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RCUK Proposed ResearchProgramme on ‘Connected Communities’ Alan Wilson University College London Chair, AHRC
CHALLENGES• define ‘communities’ for this purpose• define ‘connected’• ensure that we are adding to past research, not duplicating it• this means creating a perspective which, ultimately allows us to say something new about the ‘wicked problems’ of the urban research field
Wicked problems• inner city regeneration• ‘poor’ towns – e.g. seaside towns• responding to climate change• unemployment, long-term sickness – benefits issues• poor quality housing stock; homelessness• ‘failing’ schools• variations in levels of health provision: costs in the health service• care of the elderly• crime, prisons• multiple deprivation – long-term unemployment, NEETs – failed in, or failed by, the education system – health, obesity etc consequences
An example: outer London area student flows to universityLegend 20 students 50 students 100 students 200+ students
Inner London area student flows to universityLegend 20 students 50 students 100 students 200+ students
Inner and outer London areas student flows to university (Prospering Suburbs)Legend 20 students 50 students 100 students 200+ students
Inner and outer London areas student flows to university (Blue Collar Communities)Legend 20 students 50 students 100 students 200+ students
Interdependence• many of the questions are linked: – housing problems, which are often seen as problems of housing supply • but are actually usually income problems, • and income problems are often education/skill problems – the wicked education/multiple deprivation problems are in a sense income problems – so there is a vicious circle here – the prison problem is a mix of the cycle of deprivation, unemployment and poor income and poor mental health and education facilities in prisons
CONNECTEDNESS• communities can be connected to – jobs – income – education – health – culture – etc. – usually in other ‘places’
CORE TO THE RESEARCH?• show how different kinds of communities have different kinds of ‘connectedness bundles’• what are the levels of connectedness and the rates and kinds of change in these levels for different kinds of communities?• what does this mean for the future of education e.g.?• does multliple deprivation result from the lack of connectedness?
RESEARCHABLE PROBLEMS?• to make this worthwhile, we need to focus on the big issues – the wicked problems• shouldn’t be too micro and fragmented• but have to recognise that this field has been ploughed many times, seeds have been sown; but progress has been poor• does this need some very different kind of research? Action research? cf. an organisation like Turning Point?• research for communities rather than research on communities• focus: how to raise levels of connectedness?
RCUK Proposed Research Programme on ‘Connected Communities’Professor Shearer West,Director of Research, AHRC &Chair, Cross-Council ConnectedCommunities Working Group
Vision To enhance economic prosperity, health, sustainability and wellbeing in increasingly inter-connected, mobile and diverse communities by systematically addressing the opportunities and challenges they face through multidisciplinary research.
What do we mean by ‘Community’?• For the purposes of this Programme, and subject to further consultation, we are currently thinking of ‘communities’ as: “cooperative or interactive groups sharing a virtual or physical environment and aspects of identity (such as location, race, ethnicity, age, history, occupation), culture, belief or other common bonds and/or a shared interest in particular issues or outcomes”.• We recognise that such communities are nested and overlap and are interested both in the relationships within these communities and the interactions between communities and their outcomes for broader society and economy.
Possible Approaches to Exploring Communities Types of Community •Lifecycle (e.g. children, adolescence, older people etc) •Social, cultural economic group, ethic origin, class, religion etc •Spatial / temporal location, neighbourhood, rural/urban etc •Method of connection e.g. Virtual CommunityCross-cutting Themes Method / Approach to studye.g. e.g.•Addiction •Systems, models complexity•Crime Connected •Case studies (initiatives, Communities neighbourhoods, areas etc)•Health & well-being•Community Values •Sustainability assessment•Design for communities •Participatory research •Synthesis & data integrationUnderpinning factors e.g. infrastructure, ecosystems services Drivers of Change e.g. Environmental, Population, Technological , Cultural Change, Globalisation, etc
Why Connected? In terms of the research it will examine: • The changing connections - and disconnections - between individuals & groups within communities & the (dis-) connections between different communities. • The connections between communities and their broader environments • The connections between research issues often considered in isolation to deliver more integrated understanding of the roles of, and impacts on, communities.
Connecting Issues Health and well-being Local Infrastructure environment & services & sustainability Connected Communities Innovation & Social Diversity economic & Cohesion development Vibrant Empowerment Culture & Participation
Why Connected? In terms of how the Programme will achieve its objectives through connecting: • existing research & researchers, knowledge and data from across disciplines to deliver more integrated understanding • UK and international research • researchers & stakeholders in the co-production of knowledge and knowledge exchange • research with (& for) communities
Why now?• The global economic crisis will increase reliance on strong, culturally vibrant & cohesive communities that can embrace diversity.• Communities have a vital role to play in providing the capacity to enable the UK to accelerate out of the recession• Economic downturn may create tensions, stresses, disaffection , crime and other problems within communities. We should anticipate, in order to prevent, these problems.• Research emerging from areas such as energy, the environment, security and lifelong health is highlighting the increasing significance of understanding communities
Policy Context• Connected Communities is relevant to at least half of the 30 PSA targets, including: - 14. Increase the number of children and young people on the path to success - 18. Promote better health and wellbeing for all - 21. Build more cohesive, empowered & active communities - 23. Make communities safer - 25. Reduce the harm caused by alcohol & drugs Most of these PSA targets are not covered by other RCUK Programmes
Examples of Potential Research Questions • How could quality of life be enhanced through the development of vibrant & diverse cultural environments, & supportive inclusive social, family & community networks? • How could more attractive, resilient, safe and sustainable community environments in which to live be created?
Examples of Potential Research Questions • How could public services & institutional reform be delivered to better meet the diverse & evolving needs of individuals & communities? • How can the challenges to healthy living, physical & mental well-being, particularly in social sub-groups with lower connectivity and/or social support, be addressed more effectively?
Examples of Potential Research Questions • How could trust, a sense of belonging, active citizenship, civic values, public participation and democratic processes within modern communities be enhanced best be supported? • What new approaches could be taken to tackle urban crime and anti-social behaviour, and promote community safety and civic responsibility?
Examples of Potential Research Questions • What role can communities play in accelerating progress towards more environmentally sustainable and a more resource efficient society • How might planning, design and infrastructure within complex, interactive, evolving urban systems be improved to better meet changing societal & community needs?
Examples of Potential Research Questions • What new approaches could be taken to tackle addiction, including the increased use of narcotics and other drugs, taking into account the inter-play between biological factors, individual decisions & social & cultural contexts? • How can pressures toward social disintegration and the problems it causes be counteracted?
Examples of Potential Research Questions • How could creativity, innovation & enterprise, clusters, social & cultural capital and creative, cultural & service industries be fostered more effectively in communities to underpin competitiveness and urban & neighbourhood economic renewal?
Examples of how an RCUK ConnectedCommunities Programme could Add Value• Facilitate cross-Council multi- & inter- disciplinary collaborations on key societal issues not addressed under current RCUK Programmes.• Promote more integrated approaches e.g. by drawing together current research and data; through developing systems, integrated assessment & participatory approaches; and community case studies etc• Provide a new focus on the community level of analysis & on changing patterns of connectivity.• Promote co-production of knowledge and partnerships.• Act as a focus for KT, public engagement & international collaboration.
How we are Developing the Programme• Cross-Council Working Group with representatives from AHRC, ESRC, EPSRC, MRC, NERC.• Analysing relevant inputs to individual Councils’ future strategy consultations• Building on consultation and development activities undertaken in a number of areas (e.g. Sustainable Urban Environments, Addiction, Civility, Energy and Communities).• Consultation with some key stakeholders (e.g. Communities & Local Government, Home Office, Ministry of Justice, Office for the Third Sector, Equality and Human Rights Commission).
How we are Developing the Programme• Consultation event with Local Government held on 1 June 2009 in partnership with LARCI.• Today’s cross-Council expert consultation workshop.• Councils to review outcomes of consultations in developing their new Delivery Plans• Plan to establish an expert working/advisory group.• Consider potential early activities to stimulate development activities such as ‘highlight notices’ e.g. in research networking schemes.• Possible further more focused consultation activities to develop new initiative proposals.