AHRC Commons Fellowship - R Clay

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: School of Arts and Cultures

Abstract

The AHRC Commons will be aimed at gathering together arts and humanities researchers alongside cognate bodies and international peers to develop joint initiatives, connect dispersed undertakings, provide for a discussion and build a shared case for the importance of arts and humanities research to national and international life.' The remit of the AHRC Commons is broad and an overview is outlined in full in the Strategy.

The AHRC Commons Fellow will be able to demonstrate strategic leadership and have the ability to manage complex projects.

Publications

10 25 50

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
AH/M504221/1 01/09/2014 31/08/2015 £425,471
AH/M504221/2 Transfer AH/M504221/1 01/09/2015 31/08/2017 £283,871
 
Title Utopia: in search of the dream 
Description 3 x 60-minute BBC4 documentaries that were written and presented by the AHRC Commons Fellow (Clay) and that aired in August 2017. Notions of 'the commons' and 'commonsing' past and present were cross-cutting themes throughout the series that explored utopian thinking and practice across cultures, periods, and art forms. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The films were critically lauded by reviewers and previewers across the UK's broadsheet press, viewing figures were good, and large numbers of individuals commented on social media on the films and their thoughts on utopia. The films economically benefitted the production company, Clear Story, and have been licensed to 2 overseas markets (with more pending). 
 
Description The findings of our first year of consultation with the membership of the AHRC Commons (which is to say, anyone from any sector engaged in arts and humanities research projects) was reported to a session of the Museum Association conference in 2015 attended by c.200 museum professionals. The session was focused on the relationships between HEIs and the museum sector. That session was one of a series of consultative events that involved the Fellowship team engaging with more than 700 individuals drawn from across disciplines and sectors who self-identified as members of the AHRC Commons. The consultation, that ended in September 2015, led the team to organise (ably assisted by more than 70 of those individuals consulted) a national event where 220 individuals from diverse professional backgrounds were involved in running almost 100 activities across 9 zones for one another and more that 230 other event attendees at the University of York in June 2016. The Fellowship team conducted quantitative and qualitative research into the perceived benefits that those 450+ individuals accrued from engaging with the the AHRC Commons 'Common Ground' event. Given the diversity of the professional backgrounds of those involved, it is quite possible that societal, cultural, economic, and policy and public service impact resulted across a broad range of sectors as a result of the new collaborations that were brokered by the community at the event.

The AHRC Commons Fellowship team conducted quantitive and qualitative evaluation of the value that the event was felt to have had for people who were involved in it. This research informed a report submitted to the AHRC Council in December 2016. The report shows the event helped members of the AHRC Commons community to:
• Generate new knowledge and expertise
• Explore key issues and develop new projects
• Establish new teams to make more ambitious work possible
• Share good practice in research, collaboration, and public engagement
• Develop protocols and values that facilitate work across the diverse AHRC Commons community
• Continue to build a shared case for the importance of arts and humanities research in national and international life

The AHRC Commons Fellowship team's evaluation indicates a desire among the AHRC Commons community for further AHRC Commons activities. Specifically, the evaluation showed that there is an appetite among the community for: further national AHRC Commons events; smaller scale, themed, regional events; new online resources; a peer reviewed journal; and publications aimed at a broader audience. With the exception of the latter example, all the other future activities align broadly with those noted as potential outputs for the AHRC Commons in the AHRC 2013 - 18 Strategy. While there was no explicit demand for the kind of ECR-specific AHRC Commons activities mentioned in that document, there was a high level of ECR engagement with Common Ground and with the evaluation. The evaluation noted a commitment across the AHRC Commons community to ensuring that the initiative remains strongly engaged with issues facing ECRs. A member of the AHRC Commons Oversight Group has suggested that a PGR/ECR AHRC Commons working group could be established. Indeed, other working groups could also feed into any future developments of the AHRC Commons without incurring considerable expense.

An important theme that emerged strongly in the evaluation pertained to the development of AHRC Commons online 'brokerage'. As noted above, we take these to be tools that, like Common Ground, enable members of the AHRC Commons community to broker relationships with one another. Indeed, if adapted to work with smartphones, such tools could be used by attendees at future events and might go some way to addressing a 'stress' that one attendee noted when they asked 'Where is my tribe?' It is likely that other attendees had such a feeling amidst the diversity of activities at Common Ground. Digital tools would help members of the community find those with whom they share interests before, during, and after any future AHRC Commons events.

Finally, the evaluation noted additional areas where the event added considerable value. Notably, Common Ground succeeded in 'filling the gaps' between many of the major AHRC areas of investment, providing a national forum for cross-fertilisation between them and a wide range of other initiatives that are not AHRC funded. People engaged in the work of the AHRC Themes were active across the event's zones and the evaluation noted that there was considerable scope for the Themes to learn from, and feed into, any future developments of the AHRC Commons initiative.
Exploitation Route An article based on the evaluation research outlined above will be published in due course. The 'bottom up', cross-sector, and cross-disciplinary approach to collaboration that was enabled by the AHRC Commons consultation and national event might prove interesting to a wide range of sectors and could be taken forward and put to use by teams interested in seeking to encourage broad 'communities' to broker new and sometimes unexpected, yet mutually beneficial, collaborations.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Transport

 
Description Some of the findings of the team's research into the appetite for, and engagement with, the AHRC Commons initiative shaped the AHRC Commons Fellow's writing and presenting of 3 x 60-minute BBC4 documentaries, 'Utopia: in search of the dream' (broadcast August 2017), that explored notions of 'the commons' and of 'commonsing' past and present. The documentary was produced by a independent production company, Clear Story, for BBC4.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment,Healthcare,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description AHRC Commons consultation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact In a series of meetings, focus groups, and workshops held across the UK, my research team and I engaged with over 700 members of the diverse AHRC Commons community (which is to say, a wide range of people from various sectors who are engaged in arts and humanities research). In almost all engagements, our discussion of the AHRC Commons initiative provoked questions, discussion, and near unanimous support for the AHRC Commons initiative. The consultation process helped my team to formulate the format and themes of the first AHRC Commons national event (to be held on 21 June 2016 at University of York) and to recruit 20 'zone leads' who will 'curate' activities at that event involving up 230 members of the AHRC Commons community. In total, the event will gather up 600 members of the AHRC Commons to exchange knowledge, develop new initiatives, and begin to articulate a strong argument for the value of the arts and humanities nationally and internationally
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016
URL http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/about/ahrc-commons/
 
Description AHRC Commons national event, 'Common Grond' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact With the support of members of the cross-disciplinary and cross-sector AHRC Commons community, the AHRC Commons team organised a national event, 'Common Ground' at the University of York that was attended by more than 450 people of various career stages who were based in universities, cultural or heritage organisations, SMEs, third sector organisations, or who were freelancers/sole traders. Accordingly, activities at the event were diverse, ranging from presentations to debates, from a hackathon to performances of dance, opera, theatre and song, from the production of digital tools to badges, blue plaques and art works, from training sessions to demonstrations of research techniques and results. Evaluation of the event during the 8 weeks that followed showed that 90% (56) of respondents thought that attending 'Common Ground' had helped them to generate new knowledge. Analysis of the questionnaire identified key themes relating to how 'Common Ground' helped respondents to: develop knowledge of a wide range of other research initiatives and/or projects; develop a better understanding of the diversity of cross-disciplinary projects, thereby gaining new perspectives; and engage in informal conversations that led to the sharing of knowledge. As one respondent noted, such conversations could 'result in cross-disciplinary collaborations that push knowledge in new directions'. Some respondents noted that 'Common Ground' had encouraged them to think beyond 'traditional' research projects and means of engagement. Respondents also noted that 'Common Ground; had helped them develop new approaches to public engagement, improved knowledge of new technologies, of issues relating to public engagement, and of working in collaboration with schools and with community groups. More specifically, in the word's of one respondent, 'Common Ground' 'helped me establish a way forward of building an app of my own'. Another said that the event had 'helped us think about how we [...] we might emulate [REACT's] work in deprived (abandoned) northern communities close to home'. The People's Museum (Manchester) noted that their team had been 'enabled' by being 'in an environment where concerns of archive, the public, politics and opinions were shared and seen to be researched and engaged with.' Anecdotal evidence emerged during the final year of the Fellowship that notions of 'Commons' and 'Commonsing' were shaping new cross-disciplinary and cross-sector projects. For his part, the AHRC Commons Fellow used lessons learned from the initiative and wrote and presented 3 x 60-minute BBC4 documentaries, 'Utopia: in search of the dream' (broadcast August 2017) in which notions of 'the commons' and of 'commonsing' past and present featured as cross-cutting themes throughout the series.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/about/ahrc-commons/
 
Description Utopia: in search of the dream 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 3 x 60-minute BBC4 documentaries that were written and presented by the AHRC Commons Fellow (Clay) and that aired nationally in August 2017. Notions of 'the commons' and 'commonsing' past and present were cross-cutting themes throughout the series that explored utopian thinking and practice across cultures, periods, and art forms. The films were critically lauded by reviewers and previewers across the UK's broadsheet press, viewing figures were good, and large numbers of individuals commented on social media on the films and their thoughts on utopia (including about 'commons' and 'commonsing'). The films economically benefitted the production company, Clear Story, and have been licensed to 2 overseas markets (with more pending).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017