Research plays a key role in developing better care and treatments to address our health and wellbeing needs. Community involvement in research can help identify the most important topics for research and the best ways of researching them. Voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations play an important role in involving communities in research through their knowledge, relationships and skills in engaging with communities.
In 2021, a project involving research and VCSE organisations from across the region looked at how to develop more sustainable VCSE research partnerships to support the involvement of diverse communities in research. One recommendation from this work was the creation of a new role of VCSE Health & Wellbeing Research Partnerships Coordinator to support a more coordinated approach to collaborations.
The role is funded by National Institute for Health & Care Research (NIHR) infrastructure organisations and hosted by VONNE. Greta Brunskill is a point of contact for researchers and VCSE organisations, working to help ensure appropriate processes and reimbursement are in place to support community involvement.
In the North East and North Cumbria, VCSE Research Partnerships are bringing together the skills and expertise of VCSE and research partners. In the longer term, the aim is to see greater diversity of communities involved in research through long-lasting, reciprocal partnerships and a growing number of projects driven by community views from the very beginning.
Since July 2022, Greta Brunskill has been supporting VCSE organisations and researchers with shared interests in a wide range of health and wellbeing topics in her VCSE Health & Wellbeing Research Partnerships Coordinator role. Her most recent blog about the work she is doing to support connections and learning around partnership working for research can be found here, and an introductory blog about her interest in involvement in research can be found here.
A workplan developed for the role has drawn on insights from partners and people in the VCSE and research sectors and focuses on:
- Building capacity for partnerships by developing shared expectations and enhancing skills and knowledge.
- Supporting potential partners to connect and develop ways of working together based on reciprocity and sustainability.
- Capturing the support delivered to inform future investment in roles and resources that enable VCSE research partnerships.
Support is provided by a steering group with representation from all stakeholders including the NIHR organisations funding the role, VONNE and Cumbria CVS providing oversight and strategic direction for the role. A working group including representatives from the Creating Connections network meet bi-monthly to provide guidance on delivery of the role.
A free Community Engagement Toolkit is available to support researchers in planning for and working with community organisations. Developed by the NIHR with VCSE organisations, the toolkit provides ten principles to guide researchers in planning for and working with community organisations for health and care research. It also provides a great resource for VCSE organisations to inform their conversations with researchers.
To help support more successful VCSE research partnerships in our region, VONNE, Cumbria CVS and NIHR partners have hosted two events to encourage use of the Community Engagement Toolkit, and share learning from local VCSE organisations and researchers with experience of working in partnership. You can learn more about these events in our news pieces here.
We are now continuing this work to co-produce practical tools that will help partners put the Community Engagement Toolkit principles into practice. If you would like to find out more or learn how you can get involved in this work, you can contact Greta Brunskill using our online enquiry forms for VCSE organisations or researchers.
Greta Brunskill, VONNE's North East & North Cumbria VCSE Health and Wellbeing Research Partnerships Coordinator is happy to answer any questions if you would like to learn more about her work and the support she can offer. Get in touch by completing the relevant enquiry form.
The Integrated Care System (ICS) explained
VCSE Partnership Programme
VCSE Research Partnerships
Healthy Communities and Social Prescribing
- About the North East and North Cumbria Healthy Communities and Social Prescribing programme.
- Our Health Champions project.
Reading for Wellbeing