Department of Social & Policy Sciences

Evaluation of social innovation learning pilots

Thu Dec 21 17:09:00 GMT 2017


Dr Louise Brown speaking at the Engage 2017 Confernce

— The report findings were presented at the Engage 2017 Conference held in Bristol.


Dr Louise Brown from our Department of Social & Policy Sciences recently presented findings from report evaluating the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) social innovation programmes.

Released last week and presented at the Engage 2017 Conference held in Bristol, the learning from this evaluation is intended to inform funding organisations regarding the potential of universities to act as catalysts to facilitate and co-create services that can lead to direct societal impact.

Six project teams were funded by HEFCE to pilot collaboratively designed innovative programmes covering a range of social issues including:

  • young men’s mental health
  • equipping student leaders to address sexual violence on campuses
  • bringing together local and university communities
  • preventative healthcare for young people
  • promoting tolerance amongst divers groups of young people
  • examining how university and community can work together to address poverty

The evaluation sought to examine the barriers and opportunities that arose through the six pilot sites and identify any lessons to be learned from the overall piloting process for future activity by funders.

The report demonstrates that universities can act as catalysts for the facilitation and development of collaborative innovative knowledge exchange programmes. Whilst these social innovation pilots - and sometimes topics - represent a change in role for many of the academics and knowledge exchange professionals, they proved that their knowledge and research skills were relevant in this context.

It suggests that the factors that contributed to the success of the pilots included significant networking and partnership activity and having co-creation and co-design as central components of the development process. The challenges the teams faced included timing, managing contracts and securing ongoing funding to move towards implementation.

Overall the programme of work achieved its aims. A number of lessons can be drawn regarding: the type of guidance and support offered to project teams during the process; timing; managing expectations and ambitions; and the need to focus upon sustainability if the ideas are to move to implementation and have long-lasting impact.

Dr Louise Brown said: “In 2015, HEFCE invited universities and community groups to collaboratively design knowledge exchange pilot projects. This was an exciting programme of work that by the end had involved 16 different universities, over 30 community groups and local businesses and engaged over 500 young people. The evaluation flagged up how this type of activity can produce useful outputs that have social value and can be used to lever additional funding to take them forward”.

Access the report.