Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Build community research consortia to address health disparities

Apply for funding to build community research consortia to address health disparities.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for AHRC funding.

Your project should:

  • facilitate cross-partner collaboration with a view to establishing one (or more) community asset hubs, articulating hub structure and membership
  • scope whole or part of an integrated care system (or devolved equivalent) to understand the range of services, scale of provision, key stakeholders and existing partnerships
  • explore different collaborative models for integrating co-production into the improvement of health systems.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £250,000. AHRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

We will fund projects for up to nine months.

You must submit an ‘intention to submit’ by 16:00 on 1 June 2022.

Who can apply

Proposals should be submitted by the principal investigator but must be co-created with input from all of the partners. This should be evidenced in the application.

Principal investigator

Standard AHRC eligibility criteria will apply to this opportunity for UK principal investigators and research organisations.

You must be a resident in the UK and be hosted by an eligible research organisation (higher education institutions or recognised independent research organisations) as stated in the AHRC research funding guide.

Non-academic partners (non-industry)

It is possible to include UK-based non-academic partners as co-investigators, such as:

  • policymakers
  • local and national government
  • third sector and voluntary organisations
  • practitioners
  • lived experience or community researchers.

Users from industry cannot be co-investigators.

Non-academic co-investigators

It is possible to include non-academic partners as co-investigators.

Where justified, the time of these partners will be funded at 100% full economic cost.

Salary costs for new staff to be recruited for the proposed work can be submitted as part of the application.

Travel and subsistence costs and overheads will be allowable if appropriately justified.

We recognise that some partners may be employed by a government-funded organisation. You must therefore avoid the double counting of public funds in the costings. The combined costs for non-academic co-investigators must not exceed 30% of the total 100% full economic cost of the grant application.

Proposals that only involve collaboration between researchers within the remit of a single research council or those with a single investigator are out of scope.

Researchers funded through the phase one opportunity, scale up health inequality prevention and intervention strategies are eligible to apply, although this is an open opportunity. Therefore, previous funding from this programme is not a requirement.

What we're looking for

Types of projects we want to fund

This opportunity is led by AHRC in partnership with the National Centre for Creative Health (NCCH), and is supported by MRC, ESRC and NERC. It is part of the Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Disparities programme.

Projects funded through this opportunity will:

  • improve our understanding of the drivers of deprivation across communities
  • develop and test new scalable models for integrated care systems (ICS) (or devolved equivalents) to interface with community assets, thereby contributing to level up health outcomes and create healthier communities across the whole of the UK.

Your application should show how the planned activities could lead to a functioning consortium ready to undertake research to meet the above aims.

This programme uses the term health disparities to include varying definitions and interpretations of inequality and inequity, including the unfair and avoidable differences in health across different population groups. Understanding the drivers of such disparity and the role of community assets in reducing these differences is a core tenet of this programme.

Collaborations between community assets and ICSs are innovative, and forging new partnerships requires time. Therefore, phase two of the programme comprises a consortium-building phase.

We are looking to fund projects that will undertake preparation work, building a consortium that is in a position to deliver research linking local community asset research and activity with place-based health deprivation research.

This will be to develop testable models for how community asset partnerships can integrate with existing and emerging ICSs (or devolved equivalents).

This research will require collaboration not only across multiple disciplines and academics, but also with:

  • ICS partners
  • community assets
  • their funders.

Up to £250,000 full economic cost  is available for diverse but complementary groups of academics (for example in public health research, health economics and community asset research) to work together with non-academic partners, community organisations and health system partners, to build a research consortium at ICS (or devolved nation equivalent) level.

Building on phase one of this programme, you should consider how transdisciplinary and cross-sector working can level up health and wellbeing across the UK.

Funding should support the formation of community asset partnerships to enable cross-asset working and also include opportunities for community representation within the consortium through patient and public involvement and engagement (PPIE), to consider how the lived experience of individuals can be better integrated into health systems research and design through co-production.

Key objectives of each phase two award:

  • map and scope whole or part of an ICS (or devolved equivalent), to understand the range of services, scale of provision, key stakeholders and existing partnerships
  • support and facilitate cross-partner collaboration (academia, health and community partners and relevant funders, and PPIE) with a view to establishing one (or more) community asset hubs, clearly articulating hub structure and membership
  • explore different collaborative models for integrating co-production into health systems improvement.

Your application should clearly articulate how the above objectives will be achieved.

Your application should show how the planned activities could lead to a functioning consortium ready to undertake research to meet the above aims.

What the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) wants to see in applications, including any strategic areas or key themes that will be considered

Leadership team

The principal investigator and their research office will be ultimately responsible for the administration of the grant and collaboration arrangements.

However, they should also work on this with a team of co-investigators (at least two) which should reflect the transdisciplinary and sector relevance of the community assets and public health area.

A combination of expertise should be present in your leadership team. This includes expertise from across:

  • the arts
  • humanities
  • social sciences
  • environmental sciences
  • biomedicine
  • law
  • policy
  • economics.

At least one should be from a discipline covered by a research council other than AHRC.

At least one investigator should be from within an arts and humanities discipline, including but not limited to:

  • arts
  • culture
  • health and medical humanities
  • advanced studies
  • museum studies
  • nature and community engagement
  • law.

At least one investigator should be from other disciplines, including but not limited to:

  • health inequalities
  • population health sciences (epidemiology, biostatistics, health psychology, medical sociology or health economics)
  • nursing and other allied science
  • law and criminal justice
  • health systems and improvement
  • ecosystems services
  • environmental science
  • implementation sciences
  • social sciences (including law and criminal or social justice, demography and geography or education)
  • built environment.

The proposal should clearly explain the division of roles between the principal investigator and the rest of the leadership team. You are encouraged to include non-academic partners as co-investigators.

The leadership team must contribute a significant proportion of their time to the overall leadership and coordination of their consortium-building grant.

The proposal should outline a clear management structure for the grant, detailing how the project will be managed day to day. We require each project to include an academic network coordinator or project coordinator as part of the leadership team.

The successful grants will be led by a strong, transdisciplinary team who can articulate a clear shared vision for the consortium and the community of relevant stakeholders. They will engage beyond usual stakeholders, ensuring equitable partnerships and supporting transdisciplinary approaches in novel ways.

The leadership team should have a breadth of expertise that is commensurate with the complexity of this research area. This may require a new grouping of researchers and stakeholders, drawing on strong, existing leadership across related areas.

The leadership team will have demonstrable experience of working with a range of partners, and of supporting novel approaches to current and emerging issues.

Transdisciplinary

Successful projects will be expected to engage organisations from outside the academic sector that can contribute meaningfully to the challenges identified, such as:

  • non-governmental organisations (NGOS)
  • policy bodies
  • businesses
  • third sector and community organisations.

It is anticipated that these groups will be embedded across all research stages and that partnerships will be equitable with due consideration given for equality, diversity and inclusion.

Legacy

Proposals must demonstrate a clear vision for how the work proposed will deliver a sustainable legacy beyond the funding period, building a consortium that is ready to commence activities should further funding become available.

Key theme: community assets as part of the integration of health services

The implementation of integrated health services through ICS, and equivalents in the devolved nations provides both a challenge and an opportunity.

New legislation recognises the potential benefits of better integration between NHS, local councils and other important strategic partners such as the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector.

However, operationalising such integration in order to make community assets more readily commissionable is challenging due to the complexity and diversity of the communities ecosystem.

Community assets tend to operate at a hyper-local level, servicing small numbers of vulnerable communities, and are often financed by small-scale, short-term funding.

Hence further research is required to understand how and in what ways community assets can be mobilised to address health disparities at a larger scale, without trading off against other benefits of the community assets. For example, balancing greater access to natural assets with maintaining ecological integrity.

We are looking to see how projects can connect research on community assets with healthcare improvement and research on health disparities and health inequalities, and by linking scholarship directly with decision making at local, regional and national levels using a system-wide, transdisciplinary and interprofessional approach.

The goal is to enable community assets to forge longer-term, more sustainable relationships with ICSs, becoming a key vehicle for tackling health disparities and improving public health across the whole of the UK.

Patient and public involvement and engagement

Research is expected to proactively collaborate and engage with a range of stakeholders, including those with lived experience of health issues. Inclusion of a diverse range of members of society is strongly encouraged.

Fixed start date

Successful projects will have a fixed start date of 1 November 2022 and will be nine months in duration.

Costs

Researcher time must be fully costed as per full economic costing rules. Applications which include researcher time that is costed in part or in full as in-kind by the research organisation will be rejected.

The combined costs for non-academic co-investigators must not exceed 30% of the total 100% full economic cost of the grant application.

Eligible costs

Eligible costs could include:

  • investigator salaries (including non-academic co-investigator salaries)
  • events and workshops to co-develop research agendas
  • horizon scanning
  • research activities, for example research staff, consumables, and costs of running the award including project management and administrative support
  • equitable partnership building and engagement activities with researchers and partners to identify research needs and opportunities, and to co-design and co-develop research agendas
  • training and skills development
  • local asset, landscape or network mapping
  • supporting PPIE including funding for lived experience or community researchers
  • early career researchers are strongly encouraged to be included within consortium building plans. Appropriate support and mentoring for these individuals should be provided, ensuring support and career development opportunities.

What we will not fund

The following is not within scope:

  • applications where the investigators are from within a single disciplinary area
  • applications with a single investigator
  • research around the efficacy of arts, nature, community and other place-based interventions for health
  • research where the primary benefit is outside of the UK.

Additional funding conditions

Collaborative working within the programme

The researchers funded through this opportunity will be expected to work cooperatively with:

  • the AHRC programme director for health disparities
  • other grant holders funded under the Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Disparities programme.

For more details, please see ‘additional info’.

How to apply

Intention to submit

Please notify us of your intention to submit by emailing heh@ahrc.ukri.org by 16:00 on 1 June 2022.

Your email should include:

  • the title and brief abstract of your proposed research project
  • the institutions, investigators and project partners that are expected to be involved.

The notification will not be assessed, but AHRC will use the information to plan the proposal assessment and manage conflicts.

Changes in the investigators and partners involved in the project between the intention to submit and submission of a full bid through Je-S will be permitted.

Full proposals

The full proposal should be submitted through the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system by the host research organisation by 16:00 on 23 June 2022. It will not be possible to submit to the opportunity after this time.

The proposal should follow standard AHRC application guidelines.

When applying, select:

  • council: AHRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: Development Grants
  • call/type/mode: Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Disparities: 21 Jun 2022.

The Je-S application form must be submitted by 23 June 16:00.

The following is a list of attachments to upload for this opportunity (please see section four of the AHRC funding guide for further information about these attachments):

  • case for support: no more than seven pages of A4
  • CVs for named researchers: no more than two sides of A4 each
  • publication lists: no more than one side of A4 each
  • visual evidence (optional): no more than two sides of A4
  • data management plan: no more than two pages of A4
  • justification of resources: no more than two pages of A4
  • work plan (optional): no more than one side of A4
  • project partner letter of support for each project partner named: no more than two sides of A4 each
  • additional attachment.

Additional attachment

In addition to the standard attachments identified above, we also require a mandatory additional attachment. This will be shared with our lived experience reviewers (select ‘other attachment’ on Je-S).

This attachment should be no more than two sides A4 and should describe the proposal for a non-academic audience, its potential for impact and approach to engagement with those with lived experience. Specifically, this should include:

  • what does your project propose to do?
  • who is involved in your project and what their skills and experience contribute
  • a clear description of how people with lived experience will be meaningfully involved in the project if awarded and a justification of how this approach and level of engagement is appropriate.

How we will assess your application

Assessment criteria

Applications will be assessed on:

  • fit to scheme
  • appropriate expertise, alongside clear identification and plan to address any gaps over the project
  • appropriateness of partners
  • justification of resources and value for money (including any non-academic co-investigator costs)
  • suitable investigator time allocated to the project
  • meaningful plans for patient and public involvement and engagement
  • ethical considerations and management plan
  • potential for social and economic benefit, including community and health partners, but especially for those experiencing health disparities
  • applications should support the development or extension of equitable partnerships and be consistent with principles of equitable partnership development or working
  • potential contribution to capability development
  • potential for the activities to lead to outcomes, legacies, collaborations or capabilities which are sustainable beyond the end of the award, for example a fully functioning consortium should further funding become available.

The funders will use the recommendations of the panel along with the overall funding opportunity requirements and the available budget in making the final funding decisions.

The funders reserve the right to use the recommendations to create a balanced portfolio across research themes and remits. We strongly recommend that you read the background information below to ensure their proposal meets the assessment criteria.

Process

Applications that meet the criteria set out in this document will be sent to peer reviewers with the necessary knowledge and expertise in the area of the proposal.

Reviewed applications will then be sifted, and those agreed by the reviewers to not be within the fundable range of grades will not proceed any further in the process.

Reviews for all other proposals will be returned to the principal investigator via Je-S for response. Responses need to be returned to AHRC through this system. If a response is not received from the principal investigator within the period stated, then the application will proceed to the panel without it.

AHRC will convene a moderating panel for this opportunity in early October 2022, at which the applications, reviews and responses will be considered.

The aim of the panel is to provide AHRC with clear direction as to which applications are considered the highest priority for funding (learn more about how AHRC panels work). AHRC aims to contact all principal investigators with the outcome of this panel as soon as possible and within two weeks of it taking place.

Research ethics

All applications should include a discussion of research ethics. Ethical issues should be interpreted broadly and may encompass areas where regulation and approval processes exist as well as areas where they do not.

You must ensure that the proposed research will be carried out to a high ethical standard and must clearly state how any potential ethical and health and safety issues have been considered and will be addressed.

You must ensure that all necessary ethical approval is in place before the research commences and all risks are minimised.

This should be included in the case for support. More guidance can be found on the UKRI website.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Health and Environmental Humanities team

Email: heh@ahrc.ukri.org

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Webinars

We held two webinars for potential applicants led by Professor Helen Chatterjee, programme director for health disparities and organised by AHRC.

The webinars provided information and guidance on this funding opportunity and included a question and answer session.

At the webinar, it was possible to request support in finding collaborators with specific expertise. Use the links below to watch the webinar recordings:

Background

In the past decade, there has been increased recognition of the links between economic, social and health disparities, and of the uneven distribution of health outcomes within and between UK communities.

Read the Fair Society Healthy Lives (The Marmot Review) (Institute of Health Equity) and Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On (Institute of Health Equity).

Cultural, natural and community assets are known to improve health outcomes, but such resources are also unevenly distributed. Assets include:

  • artists and arts organisations
  • libraries
  • museums
  • heritage sites
  • green and blue spaces such as parks, the coastline and waterways, gyms and other sports and exercise-related assets, and legal or debt advice services.

Read the:

Addressing these disparities is more urgent in the wake of COVID-19, where people experiencing the worst disparities have been most at risk.

Read the Build Back Fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review (Institute of Health Equity).

The implementation of integrated health services (via integrated care systems, and equivalents in the devolved nations) provides both a challenge and an opportunity.

New legislation recognises the potential benefits of better integration between NHS, local councils and other important strategic partners such as the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector.

But operationalising such integration in order to make community assets more readily commissionable is challenging due to the complexity and diversity of the communities ecosystem.

Community assets tend to operate at a hyper-local level, servicing small numbers of vulnerable communities, and are often financed by small-scale, short-term funding.

Hence further research is required to understand how and in what ways community assets can be mobilised to address health disparities at a larger scale.

Wider programme

This opportunity forms part of the AHRC-led multi-year transdisciplinary programme, Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Disparities in partnership with the National Centre for Creative Health. The objectives of which are to:

  • develop testable and replicable collaborative models for integrating cultural, natural and community assets within the changing structures of health and social care, in order to achieve better integration at ICS or equivalent level
  • better understand the links between cultural, natural and community assets and health disparities at a local and ICS level, with a view to mobilising those assets within health systems to support prevention and intervention strategies, particularly for people living in the most deprived areas
  • understand the complexities, barriers and enablers of integrating the local asset ecosystem with the public health ecosystem
  • converge data and learning from a range of local models to inform the spread and adoption of collaborative models across the UK.

Phase one of this programme comprises 12 regionally distributed UKRI-funded research projects which started January 2022.

These pilot projects aim to understand the potential for health systems change by exploring how community assets are collaborating both with each other and with healthcare partners to address health disparities amongst target populations.

In tandem, a national meta-research project (led by UCL and hosted by the National Centre for Creative Health) is collating data from the 12 UKRI pilots alongside data from a number of additional community asset test sites:

  • National Centre for Creative Health and NHS England (NHSE): Creative Health Hubs (four times Test and Learn sites)
  • DEFRA, DHSC and Natural England: Green Social Prescribing Programme (seven times Test and Learn sites)
  • National Academy for Social Prescribing: Thriving Communities Fund (37 times funded projects)
  • NERC Quality of Urban Environments with Nature Connectedness and Health network (five proof of concept studies)
  • The National Lottery Community fund.

Through data mapping from the above projects, phase one is using health systems research methods to build a picture of how hyper-local community asset ecosystems operate, by understanding who is involved (the providers and their partners), and the barriers and enablers to successful interfacing with health partners.

Programme director for health disparities and the NCCH

Successfully funded consortium-building projects will work closely with AHRC’s programme director for health disparities (Professor Helen Chatterjee, UCL), hosted by NCCH and team.

The programme director for health disparities and the research team will:

  • maintain oversight of the consortium building
  • provide support and guidance
  • host regular forums for consortium coordinators to exchange information.

Lived Experience representatives will work closely with equivalent representatives from each consortium building project to develop guidance on how to include lived experience in health systems research and delivery.

Research findings will feed into UK policy making and strategic work undertaken through collaboration with:

  • NHSE
  • relevant UK government departments, for example:
    • Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)
    • Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
    • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
    • Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)
    • devolved equivalents
  • arm’s length bodies, for example:
    • ACE
    • Natural England
    • the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP)
    • Local Government Association
    • National Council for Voluntary Organisations
    • What Works Centre for Wellbeing
    • Historic Environment Scotland
    • National Survivor Users Network
    • Lived Experience Network.

The team will be responsible for all translational aspects of the programme and will continue to respond rapidly to opportunities to embed the research findings in key initiatives and drivers such as the Health and Social Care Bill, ICS White Paper and NHS Core20PLUS5.

Future direction of the programme

Future phases seek to scale up phase one research, drawing together local place-based learning across whole or part of an ICS (or equivalent in the devolved nations), with a view to developing and testing models for collaborative partnership working across the community asset ecosystem.

Developing such models will test the feasibility and benefits of bringing together disparate community assets within a collaborative hub or partnership, with a view to enabling them to operate more effectively across the breadth of an ICS (or equivalent), with a focus on tackling health disparities.

This ecosystem approach to tackling public health is known as Ecological Public Health.

Read the Ecological public health: the 21st century’s big idea? An essay by Tim Lang and Geof Rayner (National Library of Medicine).

The community asset ecosystem is potentially a key vehicle for tackling health disparities through social prescribing and health prevention strategies. However, to realise this potential, greater collaboration is needed between local community assets and statutory services at the ICS level.

Read ‘The role of cultural, community and natural assets in addressing societal and structural health inequalities in the UK: future research priorities’ article (BMC).

The fundamental objective of implementing ICSs is better integration of services across the community with a particular focus on tackling disparities and levelling up outcomes.

Read the ‘Integration and innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all (HTML version)’ policy (GOV.UK).

There is extensive evidence regarding the causes of health disparities in the UK. For example, there is a positive correlation between greater access to green spaces and reduced health disparities, but much less data or evidence regarding access to other types of community assets.

Read the Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On (Institute of Health Equity).

Deprivation indices measure access to or distance from GP surgeries, schools, and shops but not community centres, libraries, museums, parks and other green and blue assets such as the coast.

Recent UKRI-funded research has shown that people living in areas of higher deprivation are less likely to engage in community activities, but if they do engage it can have more benefits for their mental health than people in more affluent areas.

Read the ‘Associations between community cultural engagement and life satisfaction, mental distress and mental health functioning using data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS): are associations moderated by area deprivation?’ (BMJ) article.

This highlights a need to better understand the drivers of deprivation across communities at or below ICS level and link this with community asset mapping to explore the potential for more targeted services across community asset hubs.

Developing targeted solutions in collaboration with community assets affords an opportunity to direct community-led services towards those individuals living in the most deprived communities, such as those identified in NHS’s Core2PLUS5, and make better links between public health and the health of the environment by integrating pro-healthy and pro-environmental strategies.

Integrating community assets however can be challenging due to the diversity and complexity of community asset ecosystems which are hard to navigate and operate largely outside of statutory services.

Though many community assets provide programmes and services that directly address health outcomes including amongst marginalised and vulnerable individuals and communities, they tend to operate at small scales supporting small numbers of individuals.

Furthermore, most of their funding is small-scale and short-term so provision changes rapidly, restricting sustained engagement with targeted vulnerable groups, which is essential for health creation (or effective prevention) and for tackling complex health problems. The fragility of the community asset ecosystem is therefore a critical challenge..

Community asset partnerships offer a potential solution. Providing a tangible model for ICS collaboration, these partnerships would make it easier for commissioners to fund and partner with community assets.

Despite several excellent examples of collaboration across community assets in some regions (notably Gloucestershire and West Yorkshire), most community assets do not currently collaborate in any formalised partnership model as a vehicle for providing services.

Implementing such a model therefore requires significant research, development and testing, evaluating the various different recommended approaches for collaboration between the VCSE and health sectors (for example Prime Provider Model, Alliance Contractor Model, Hub and Spoke consortium) at local (ICS) level but also developing new approaches.

The purpose of phase two of this programme is therefore to build a consortium which has the potential to develop tangible models for ICS (or equivalent) collaboration between community assets and health partners.

Data sharing

Successful projects will be required to work with the programme director for health disparities, who is hosted by NCCH.

The programme director for health disparities will:

  • ensure that knowledge held by NCCH is available to projects
  • translate academic research outputs to policy and NHS systems
  • connect the programme’s projects with each other and with those in other programmes.

The following details of the successful projects will be shared for the above purposes:

  • principal investigator name and contact email
  • co-investigator name and contact email
  • project partner name and contact email
  • case for support.

How we will use your personal data

The personal data you give us will be used to facilitate the Mobilising Community Assets to Tackle Health Disparities programme through sharing applicant’s contact details with the programme director and the principal investigators of the other successful projects for collaboration and communication purposes as described above.

Your personal data will be handled in line with UK data protection legislation and managed securely. If you would like to know more, including how to exercise your rights, please see our privacy notice.

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