England & Wales Communities and society, Democracy, devolution and governance

Championing community-led research with marginalised groups in Newham


Hearing and listening to local communities’ interests and views is arguably essential to creating policy that meets the needs of London’s diverse, transitory population. Yet, local authorities often struggle to engage the most marginalised groups, who can end up being labelled and stigmatised as ‘hard to reach or access’.

That’s why the London Borough of Newham, UCL’s Institute of Global Prosperity and local community infrastructure organisation, Compost CIC, are working together to set up a community research network, by and for, marginalised groups in Newham.

Thanks to funding from UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Community Research Networks programme, we are exploring how UCL’s highly successful Citizen Science Academy model could evolve for community organisations working with marginalised groups.

What is citizen science?

Citizen social science is an emerging area of peer research. UCL’s Citizen Science Academy trains local people to conduct high-quality research in their community on real-life issues as paid citizen scientists.

Citizens scientists then work with local power holders, like Councils and property developers, to ensure local communities’ needs and wishes are taken into account in local decision-making and planning. This approach empowers community groups to take ownership of the research and positions them as leaders in driving change within their communities.

In this way, the Academy creates a new kind of knowledge infrastructure that includes citizens, academic researchers, policymakers, voluntary, community and faith sector partners in a collaborative partnership for change.

What’s different about the Newham community research network?

With over 351,000 residents and 200 languages and dialects spoken, Newham is one of the largest and most ethnically diverse boroughs in the city and country. Its super diversity and highly-active civil society are some of its greatest strengths.

Our community research network aims to harness this energy and shift power to local community organisations working with marginalised groups to set their own research agendas and train in community-led research.

We believe this will transform how research is done locally, by harnessing the people’s lived experience and tackling issues that matter most to marginalised groups, with the potential for tangible change.

Handing over control to local community organisations will also avoid some of the major criticisms of academic-driven research, such as local communities having to repeatedly recount their stories to outsider researchers with little lived experience or understanding of their lives.

The partnership is committed to co-creating a community research network with and for marginalised groups. Compost CIC is on the hunt for community partners working with under-represented communities –  such as young people with special educational needs and disabilities, black and south Asian minoritised women, refugees and asylum seekers –  to join the partnership.

By focusing our efforts on these marginalised communities, we aim to fill the gap in representation and ensure that minoritised voices are heard by power holders in the borough. It will also evolve the Citizen Science Academy model to ensure marginalised groups benefit.

Ultimately we want the partnership to be led by community organisations, with local institutions acting as allies to embed research by and for local communities into local decisions, policy and services.

Through more equitable collaboration, and the sharing of knowledge and resources, the Community Research Network aims to build a stronger and more inclusive research ecosystem in Newham.

What’s next for the Community Research Network?

Over the next five months, we’ll be working with community organisations to co-develop a community research network model and research training programme in Newham, with and for under-represented communities.

If you’re already taking part in community research as a policy-maker, community organisation or agency, join us this Thursday 27th July at our online event, where we will be discussing different themes around How do we shift power to create community-led research?  

Want to get involved?

If you are a Newham-based community organisation, charity or social enterprise and interested in joining the partnership or network, please contact Alexis at Compost CIC.

If you are a Newham-based institution interested in working with the network, please contact Catherine at Newham Council.

Read more about UCL’s Citizen Science Academy and current programmes here.


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