Research into Recovery and Wellbeing

A website about the work of the recovery research team at the Institute of Mental Health

The University of Nottingham

Refocus on Recovery

Refocus on Recovery is a long-running and successful international recovery research conference. It has created a brand and the beginnings of an international network. To build momentum, we are now offering the opportunity for national Refocus on Recovery conferences.

International Refocus on Recovery

Refocus on Recovery is an international recovery research conference, previously held in England in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2017 (information here). The next international conference will be Refocus on Recovery 2019 (information  here). The centre of gravity is a research conference about aspects of mental health recovery. Each conference is co-organised with a range of partner organisations, and always has themes to help give a focus. At least one theme involves inviting critical or alternative perspectives on recovery. Oral and poster submissions are invited around these themes.

The conference is run in an inclusive way, actively trying to support diverse groups and individuals to participate. As part of this, various events take place around or alongside the conference, including masterclasses, expert workshops, debates, story shop / human library, collective wellbeing events, mad spaces and demonstration days. A specific focus is on ensuring that people with ‘lived experience’ or ‘first person knowledge’ are meaningfully involved at all stages, including planning the focus, organising the conference or associated events, reviewing abstract submissions, and giving keynote talks, as well as attending as participants

Refocus on Recovery has been organised by the recovery research group led by Mike Slade, whose website is The main source of income is registration (which has included a reduced rate for service users / family members / unwaged / low income country participants) plus in-kind support from partner organisations and sponsorship from charities and local businesses. No conference has made a financial loss.

Refocus on Recovery national

One aim of the international Refocus on Recovery conferences has been to disseminate research findings, but another (perhaps primary) aim has been to increase international momentum towards recovery, by developing and maintaining a network in which people can be nurtured and energised. To build towards this goal, we are now offering the opportunity to run national Refocus on Recovery conferences, drawing on the brand of Refocus on Recovery but with a national focus.

What would be involved?

You can organise a Refocus on Recovery national conference providing you meet the following conditions:

1. It must be a research conference

‘Research’ can be interpreted widely and diverse contributions are to be encouraged. The goal is to create a space in which shared learning and thinking can take place. Other related events can be held around or alongside the conference.

2. It must be about recovery in mental health

This is a broad term, but the aim of Refocus on Recovery is to build momentum around the global recovery movement, so it must be an explicit focus. It is important to have one or more specific topics (e.g. Mad Studies, social change, peer support, Open Dialogue etc.) but it must be more than a conference just on a specific topic. Similarly the focus has been on mental health and not on addictions, so whilst the conference can include addictions as a topic, it must not be the main focus. Events around the conference (e.g. as described above for the international conferences) are encouraged.

3. It must be inclusive

This involves attending to issues of power, and seeking specifically to involve people directly affected by mental health problems. Specific approaches we have used include:

  • have several organisations involved in organising the conference, at least one of which is run by or represents people with lived experience
  • ensure the keynote speakers are diverse, varying in their expertise, how much they are a ‘cheerleader’ for recovery, and that a meaningful proportion speak at least partly from a lived experience perspective
  • attend to ‘micro-aggressors’ (small indicators of status and difference), e.g. we just put the Refocus logo and the person’s name on delegate badges, not titles or employer
  • include experiential learning opportunities in which all attenders have a shared and collective experience. We have used music (e.g. mass drumming, boomwhackers) and balloon releases.
  • have a quiet space for people to take time out in during the conference

4. No funding is taken from contentious sources

This specifically means that no funding from the pharmaceutical industry is to be taken, but also applies to other potential sources which might raise reputational concerns, e.g. tobacco, arms industry, etc.

5. The conference is titled Refocus on Recovery <country> <year>

For example, Refocus on Recovery Canada 2020. The conference can take place in any country (including England), and must use the Refocus on Recovery logo (which we will supply).

6. You first obtain permission from us

We are keen to support this initiative, but to protect the integrity of the Refocus on Recovery brand (which is trademarked - UK00003295079) you may not run the conference or use the logo until we have given formal permission. This will involve signing a Memorandum of Agreement and paying a (negotiable) fee for use of the brand.

How would it work?

Once you have our permission to proceed, you will be responsible for all aspects, i.e. working with partner organisations, organising and running the conference and any associated events, all aspects of finances (including any profit/loss), ensuring the above conditions 1 to 6 are met, etc. We can if wanted offer marketing support, for which we will charge an additional fee.

What are the next steps?

If this might be of interest then the next steps are:

  1. Look through the programmes and presentations from previous international Refocus on Recovery conferences, and the plans for the next conference.
  2. We recommend you identify a small number of partner organisations (including at least one organisation run by or representing people with lived experience) with whom to co-organise the conference and any associated events
  3. Get in touch with us to discuss (email: