A community research project made up of volunteers from across Stoke-on-Trent has been using creative methods to evaluate the needs of local communities and people living in the city, through finding out more about the issues affecting their day to day lives. 

ARTICLE BY ADAM GRATTON

The Keep Talking Project, which began in January 2020, led by Staffordshire University in partnership with community interest company Expert Citizens (CIC) and funded by UKRI has been working with an aim to develop sustainable structures for local people to engage in long-term, place-based research.

With the support of Expert Citizens led by director Darren Murinas, whose practise is to use people’s lived experience to make a difference to people’s lives, the project was headed up by Nicola Gratton, Lead for Civic Engagement and Evaluation at Staffordshire University.

Nicola has worked to support the team of volunteer Community Researchers to deliver the projects objectives over the last six months and said: “Staffordshire University and Expert Citizens have both benefited greatly from working in partnership on Keep Talking. We are committed to sustaining and further strengthening the partnership to secure a sustainable environment for the Keep Talking Community Research Team and enhancing community based, participatory action research in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.”

Keep-Talking-Project-Stoke-on-Trent-2020
Volunteers taking part in the Keep Talking Project research. (Image taken before lockdown.)

 

The project has looked at depth into Issues such as isolation, disability, mental ill health, and poverty to get a better insight into how residents and the communities they live in are affected. Through their research Keep Talking has delivered recommendations on how the lives of those facing hardship in can be improved.

Despite the lockdown restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the project has produced a series of useful resources for universities, community organisations and potential community researchers wanting to utilise community based participatory action research in their own work.

In delivering the project the Keep Talking Team have made sure that no stone went unturned in getting their message and work out there for all to see and hear. In the face of unprecedented times, as the restrictions around lockdown mounted, the project and those involved in it found creative ways to adapt and innovate.

Blogs, official reports and a podcast series have all been released plus various events both face to face – and online during lockdown – have taken place. The project will also soon be publishing a book of poetry created by the Community Researchers which recounts their own feelings and journeys in delivering the project.

Darren Murinas, Director of Expert Citizens said: As we all face the new normal it has never been more important that universities and local community groups work together. Over the last six months Keep Talking has brought us all closer together with new friendships forming and a new kindness shown along with how creativity can make the world a better place.”

For more information on the Keep Talking project, the work being done and the people involved you can listen to the Keep Talking Podcast: https://www.staffs.ac.uk/news/2020/08/community- researchers-keep-talking-in-lockdown-podcast

Anyone who would like to learn more can also contact Nicola Gratton by emailing: n.gratton@staffs.ac.uk

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