Communities in history: representing and building the creative power of people to improve health and well-being

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Social Sciences


Communities in the UK are under pressure. Geographical neighbourhoods are stripped of their resources and their raisons d'etre; occupational solidarity is broken up by de-industrialization, recession and austerity; and communities of identity are subject to various forms of social exclusion, disenfranchisement and discrimination. Historic patterns of culture, connectivity and meaning are churned and turned upside down by global economic developments. With the 'weight of the world' bearing down so heavily, how do communities survive, adapt or resist, let alone flourish? How do families and households manage without work and with cutbacks in essential benefits and services? And how do individuals retain any sense of hope or meaningful purpose in conditions of such separation and alienation? Evidence suggests that to maintain thriving communities, citizens must take ownership of the building of resilience in their communities. The aims of the project are: to explore how stories from and about communities connect with forms of resilience and resistance and relate to the maintenance of health and wellbeing; and to investigate the forms these stories take in knowledge production, dissemination and exchange and how they can best inform the development of appropriate policies, services and community action to promote health and wellbeing.

This proposal is for a development grant to support the writing of a project proposal for a larger study.

This project contributes to the Connected Communities Programme in developing more fine-grained ways by which communities and their connections can be understood. We will look at these in relation to their historical and cultural contexts, as part of wider social economic structural changes and across different social and demographic groups. The programme through its initiatives aims to foster positive relationships within communities which in turn foster mutual solidarity helping overcome stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. There is considerable potential for developing methodology and research tools within new knowledge spaces which connect communities, researchers and policy makers and maximise impact. The project also seeks to identify ways in which communities can collaborate with policy and public service representatives to contribute to the promotion of health and social cohesion; and give communities the tools to help explore more systematically how best to make improvements themselves to their health and wellbeing.

During the four months four meetings will be held to bring together academic researchers, policy makes, practitioners and community members. Three meetings will be country specific and will involve the 10 applicants plus up to ten key stakeholders from communties, and policy and practice worlds, many of who have already worked with the applicants in the past. At each of these meetings a paper will provide the basis for discussion, providing a step towards the development of the proposal for the larger project.

A final meeting will include the academic team and will provide opportunities for reflection on the country-specific meetings, drawing out salient lessons and themes, confirming the main components of the project. The process will mean that the proposal will have been internally fully discussed and agreed, and will include the insights and knowledge of other stakeholders to ensure impact for the large project if it is funded.

Planned Impact

Engagement with communities, policy and practice and wider publics is central to our research vision and underpins our collaborative approach to user-engagement and knowledge exchange. Our approach is shaped by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, AHRC and research council guidance and our team's vast experience in conducting community and policy engaged participatory research which seeks to promote citizens' knowledges and to dialogue with policy and practice.
Policy and community impact: Our vision for knowledge transfer and exchange:
A key objective of the research is to explore the scope and potential of the creative arts for understanding community health and well-being, insights from which are of manifest significance to a broad range of external stakeholders. To this end, we are committed to ensuring broad engagement and knowledge exchange across and between various sectors and have a sound strategy for achieving this through:
Involvement of national and local agencies: A significant objective of the proposed research is to involve and inform research users, communities, policy makers and health and social care practitioners through mutual knowledge exchange. To this end, national and local agencies, representatives from the voluntary sector, community groups and stakeholders have been invited to participate in the important discussions which are shaping our research vision.
Collaborative engagement
As the case for support elaborates, during the four months of proposal development four meetings will bring together researchers, policy makers, practitioners and community members to commence and continue important conversations. Insights from our respective disciplines and research knowledges will inform our discussions of the potential of creative methods in order to generate understandings of community well-being and resilience. As well as initiating vital conversations between policy and practice, policy-makers and publics, it is envisaged that meetings will generate important dialogues between disciplines in order to enhance arts and humanities and social science theory, methodology and practice.
Participant-shaped research design, methodology and knowledge exchange
Our vision for the larger proposal is that participants will be key drivers in shaping the research design, methods and policy messages. The potential of visual representations (films, photographs, public and targeted exhibitions and film screenings) and narrative methods to help shape policy, and impact positively on practitioners and disrupt widely held misapprehensions about communities and individuals is currently being realized in academic and arts practice. We welcome the opportunity to contribute to the growing body of important work in this field. At this early stage our vision is that participants would be instrumental in making and shaping research outputs and messages through participatory methods of their choosing. However, an important caveat is our recognition that communities are not always consensual, can be exclusive and can be a locus for conflict and moreover that our involvement with them may be both a force for good but may also exacerbate conflicts and negative feelings of belonging and disconnect. Not only can this be disconcerting for individuals and communities (and we will have a robust ethical framework to ensure that communities and participant are not harmed) but for this reason, an important strand of the proposed research would include a theoretical elaboration of the politics and processes of participation - the how and who of participation. This would constitute an important contribution to our understandings of the ways in which arts-based methods can enhance research participation and what they might offer in terms of a more nuanced understanding of social inequalities and well-being.


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Description This award was Seed Corn Funding to develop a collaborative proposal which was awarded under the Connected Communities Program
First Year Of Impact 2012