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Community Research in County Durham

Vector Image of a Community
Supporting New Initiatives

Durham Community Action (DCA) and the Rural Design Centre (RDC) are working with the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) to develop a Community Research Network in rural County Durham.

This is as part of UK Research and Innovation's new national Community Research Network programme.

What is Community Research?

A community research network is a way of supporting local people to have an active role in research and to move away from academic research where communities sometimes feel they have been "done to".

Members of communities and community organisations have a deep knowledge of their local areas, their assets and needs, and shared issues and problems. This isn’t always recognised and used.

The Young Foundation was commissioned by UKRI to explore how communities can be more equitably involved in knowledge creation. Their findings are reported here

UKRI is building on this report to fund 25 local collaborations across the UK to explore how communities can be more actively involved in setting research agendas, contributing their experiences, collecting relevant information, and influencing positive changes in policy and practice. 

In County Durham, our project runs from March 2023 to spring 2024 and aims to build capacity in rural communities to investigate local issues. 

The community research network could support and influence decision making by bringing new evidence to light through new facts and information. Insight could contribute to improvements in outcomes for people. 

Our Progress

We’ve been listening to what local community organisations and networks in rural West Durham, and other stakeholders tell us that they hear from local people. We’ve been hearing about their experience of research and we have discussed what we need to do to create a research network with communities and how it might work. We do this through workshops, one-to-one meetings and through partnership work.  Feedback from workshops we held in July is here

In September, Sarah Banks from the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action at Durham University facilitated a Knowledge for Change Workshop, in which attendees explored ways VCSE organisations and their members are and can be involved in research on topics that matter to them. We have put together a summary of the event here

As a result, we’re starting to understand how a Community Research Network would be helpful for rural County Durham, what it might be able to achieve and what will make it successful. We are now developing a plan for future action. If we get this action plan right, we will win UKRI funding to run the research network for rural communities for a full five years from Summer 2024 to March 2029.

If you are interested in learning more about community research, we will be providing regular updates with relevant events, training and information. Please email us to join the Community Research Network mailing list.

Key Contacts

Durham Community Action

Fiona Christian, Community Partnerships Manager 

National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE)