Networks to strengthen public’s role in research and innovation

A multiracial group of volunteers wearing warm casual clothing and accessories on a sunny cold winters day. They are talking before they start working on a community farm, planting trees and performing other tasks.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has awarded 25 grants in the first phase of its £3.6 million Community Research Networks programme.

The programme will empower communities to develop grassroots research agendas and build capability and expertise in community-led forms of research and innovation.

The investment is supporting 25 collaborations, who have each received £25,000 for the initial expression of interest phase.

Over the next six months, collaborations will work with local communities to develop detailed plans for a network in their area. They will be given the opportunity to bid for a share of £3 million later this year.

Building new research collaborations

The collaborations are made up of a rich diversity of organisations, all over the UK, that recognise the value of creating new forms of locally relevant, community owned knowledge and evidence.

Whether social enterprises, local councils, museums, city farms and wildlife trusts or universities and arts organisations, these organisations are working together to build a more open, inclusive and diverse research and innovation system.

A new approach to funding

The Community Research Networks programme represents a shift in the way UKRI funds public engagement. It responds directly to our public engagement strategy goal to “make sure the benefits of research and innovation are shared widely by supporting collaboration and valuing diverse forms of knowledge”.

The scheme was developed in response to scoping research undertaken by the Young Foundation, a summary of which can be seen in their report: an equitable future for research and innovation.

Beyond the Community Research Networks programme, we are:

Valuing diverse knowledge and expertise

Too many communities across the UK feel that research is done to them, and not with or for them. Through this programme, communities will come together to identify and undertake research that matters to them, in ways that ensure the benefits remain with the community.

This way of working recognises and values the knowledge that communities hold about the issues they face and the solutions required. Through the networks, this knowledge and expertise will combine with and complement academic knowledge to create thriving local research ecosystems.

Responding to priorities

Tom Saunders, Head of Public Engagement at UKRI said:

This programme demonstrates the enthusiasm for new forms of research and innovation that respond to the priorities of communities across the UK.

These exciting collaborations are paving the way for a more open, diverse and connected research and innovation endeavour and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they can achieve.

By recognising, valuing and harnessing the knowledge and expertise of communities we can ensure that research and innovation is something that more people can contribute to and benefit from.

Further information

Community Research Networks, expression of interest phase awardees

The awardees are listed in alphabetical order by title.

Building a collaborative research network with communities in rural County Durham, County Durham

Rural Design Centre Limited and Durham Community Action Limited are collaborating to build relationships in rural county Durham that create and strengthen connections to research. They are also collaborating to develop approaches to improve collaborative capacity to produce, interpret and use research in rural places to improve people’s lives.

Building an anti-poverty community, Manchester

A partnership between Something To Aim For and Manchester Central Foodbank. The network will explore research and policy innovation to address the gaps in anti-poverty provision, advice and training, as well as support participatory arts, cultural, heritage, health, and environmental projects.

Collaboration for mental wealth in Moray: building a Community Research Network, Moray

Through their network, Moray Wellbeing Hub community interest company (CIC) and the Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre at the University of Strathclyde are aiming to empower community members to be equal partners in finding out what works in creating good mental health for Moray.

Communities centred, Lambeth

This network, led by High Trees Community Development Trust, Juvenis and Global Black Thrive CIC aims to build collective power and influence to ensure a more equitable, informed, and accessible approach to research locally.

Community research: developing sustainable infrastructure, Belfast

The Market Development Association is working alongside Queen’s Communities and Place at Queen’s University of Belfast. They are working to create a research network that will serve the residents of the Markets area, one of Belfast’s oldest working-class communities, nestled in the heart of the City Centre.

Connecting communities: people enabling change, Cumbria

A partnership between Groundwork North East, Cumbria Development Education Centre and Cumbria Council for Voluntary Service. This network will connect with and serve overlooked and underserved communities across Cumbria to research the wider determinants of health.

Dolennu, North Wales

Partneriaeth Ogwen, Siop Griffiths, Foundational Economy Alliance Wales, Economy and Cwmni Cymunedol Bro Ffestiniog are building a network in the slate valleys of Gwynedd. The network will strengthen the voice of communities in setting priorities for research and build long-term capacity for research that communities care about.

East End of Eden, Sunderland

Voluntary and Community Action Sunderland, the Northern Engagement Into Recovery From Addiction Foundation, Young Asian Voices, Sunderland Mind and Living History (north east) are tackling social issues through direct participation. They are creating a network with a bottom-up, community driven approach to co-creating knowledge, skills, learning and understanding.

Hartlepool Disability Research Network, Hartlepool

Hartlepower, Hartlepool Carers, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Hartlepool Borough Council and Teesside University are working to create a network. This will enable research priorities to be set by people with disabilities, the results of which will inform local decision-making and resource allocation, influence service organisations and support and empower people with disabilities.

Isles of Scilly Research Network, Isles of Scilly

The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, Isles of Scilly Community Venture CIC and the Isles of Scilly Museum Association are leading a network to facilitate community-led research. They are providing a bottom-up framework to tackle distinct local challenges and drive economic activity and equity.

Leeds Doughnut Economics: community research capacity growth, Leeds

Together for Peace and Leeds Love It Share It CIC are collaborating on a network that will grow the capacity of people in communities across Leeds to carry out socio-economic and environmental research within their neighbourhood.

Life in St Ives, St Ives

St Ives Community Land Trust, The Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust and Visceral Business are working to create a network. This will make better use of existing data, identify information gaps and collate new data grounded in community-led participatory action research approaches for people who live in St Ives and surrounding area.

Liverpool Communities’ Research Network, Liverpool

Cinema Nation CIC, Our House Walton Community Hub CIC, Walton Youth and Community Project, Liverpool City Council and the Liverpool World Centre are collaborating. They will build community research, knowledge sharing and preservation across contrasting communities, on the principle that everyone has their own expertise in their own areas.

Norfolk Community Research Network, Norfolk

Norfolk Community Foundation, Shrublands Youth and Adult Centre and The Feed are leading a network. This will build the knowledge, skills and capability of people with lived experience to design and conduct research, ensuring the insight generated has a direct influence on local funding strategies and the design and delivery of services and programmes.

Nothing about us, without us: The Unpaid Carers Community Research Network, Gateshead

The Gateshead Carers Association, Collective Impact Agency CIC, Carers Trust Tyne and Wear, Civinet, and Age UK Gateshead and Transmit Enterprise CIC are working together. They are creating a research network to support unpaid carers, supporting them to investigate how the lives of unpaid carers can be improved.

Oxfordshire Community Research Network, Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire County Council, Aspire Oxfordshire Community Enterprise, Banbury Muslim Mosque Society, Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action and Oxfordshire Mind are building a network. This will produce a community-led research strategy for Oxfordshire, with a focus on tackling the wider determinants of health and inequality.

Researching the East Marsh Community, Grimsby

Foresight North East Lincolnshire are working with East Marsh United to create a network that will empower those in the East Marsh neighbourhood to have a say in what is happening in their lives and environment. This will enable them to work together to make a difference and change their and others lives for the better.

Responsible Tech Community Engagement, Manchester

Led by Noisy Cricket CIC and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the network will focus on how to build cross-sector engagement on the theme of responsible and ethical tech. This will create a sustainable approach to citizen empowerment through the involvement of marginalised people in tech, data research, policy, design practices and decision-making.

South West Race-Equality Research Network, South West England

The Black South West Network, Bristol Black Carers and Bath Spa University are creating a network. This will improve racialised communities’ engagement with research and innovation, enabling them to utilise the expertise of key academic institutions in the region and to build local research-capacity.

The 15 Minute STEAM City Unbound, Birmingham

Blast Fest and Budo Active Education CIC are creating a network. This will build a community-based science, arts and research infrastructure that increases local capacity for Black and ethnic minority communities to shape critical research questions and practice, developing the acumen to maximise impact for the benefit of all.

Twerton and Whiteway Community Research Network, Bath

This network is led by Bath City Farm, Southside Family Project, Youth Connect South West and First Steps (Bath). It will invest in community-led research capacity to evidence the realities of living in this community, with a focus on local needs, strengths and potential.

Voices from a forgotten town, Dorset

Steps Club for Young People, The Lantern Trust (Weymouth), Island Community Action and Bournemouth University are creating a network. This will empower young and vulnerable people in Weymouth and Portland to tell their stories and uncover new solutions to local socio-economic challenges.

We are Newham Citizen Research Network, Newham

This network, led by Compost CIC and the London Borough of Newham, will centre, represent and serve the interests of the most marginalised communities in Newham. They will initially focus on bringing together organisations from lived experience groups, as well as wider voluntary community organisations that support marginalised communities.

Young Community Researchers, Staffordshire

Staffordshire Council of Voluntary Youth Services are working with Staffordshire University to address the impacts of eco-anxiety amongst young people by supporting them to create a network of young community researchers.

Yorkshire Coast Community Research Network, Scarborough

Coast and Vale Community Action are working with Flash Company Arts Limited CIC to create events, activities and projects. Through these, local people can use and develop their resourcefulness, and communities can all learn what works, what is useful and what is relevant in tackling local priorities.

Top image:  Credit: SolStock, E+ via Getty Images

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