Funding success for Community Research and Engagement Project

Dr Richard Marsden, Lecturer in History, with Sarah Roberts of the OU in Wales and partner Linc Cymru, have been successful in their bid for funding for a community research and engagement project with participants in Blaenau Gwent (South Wales).

The award of ÂŁ37.5k, from the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) “Enhancing place-based partnerships in public engagement” competitive ÂŁ500k pathfinder funding, will be matched by a further ÂŁ18.5k in kind from the OU and project partner Linc Cymru housing association. The UKRI fund supports eligible research organisations UK-wide to pilot place-based public engagement partnerships and activities. Of 91 bids from universities across the UK, just 19 were successful

The project – BG Reach (Blenau Gwent Residents Engaging in Arts, Community and Heritage) – will enable participants from marginalised communities to explore their own sense of heritage and identity through the creative arts. A series of workshops facilitated by Open University tutors are at the heart of the project. These will support community members to reflect on local heritage and its relevance to their own sense of identity. Participants will be supported to articulate those reflections through creative endeavours such as fiction, art, song-writing and oral history.

At the end of the project, a multi-media exhibition of participants’ work, designed by community members, will be toured and made available online. The team will produce a report on the challenges, and their solutions, to community-based co-production experienced by the project, and a journal article using the exhibition to explore links between heritage and identity in the South Wales Valleys. Pathways towards formal study will also be created for those participants, enthused by the informal learning in the creative workshops, who wish to further their studies.

The intention is to seek further funding which would enable widening the project out to other disadvantaged communities across the UK.

“This is one of 53 pilot projects that we have funded, all using exciting ways that researchers and innovators can involve the public in their work. In 2020 and beyond, we will build on the lessons we learn through funding these pilot projects to help us achieve our ambition of making research and innovation responsive to the knowledge, priorities and values of society and open to participation by people from all backgrounds.” – Tom Saunders, Head of Public Engagement, UK Research and Innovation.

UK Research and Innovation works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. It operates across the whole of the UK with a budget of more than £7 billion.