USE-IT! Community Day – Celebrating Community Research Together!

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Last week we held a community day to celebrate the USE-IT! project in the Signing Tree venue, a deaf cultural centre and fantastic space in Birmingham’s Ladywood area. This is such an exciting project and for me it is truly an honour to be involved with the community in this way. It’s really wonderful to have the opportunity to learn from local people who are experts about the place they live as we co-produce knowledge together. We all had a great day looking at the data gathered already, featuring presentations made by the community researchers which the University of Birmingham has trained to gather information on their own neighbourhoods. Having recruited 55 of the targeted 60 community researchers from the  community we had a graduation ceremony for those who have already completed their training. If you’re interested in becoming a researcher, there’s still time to get in touch! We also discussed the launch of a new community research CIC, with more details to follow.

USE-IT! is a major project funded by the EU’s European Regional Development Fund as part of the Urban Innovative Actions scheme. It is all about developing new mechanisms to unlock the potential of poor communities and connect them to the resources they need in order to remain resilient and escape poverty. We want to encourage sustainable urban development and make sure that regeneration benefits are delivered to local communities while at the same time empowering local people to create the conditions to stimulate social and economic innovation.

A wide range of people are working on the project and each brings their own expertise and knowledge to enrich what we are doing. Along with the team of researchers on the ground we also have partners from Birmingham City Council, Sandwell Council, the NHS, a range of charities, and community groups. Dr Peter Lee and Dr Sara Hassan at the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies are leading on the training of the community researchers. Dr Deniz Sevinc here at City-REDI has worked on designing the survey, its analysis framework and has been modelling data. I am conducting an analysis of the qualitative research data from surveys conducted in the area.

The four community researchers’ presentations on the day covered a range of interesting topics. Jeanette Derbyshire spoke about her work on community involvement in the Icknield Port Loop and surrounding area that is set to undergo a major regeneration project, and ensuring that this is integrated into the existing community – what she called “integration by interaction”. Hamid Lea has done an extensive piece of research on GP health and well-being prescribing, and he made recommendations how this could be extended to improve the services the NHS provides to the community. Deborah Broomfield talked about her journey on USE-IT!, where alongside becoming an accredited community researcher the project has encouraged her to study an MSc in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Birmingham. Gazala Aslam then spoke about her research with Equanimity Education CIC, a foundation she has set up to remove barriers to learning for young people in the local area, such as hunger. All four of these are therefore producing research outside of the University context, which is quite a bold step for everybody involved.

I presented a range of idea “clusters” for further research that City-REDI and other University departments might benefit from commissioning from the researchers in order to gather a range of rich and bespoke data. Dr Sara Hassan then finished by presenting on a new community research CIC. Once this is launched, there will be a bank of qualified researchers on the ground who can be commissioned by academic institutions, developers, charities, public sector organisations and private businesses to conduct surveys, interviews and analysis to inform the decision-making process, policies and strategies. Areas of interest for the researchers include:

  • The arts and culturally-led urban transformation
  • Improving the lives of the older generation
  • Improving the life chances of young people
  • Social entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Health and well-being
  • Migrant integration
  • Community change
  • Destitution
  • Transport
  • Food

For more information about USE-IT!, if you are interested in becoming a trained community researcher, or if you have enquiries around the new CIC, please contact either myself on L.OFarrell@bham.ac.uk or Dr Sara Hassan on S.Hassan@bham.ac.uk. We look forward to hearing from you!

This blog was written by Liam O’Farrell, Policy and Data Analyst, City-REDI, University of Birmingham.

Disclaimer: 
The opinions presented here belong to the author rather than the University of Birmingham.

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