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Community Matters

A collaborative project between community organisations and University of Bath researchers to undertake community-based participatory research.

A visitor to a community exhibition looking at a display
Display by one of the Community Matters projects, Creativity Works


The Community Matters (2016-2018) programme involved asking local organisations to come forward with issues and problems they were facing. These organisations were paired with appropriate academics who, through a community-based participatory research process, and with funding provided, collaborated to address their questions.

Engagement category – Working together

Public group – community organisations based in Bath & North East Somerset

Engagement method – Community-based participatory research

Themes – co-production, collaborative research, local and civic engagement,

Project team

Ed Stevens, Public Engagement Unit

Jan Crawley, South West Community Matters (formerly South West Foundation)

Facts and figures

Between 2016 and 2018 16 community members of the five local organisations (Black Families Education Support Group, Creativity Works, Transition Larkhall, Triumph over Phobia and Wansdyke Play Association) were paired with 14 researchers from across the departments of Education, Health, Psychology, and Social & Policy Sciences participated in the programme.

The total budget for Community Matters was £30,600. £15,000 of which was distributed in grants direct to the five participating local organisations, other costs included: £2,700 grant management by South West Community Matters, £5,000 for the Community Matters showcase event, £3,800 on training and professional development events and £3,000 (£600 per organisation) for follow up activities to create impact from the projects.

Motivations for engagement

Three people sitting around a table discussing ideas
Researchers participating in a matchmaking event

Working with the researchers and community members of the local organisation, there were three motivations for participating in this programme. Firstly, an opportunity to create real world social change, secondly, to develop skills and knowledge and build capacity and finally to build relationships and networks. These broad motivations spoke to varying degrees to researchers who participated in Community Matters.

Purpose of engagement

two men taking part in a training session
The community members and researchers team on a Community Matter project

Community Matters aimed to:

  • advance researchers’ skills and knowledge about community-based participatory research at the University of Bath understand the role the University of Bath can play within local communities in Bath & North East Somerset

  • build relationships with ‘below the radar’ community organisations, the largest constituency of the Voluntary & Community Sector in Bath & North East Somerset

Project background

Across the University of Bath many individual researchers conduct research in and with local communities and have been doing so for some time. Community Matters was an opportunity to develop and pilot an approach to this local and civic engagement.

Engagement approach

Four people standing in front of their display
The Triumph Over Phobia team at the Community Matters showcase event

Community Matters used a model of community-based participatory research. This is a collaborative approach to research that involves researchers and members of a specific community working together in the development, implementation, and dissemination of research that is relevant to the community. It focuses on real-world problems and empowers community members to identify and resolve challenges that they face.

The Public Engagement Unit in collaboration with South West Community Matters co-produced the programme. This involved developing and delivering a match-making event to pair local organisations with appropriate academics, devising a training programme based on identified needs of researchers and community members of the local organisations and providing a funding grant scheme for the participating project. Each team then carried out their project based on a community-based participatory research approach. The local organisations who participated included:

  • Wansdyke Play Association, who explored the impact that outdoor, outreach play services had on alleviating play deprivation across Somer Valley communities.

  • Triumph over Phobia, who explored how to encourage people with anxiety problems to seek help.

  • Black Families Education Support Group, who investigated the role supplementary schooling can play in narrowing the educational achievement gaps between different ethnic groups.

  • Creativity Works , who examined how peer-led creative arts interventions help people overcome anxiety and mental health challenges.

  • Transition Larkhall, who raised awareness of the impact of the school run in Larkhall.

Once the research projects were complete the Community Matters team provided impact grants to the project teams to undertake focused activities that maximised learning from the projects, or that helped create change for organisations and / or their beneficiaries by testing findings from the research. This included a leadership programme for young people, community exhibition, toolkit, brochure and comic.

The Community Matters Summary Report provides an overview of the programme.


Using reflective interviews with academic and community participants of Community Matters we carried out evaluation on the programme. We found out that:

The model we used, community-based participatory research, helped demonstrate that community led research projects can be delivered in a robust manner and rapidly enough to deliver meaningful social change for communities.

For researchers we found out that:

  • Whilst training was valuable, researchers developed their skills and understanding of community-based research most effectively when they collaborated with local organisations on a ‘live’ project.

  • Conducting research with, as opposed to simply in, communities has challenged researchers understanding of their role in the local community.

  • Participating in the programme has enhanced and enriched both researchers’ research and teaching and learning with several undergraduate placements with partner local organisations.

For community members of local organisations we found that:

  • Developed their skills and knowledge of a range of qualitative and quantitative research techniques and their confidence in using them in their work.

  • Working with researchers allowed them an opportunity to advance their organisational aims with access to funding, validation of their work by collaborating with a well-regarded local organisation and developing methods to help provide evidence to influence policy makers.

The Community Matters Evaluation Report provides a detailed outline of the learning from the programme.

Top tips

A display of 100 toy cars lined up on a table
A display of toy cars as part of the Transition Larkhall community exhibition

If you’re interested in a collaborative community-led project like the one used in Community Matters the following are some of our top tips based on the evaluation carried out with both academic and community partners:

  • Provide a clear structure for everyone involved and work with local organisations to develop roles and responsibilities together.

  • Work with community organisations that can provide a brokering/gatekeeper role, this helped to improve academic understand the needs and ways of working of local organisations.

  • This approach took time, be prepared to invest your time in the work. To help, make sure you get buy-in from senior management within your department and share projects developments with them on a regular basis.

  • Think of this work as fostering longer-term community relationships, rather than short-term project-based collaborations.

  • Community-based participatory research was just one method used in this project, there is no one size fits all approach to community partnership research, work should be based on specific community context and the needs of community organisations within a region as well as the context and your needs as an academic.

Find out more

Check out some of these projects and resources to help you develop your approach to community-based collaborations:


If you are interested in finding out more about Community Matters, drop us a line.