INHSU 2022 led to its repetition at INHSU 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland. Once again, the event proved to be a valuable platform for fostering community-academic partnerships. Building on this momentum, we are excited to announce that a third event will be held this year at INHSU 2024 in Athens, Greece. This continued effort underscores our commitment to creating inclusive spaces where all voices, especially those of people who use drugs, are heard and valued in the research community.

The paper also makes reccomendations for other organisations looking to create more inclusive spaces at their events. These reccomendations include:

  • Integrate early: A targeted networking event should be integrated early into the conference schedule to maximize opportunities for attendees to connect throughout the event
  • Confidentiality and boundaries: Establish confidentiality and boundaries, ensuring all attendees have the right to engage and participate as much as they feel comfortable
  • Inclusive planning: Engage potential attendees through respective committees to facilitate a more responsive event and foster greater participation
  • Accessibility considerations: Ensure the event is accessible to everyone, considering noise levels and the need for seating for those with sensory needs or difficulties standing
  • Reduce barriers: Implement measures to reduce attendance barriers, such as scholarships, facilities for self-care, and opportunities for connection
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