Community Matters continues to promote the importance of research into communities and their needs. Undertaking this research by trained local community members has proven to be tranformational not just for the individuals who have undertaken the community research training but also for local communities with vital information about their local neighbourhoods.
Southwest Foundation comissioned reports into the successes of the Community Researcher Program. To find out more about how the community researcher programme works the reports are available to interactively view or download below.
In Torbay, Kath Snowdon was one of the first Community Researchers to receive our training; she now runs and chairs the Great Parks Community Centre in Paignton.
The Centre for Community Research and Action is managed by South West Foundation and based on their five years of experience of deliverying Community Researcher and Action Programmes. The Centre can now offer a wide range of programmes based on our very successful track record of delivery.
The Centre offers a range of programmes, from one day taster sessions to 8 weekly sessions which include undertaking a programme of action research.The current action research programme models also include identifying and taking action seeking out community solutions using existing community assets.
"Through the course I picked up my confidence....I had never done a presentation before and I was quite scared....since then I have been asked to do a number of presentations and now I run a community centre... I'll never give this up, they will have to take me out of here in a box!" - Kath Sowden, Torbay Community Researcher
Oldmixon Parents Group
Oldmixon was the first group to undertake the training that was developed by the Southwest Foundation as the managing agency and the Evaluation Trust. The course was delivered in partnership with NS Housing who provided the venue and refreshments for the residents. The first course was delivered in a hotel near Sandy Bay, Weston Super Mare - this added to the course and made the participants feel "special".
The small-scale research was decided upon by the whole group. They undertook this research around semi-structured interviews and a questionnaire. Having been trained in interview techniques, the group undertook research with the community in order to gauge what the real areas of concern in the community were. The findings of the research centred around the need for an information hub on the Oldmixon estate, the need for a pedestrian crossing near the shops and the proximity of a rehabilitation hostel near a child's play park.
The presentation of the group's findings was attended by local councillors, representitives from the Housing Association, GSOW, members from the empowering communities partnership, local residents and council staff. The group were offered, on the spot, the opportunity to take over the management of an empty retail unit on the estate owned by the Housing Association. The Southwest Foundation organised for the group to visit a successful community shop in Swindon which generates around £45,000 annually. The shop uses these funds to pay their running costs and does so by selling second hand items in the front and offering meeting facilities behind the scenes. Over 30 volunteers are involved in the collection, washing and preparation for sale of these items.
Since the training, the group have opened their shop called Young and Oldmixon Unite, or the "YOU Shop" for short. The group needed to refurbish the shop and staff it with volunteers. The complete refurbishment of the shop has allowed not ony for the residents to benefit, but for the local councillor to hold regular surgeries on the estate. The shop has been open since June 2010 and the people who staff the shop must balance their family lives with paid and unpaid employment. The commitment is huge but the group continues its other activities in the area such as activities and services facilitated through the shop.
Key to the success of the Oldmixon group has been their determination as well as the support fromt he community development worker and also the opportunities given to them by the housing association. The community researcher training gave them the skills and confidence to take their plans forward knowing that they had the support from the community behind them.