The Story Behind DigniSpace

What is DigniSpace?

Dignispace is an online learning space focusing on the concept of dignity through a human rights lens that has been designed to help healthcare professionals learn more about the concept and to confidently promote and advocate dignity in practice.

How was DigniSpace Developed?

Dignispace is the culmination of almost 10 years of collaborative work between nurse educators, human rights experts and participatory researchers.

The collaboration began in 2013 when Dr. Leah Macaden (Nursing), Dr. Elaine Webster (Human Rights Law) and Dr. Sarah-Anne Munoz (Rural Health and Wellbeing) met at the Scottish Crucible (a leadership and development programme). They found a shared interest in the concept of dignity.

They recognised that the context in which care professionals are being asked to deliver care is changing.  There has been a shift from a paternalist to a collaborative, or co-produced model, in which professionals, patients and families form more reciprocal relationships.  It is nurses who are often at the centre of these relationships, charged with ensuring a dignified experience for all involved in the delivery of care. Together, Drs, Macaden, Webster and Munoz, wanted to explore whether the shifting landscape of health care delivery, with its increased emphasis on participation and empowerment, impacted upon nursing students’ understandings of dignity practice.

They secured the Scottish Crucible’s interdisciplinary project fund to explore nursing students’ understandings of human dignity and develop educational resources and pedagogical strategies to enhance the nursing curriculum through greater engagement with the dignity narrative using a human rights-based approach.

This project titled Human Dignity Narratives and Nurse Education explored how education around human dignity could be effectively incorporated into the nursing curriculum. Researchers worked with nursing students in a series of participatory workshops to gain insight into their understandings of human dignity and the development of educational resources and pedagogical strategies to enhance the nursing curriculum – particularly through greater engagement with dignity narratives. The project helped the research team to understand more about how nursing students conceptualise dignity in care – as an embodied practice, that shifts depending on context and can be fragile. The project also gave great insights into the types of learning resources that nursing students may find helpful in terms of facilitating engagement with the concept of dignity and its application to care. In particular, students wanted an accessible, online, interactive resource.

In 2018, the team expanded with experts in nurse education, human rights law, participatory research, instructional design, educational technology and pedagogy and went on to secure funding from the Sir Halley Stewart Trust for our second project called DESNEHRA – Dignity Engagement Space using a Human Rights based Approach to develop and test DigniSpace.

DESNEHRA was innovative in its attempt to facilitate a deep level of creative intellectual engagement with the idea of human dignity from the perspective of human rights law and dignity theory.

It also breaks new ground by adopting a combined focus on a student-centered, co-produced, technology-enabled engagement space, supported by creative intellectual thinking about the protection of human dignity.

The research team took ideas from the Human Dignity Narratives project and worked with nursing students from University of the Highlands & Islands and the University of Dundee to co-design Dignispace. DigniSpace is an online and interactive space for Dignity Education that is the culmination of academic, subject and research expertise co-produced with students, practitioners, educators, and members of the project advisory group. DigniSpace is underpinned by the PANEL (Participation, Accountability, Non-discrimination & Equality, Empowerment and Legality) principles of human rights as the overarching framework with each principle laid out at three levels for learners to engage with.

We would like to acknowledge the contributions of Dr Richard Kyle and Dr Wayne Medford to our first project that laid the foundation for DigniSpace.

Meet the team

Expertise in Human Rights Law

Dr. Elaine Webster

Expertise in Nurse Education & Pedagogy

Dr. Sheila Douglas

Dr. Leah Macaden

Principal Investigator & Project Lead

Neil Angus

Expertise in Co-Production

Prof. Sarah-Ann Munoz

Dr. Liz Ellis

Expertise in Educational Resource Development, Instructional Design & Pedagogy

Jacky Macillan

Mhairi Longmuir

Liz Hudson

External validation feedback

The team are very grateful to our external experts, Dr Jane Douglas [Transforming Workforce Lead – Nursing , Scottish Care] and Sarah Farooq [Service Manager, London Inpatient Rehabilitation Services and Substance Use in Mental Health Lead] for reviewing DigniSpace as part of our external validation and providing their valuable insights and feedback as below:

"I really enjoyed the website. I like the way the information is set out – it is easy to access and clear to understand. Really will help with people’s understanding of a human rights-based approach – the links to dignity and respect. Everyone uses these words when they talk about care, but they may not always be able to explain what it means in relation to the legal foundations"
Dr Jane Douglas RN, QN
Transforming Workforce Lead - Nursing, Scottish Care
" I have reviewed the training and think it is really good. The exercises are good as there are a mix of things including reflections;  It is very informative but is easy to understand, for all grades of staff. It is broken down into topics and levels and staff do not have to complete in one go, so is easy to use. I like the references at end of each topic and links where you can get more information"
Sarah Farooq
Service Manager, London Inpatient Rehabilitation Services and Substance Use in Mental Health Lead

Case Study and an exemplar of best practice

Dignispace has been picked up as a Case Study and an exemplar of best practice in human rights in health care education by The Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) and is featured in their recent national report: ‘The opportunity is now’ – human rights in health and social care – Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (



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Project Funders

Project Team

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