Impacts Between Academic Researchers and Community Partners: Some Critical Reflections

Impacts Between Academic Researchers and Community Partners: Some Critical Reflections

Impacts between researchers and community partners 

Hannah Macpherson, School of Environment and Technology University of Brighton. Angie Hart, School of Applied Social Science University of Brighton. Becky Heaver, School of Applied Social Science University of Brighton.

Abstract

At the moment we are working on an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) connected communities’ research grant exploring the resilience benefits of visual arts practice. As we write this Hannah has a headache and keeps on thinking about budgets in the bath and Angie is tired after a night of writing the next bid for follow on funding! We are all involved in the complex process of engaged, impactful participatory research and at times suffer some of the symptoms of this labour intensive and contradictory process. Our current research project involves a scoping study with community partners and young people facing mental health complexity and / or learning difficulty.

There are all sorts of ways in which this work can be said to ‘have impact’ under the latest the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) impact criteria, where impact is defined as “an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia” (REF, 2011, paragraph 140). Initial qualitative evidence has begun to show how the project is enhancing the wellbeing of young people who regularly attend. The project is also enabling arts practitioners and their organizations to learn about the resilience literature and reflect on the resilience benefits of their work. However, the term impact itself remains problematic for us, for impact implies a one way process of knowledge transfer rather than a more subtle process of co-working and impact between participants which has occurred during this project.

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