£1.1 million for research strengthening communities’ role in wellbeing

31 May 2022

The British Academy, in partnership with the Nuffield Foundation, has awarded £1.1 million to six research teams that will inform policy and practice on how communities can improve social wellbeing across the UK.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have highlighted the essential role communities play in individual and collective wellbeing. At the same time, deep-seated inequalities of ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status have been exposed and exacerbated.

Over the next two years, the six projects will engage with communities to improve our understanding of the characteristics that make some communities more vulnerable or resilient than others.

The six projects were developed during an Understanding Communities research innovation workshop, which brought together early and mid career researchers from different disciplines, national and local policymakers, as well as people working in local community organisations. Together, the Understanding Communities projects aim to improve individual and collective wellbeing and will include towns, cities and rural areas across the four nations of the UK.

The projects are:

  • "Nature-based Integration: Connecting Communities With/in Nature" – Dr. Azadeh Fatehrad (Kingston University) and Davide Natalini (Anglia Ruskin University)
  • "Using Administrative Data to Understand Community Wellbeing" – Professor Lasana Harris (University College London)
  • "The Role of Communities and Connections in Social Welfare Legal Advice" – Dr Sarah Nason (Bangor University)
  • "Rural Assets: Policy and Practice Insights from the Devolved Nations" – Dr Danielle Hutcheon (Glasgow Caledonian University)
  • "Transformative Justice, Women with Convictions and Uniting Communities" – Dr Tirion Havard (London South Bank University)
  • "Beyond School Gates: Children’s Contribution to Community Integration" – Dr Mona Sakr (Middlesex University).

The British Academy-Nuffield Foundation ‘Understanding Communities’ collaboration builds on the Academy’s ongoing Cohesive Societies project, which explores how societies can remain cohesive in the face of rapid political, social, economic and technological change.

Professor Dominic Abrams, Co-Chair of the Understanding Communities collaboration and Fellow of the British Academy, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis have exposed the vulnerabilities of communities up and down the country and pose a generational threat to our collective and individual wellbeing. Understanding how communities work and why some weather crises more effectively than others will be vital if we are to come through these challenges and create a robust, inclusive and resilient modern economy.

“We are delighted to partner with the Nuffield Foundation on this timely and distinctive collaboration and wish the research teams the best of luck with their projects. We look forward to seeing the results.”

Professor Ash Amin, Co-Chair of the Understanding Communities collaboration, Trustee of the Nuffield Foundation and Fellow of the British Academy, said:

“Place, local communities, and social wellbeing are connected, but in complicated ways. Together these new Understanding Communities projects will inform policy and practice by enhancing our understanding of how communities – local and dispersed – can increase or mitigate inequalities.

“By bringing together researchers, policymakers and people working in community support settings, these projects will help to identify practical proposals for action to help the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society.”

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