Connecting Welsh communities
24 January 2013
An innovative programme designed to engage people across South Wales in decisions that affect their communities has been given the go-ahead thanks to a £2.4M funding boost from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
The 'Productive Margins: Regulation for Engagement' research programme is a joint collaboration between Cardiff University and the University of Bristol, which will see experts in law, arts, humanities and the social sciences link-up with community organisations and social enterprises in post-industrial South Wales.
Beginning in April 2013, the project aims to re-shape the way in which decision making is made by connecting communities in South Wales with researchers to co-produce new forms of engagement across politics, policy and the arts.
Community groups will work with academics to design a research programme that is focused around the needs of the community rather than the interests of powerful institutions. The programme will seek to understand how neighbourhoods can become bridges to engagement with regulators, policy-makers and businesses, and identify new forms of consultation.
Dr Eva Elliott, a member of the programme's Management Team from the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, said: "We are living in troubled times. Austerity is hitting already bruised communities in South Wales even harder.
"Universities are an important resource and the research provides an opportunity for communities, academics, creative artists and policy makers to think and act together to discover and articulate solutions for our times.
"Working in two increasingly divergent national policy contexts we welcome the opportunity for comparing, sharing and learning from different approaches to community mobilisation and engagement."
The teams will be experimenting with websites and social media to create on-line opportunities for communities to access expertise and develop new skills to engage in policy-making and politics.
Sue Cohen, CEO of Single Parent Action Network which supports single parents to empower themselves and take control of their lives and a member of the programme's Management Team, added: "This is a groundbreaking project bringing together grassroots groups and researchers to co-produce participation in decision making across politics, policy and the arts.
"Regulation can stifle creativity and voice, particularly in communities more isolated from the mainstream. Our ambition in this exciting project is to release capacity and voice digitally, artistically and across diverse communities.
"Together, we will find spaces to share, learn and inspire, creating new ways forward for participating in policy development and decision-making."