PROJECT – Transforming Engagement

RIA: Accessibility in theatres

15 August 2019

Research Initiation Awards are small awards open only to people or organisations from outside the university. Our aim is to support individual people or community organisations to begin to build the relationships or help create the conditions that could initiate future engaged research.

Accessibility in theatres

This project is led by Chloe Llewellyn, with the support of the Turning Tides project.

All the world’s a stage… It would be nice if we were all invited!

This project stems from my love of theatre and writing. The first rule of play-writing is go and see as many plays as you can, but what do you do if the access in theatres doesn’t allow this? Figure out how to make that different!

There are many things that theatres could do to make performances more accessible to a wider audience, and some already do with BSL performances, Touch tours and Captioned performances. Relaxed Performances and Chilled Environments are available in some theatres but there’s no  clear definition. My aim is to make that different.

This award will fund me to undertake training in qualitative research methods. From this, I hope to collaborate with other people with autism or learning disability labels to develop a larger research proposal to consider issues of accessibility in theatres.

PROJECT – Transforming Engagement

RIA: Live Music Now

12 July 2019

Research Initiation Awards are small awards open only to people or organisations from outside the university. Our aim is to support individual people or community organisations to begin to build the relationships or help create the conditions that could initiate future engaged research.

Partnership working and live music

“[The session] allowed our pupils to enjoy new musical experiences in a non-threatening, non-judgemental setting … an opportunity to model how to sit and appreciate live music, something that is a challenge for many of our students. But there were also moments during the session where it was OK to ‘ whoop it up’ and just let our hair down.”

Excellent and inspiring session. I think the idea of children seeing and hearing live music can have such a profound effect on them. I would hope all children would be able to have this experience.”

Live Music Now is a UK-wide music charity providing access to live music for children with special educational needs and older people, including those living with dementia.

Teachers consistently tell us about the vital part music can play in helping children overcome learning or physical difficulties and improve their quality of life. Despite this, children with special needs experience considerable difficulties in accessing high quality cultural and creative experiences, due to the physical barriers to accessing venues, a lack of appropriate events, and a lack of understanding of different behaviours.

Building partnership skills for both teachers and musicians at the outset of their careers has the potential to make a considerable difference to the quality of musical opportunities for these children and young people in the future.

Circle of people in discussion

Discussions on the impact of live music on children with special education needs

This project was a partnership between Live Music Now and the University of Exeter Graduate School of Education, bringing together children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, young professional musicians and PGCE students at the University of Exeter to work together to research a model of partnership working, establish common ground in our working practices and try out the practical activities.

Working together to plan the activity gave the PGCE students the opportunity to experience good practice in partnership working and delivering music activity and LMN musicians the chance to learn about pedagogy and lesson planning. The three participatory concerts/workshops provided an opportunity for children with special needs to visit the university campus and experience live music with professional musicians.

Read the full report here

Highlights for the students:

  • Experiencing a new environment, and a new aspect of their local community.
  • Opportunities to join in with live music making, including conducting and using voices and percussion instruments.
  • Opportunities to respond both emotionally and cognitively to music
Post-it notes with workshop feedback

PCGE student feedback from one of the teaching sessions

Highlights for PGCE students:

  • Direct experience of the impact of live performance on children and young people
  • Practical ideas for preparing children for and following up live music performances in schools.
  • Understanding how children with special educational needs, including autism and sensory needs, might respond to live music.

Highlights for Live Music Now musicians:

  • Opportunity to work in the different context of the University environment.
  • A better understanding of pedagogy and lesson planning, and how they can help teachers to make the most of live music experiences.
  • Confidence in their own expertise and the value of what they are bringing into schools.

We learned …

In the planning phase, we learned a number of things that will be useful in any future partnership:

  • The importance of integrating the project into the core curriculum for the PGCE students.
  • The challenges of bringing children with disabilities on to campus for live music making.
  • The importance of a “brokering” role between Live Music Now and University of Exeter.

Next steps

Everyone felt that this was a valuable learning experience and something on which to build. A small-scale research project is going ahead, led by Hermione Ruck Keene. The data we collected in interviews and through an online questionnaire are being analysed for future publication.

Project leader

Sophie Dunn


PROJECT – Transforming Engagement

RSF: Arts-based engaged research

12 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Exploring the cultural and creative dimensions of health and well-being through arts-based transformative engaged research

Our goal is to engage diverse communities in cultural and creative practices that have the potential to promote, enhance, restore, and sustain health and wellbeing. This collaborative international research project will explore intersections, complementarities and reciprocities between holistic performance training, mindfulness practice, and place-based cultural processes guided by Indigenous principles.

Drawing from our collective expertise in the arts, humanities, education, and social sciences via international and regional partnerships connecting universities in the UK, Canada, and France, we will co-conceptualize and co-design an arts-based transformative engaged research model exploring the critical and creative conditions for health and well-being practices that foster sustainability across the life course.

Project Partners

University of British Columbia-Okanagan

Virginie Magnat
Karen Ragoonaden

University of Exeter

Konstantinos Thomaidis

Bryony Onciul

Ann Grand

Project updates

February 2020 – we held two workshops in Devon that brought together two invited artists from the Kumugwe Cultural Society and Dance Group, K’omox First Nations, Canada with arts performers and drama students. We’re currently analysing the data from the workshops, focusing on the collective experiences of the participants. In July the international partners are meeting again to share learning from the pilot workshops and to design the next phase of the work.

The workshops were funded under the University of British Columbia (Okanagan) Eminence Program led by Profs Virginie Magnat and Karen Ragoonaden

June 2019 – the international partners held a workshop during the 2019 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences (Vancouver, British Columbia). During the workshop, we agreed shared principles and framework for the pilot practice-based workshop to be held in each country. Partners are now designing workshops, which we hope will take place before the end of the year.

PROJECT – Transforming Engagement

RSF: Risk and resilience

12 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Risk and resilience in child mental health: a cross-cultural study of children in India, Peru, Vietnam and the UK

This project created an international network that consolidated relationships with partner institutions in India, Peru and Vietnam. Collaborating with local academics in each country, our trans-disciplinary team (anthropology, economics, psychology, medicine) aimed to support the creation of a participatory research community to co-produce knowledge with local schools, professionals and families.

Read the project report.

Project Partners

Daisy Elliott
Ginny Russell
Abigail Russell

PROJECT – Transforming Engagement

RSF: Well-being outcomes

12 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Generating evidence of well-being outcomes from community engagement and social infrastructures

Workshop date: 24th September 2019 

The background

A group of community representatives in rural southern Zambia shared how they felt hopeless and isolated: maternal and infant mortality are high; nutrition and health access are poor. Engagement with external facilitators and an international network of collaborative communities stimulated local connections and the formation of a collaborative local ‘Cluster’ that leveraged collective strengths to improve well-being. This cluster has improved health access, sanitation and maternal health. There has been a shift of mindset and a ripple effect that has led to new clusters.

This project is looking at how community engagement and action (in the UK and internationally) can improve health and well-being, by sharing testimonies and co-creating, with communities, academics and practitioners, ways to measure health and well-being.

What we did 

Arukah workshop discussions

Participants at the workshop

In September 2019, we held a workshop that brought a group of practitioners and academics together to look at approaches to, and measures of, community-led improvements in health and wellbeing, and think about what future work is needed to strengthen and measure these approaches.



A few of the organisations that were represented on the day: 

Some of the questions we asked:

  • How might donors and policymakers better support complex and subjective community-led change?
  • Community-led improvements in health and wellbeing: anecdotes, barriers, enablers
  • What methods can we use to measure community-led improvements in health and wellbeing?
  • How might donors, policymakers and others understand and pay attention to the different kinds of subjective evidence? (e.g. evaluative, experience, eudemonic).
  • What might be possible if community-led change approaches were adopted in other fields (beyond health and development)?

What we’d like to do next

  • We’d like to hold further discussions to share our methods of impact measurement with funders, and talk about the challenges we have with their traditional way of working.
  • Arukah would like to explore how complexity theory might affect or inform our work, given our network-based approach.
  • We’d like to arrange further meetings with C2 and other groups to continue to share learning, challenges, advice and support.
  • We’d like to seek constructive feedback from donors (from both successful and unsuccessful applications) and collate this information, then share the kinds of questions they’re asking and the challenges they have with our models.

Read the full report: Arukah Network WCCEH Report.

Project Partners

Elizabeth Wainwright
The Arukah Network

PROJECT – Transforming Engagement

RSF: After the storm

11 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

After the storm: a Mosaic of reflections on rebuilding mental health

In September 2017, a Category 5 hurricane devastated the small Caribbean island of Dominica. Islanders’ mental health remained deeply impacted more than a year after the initial trauma. In July 2019 we explored islanders’ experiences of a novel application of a mental health recovery programme that facilitates artistic expression using broken or discarded objects to overcome mental health challenges after experiencing environmental trauma.



Participants and researchers reflected on the programme’s strengths and challenges in helping to manage their trauma, and on the appropriateness of the program to the local and cultural context.

The engaged research used a “Mosaic” approach (Clarke and Moss 2001), with participants leading the research by reflecting on their experience of the programme using a method they feel most appropriate, e.g. artistically, verbally or via demonstration.


Our research method blended creative artistic expression, environmental sustainability action and recovery from mental health trauma following increasingly common (climate-change related) extreme weather events.

The research output from the reflective session was a “Treasures after the storm” mobile, co-created by participants and the researcher, with excerpts from participants reflections captured within the collaborative art piece. We sought to gather perspectives on the inclusiveness of the programme for participants’ gender, socio-economic background, culture and age.

Co-created art piece containing reflections on the post-traumatic environmental stress recovery programme.

The data captured in this research will be used to inform future delivery of the post-traumatic stress recovery programme in the wake of environmental disasters, in the Dominica community and beyond in the wider Caribbean. The researchers also see the benefit of implementing the programme across the globe, and are now exploring opportunities for this in South East Asia.




Project Partners

Jacqualyn Eales, in partnership with Operation Wallacea


Bastardo, Y. M., & Mendoza, F. J. (2016). Socioeconomic Status, Quality Of Life, Depression And Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder In College Students. Value in Health, 19(3), A191-A192.

Clark, A., & Moss, P. (2001). Listening to young children: The Mosaic Approach. London: National Children’s Bureau and Joseph Rowntree Foundation

IPCC (2013) Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp, doi:10.1017/CBO9781107415324.

Leichner, A., Kale, P and Bhaird, C. (2017). Strengthening the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Response for Disaster-Affected areas of Dominica. MHIN report. Accessed 27th August 2018

FAO STAT report on Dominica. Accessed 27th August 2018

Jarl, J., Cantor-Graae, E., Chak, T., Sunbaunat, K., & Larsson, C. A. (2015). Trauma and poor mental health in relation to economic status: The case of Cambodia 35 years laterPloS One, 10(8), e0136410.

Peaced Together Report 2018. Accessed 27th August 2018

World Bank Report on Dominica. Accessed 27th August 2018

World Health Organization/Ministry of Health, the Commonwealth of Dominica (2009) WHO-AIMS Report on Mental Health in the Commonwealth of Dominica. Accessed 27th August 2018


PROJECT – Transforming Engagement

RIA: Voices from Durgapur

11 July 2019

(Header image credit: Voices from Durgapur 2019 ARBAN CC-BY)

Research Initiation Awards are small awards open only to people or organisations from outside the university. Our aim is to support individual people or community organisations to begin to build the relationships or help create the conditions that could initiate future engaged research.

Group of women and men talking, seated on the groundA team from ARBAN, an NGO committed to developing the lives of the rural community in a remote area of Bangladesh, has decided to take the initiative to engage members of the community to tell their own stories. In this engaged process, the villagers tell their stories in their  way, identifying the issues and factors that affect their wellbeing and prioritising the solutions.

In this project, young mothers from Durgapur, a remote area in the north-western part of Bangladesh, met in their courtyards to talk about maternal health, child care, and reproductive health with a gender specialist and fieldworkers from ARBAN.

People talking around a tableThe ARBAN team also organised a round-table discussion with local service providers (government officials, NGO representatives, business community and other private agencies) to share the findings from the women’s discussions.

Read the final report: Voices from Durgapur

PROJECT – Transforming Engagement

RSF: Making space

11 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Making space for well-being

A young girl with disabilities recently narrated the story of some of her life experiences as a ‘living book’ at Exeter Central Library. Having left full-time education she (and her carers) were entering a new landscape, where many of the opportunities found in specialist schools need to be “re-found” in the community. This young girl and her father had just discovered the library’s FabLab. It had been a revelation to both of them, offering them both social and creative opportunities they were keen to embrace.

Young people with disabilities can often face a ‘drop off’ in support (including health, social and educational) when they leave formal education. The impact of this can be far-reaching, particularly in terms of a vulnerability to social isolation (as much for their families and carers as the individual themselves). This project was a collaboration between the library, the Pelican Project (a community organisation supporting such young people) and an engaged researcher, who came together to facilitate ways for other young people and their carers to tell stories about their lives as they are and the ways they would like to use and shape spaces such as the FabLab to improve their wellbeing.

Project Partners
Georgie Tarling
The Pelican Project (Kath Ford and Charlie Robinson)
Libraries Unlimited (Karen Leach-Bowdler and Colin Bray)

PROJECT – Transforming Engagement

RSF: Community engagement

10 July 2019

The Research Support Funding scheme supported 13 short (six-month) projects that complemented and extended the Centre’s research themes: Transforming Institutions, Transforming Engagement, Transforming Health across the life course and Transforming Relations.

Evaluating the nuances of community engagement

Universities are increasingly engaging with their communities to help enrich their research and help make their cities and regions healthier, culturally richer and more interesting places to live and work. However, measuring the effectiveness of community engagement is challenging, and it is difficult for researchers to determine, for example, whether they are reaching the people they want to reach, or whether everyone is given equal opportunity to be heard.

This project aimed to identify key markers of successful engagement, and consider how new measures could be designed to help researchers measure their community engagement activities and help them adapt engagement approaches for different contexts.

Project partners

Lindsey Anderson, Grace Williams, Jen Grove

Read the project’s final report: Evaluating Community Engagement – Final Report

PROJECT – Transforming Engagement

Beacon: big data publics

8 July 2019

The Centre’s Beacon Projects aspire to exemplify the ways in which the Centre aims to create and sustain cultures and environments of health through transdisciplinary engaged research.

Health research & non-traditional data: engaging with publics

Dr Karyn Morrissey,  Professor Lora Fleming, Dr Ann Grand, Dr Kath Maguire, Ms Rita Alflatt

Good public health is a valuable commodity, and finding ways in which public health can be maintained or increased benefits everyone. Anonymised individual level data, either in patient records or large-scale health surveys, are a key characteristic of health research. These data have been used to develop a range of public health measures, such as legislation on air pollution, smoking and alcohol consumption. Many people have concerns about the use of these data, and the institutions that produce them, such as the Office of National Statistics and the NHS, have developed protocols to ensure they are shared ethically and used responsibly.

However, there are now many new sources of data that relate to our health, for example data from social media, personal devices and “apps”, data from store cards and environmental sensor data. These data all have the potential to transform public health. This is particularly true if these personalised data are linked to electronic patient data or health insurance data.

These ‘new’, or non-traditional, data are often held by companies and third-party organisations, rather than health bodies or governments. This means that for the first time, data held outside mandatory data protection mechanisms can be used by public health researchers and to shape public health research more broadly.

Often, such data are collected without people knowing, which makes sharing and using them for health research problematic. To make informed decisions about data sharing, it become important to understand how and why researchers are using our data. However, given the abstract nature of data and research in general, simple reassurance, top-down educational tools and public messaging about the benefits of data sharing for health research are unlikely to be enough.

This project has two interlinked aims. First, to explore people’s concerns and expectations of health researchers using their personal data from a range of sources, including both traditional (national surveys) and non-traditional (social media) as a means to inform the development of future health policies.

A key requirement is to ensure that any consultation on data and health research goes beyond just providing information and reassuring participants, but rather includes respectful, genuine debate and dialogue between researchers and members of the public. The second aim will explore the usefulness of a Publics’ Jury (PJ) (otherwise known as a Citizens’ Jury) approach as a means of engaging diverse publics in a manner that encourages debate and dialogue around health research and data sharing, rather than the top down provision of information alone. However, to ensure that the PJ is as inclusive and engaging of diverse publics, a series of Focus Groups will be used to explore a set of statements that will guide the ‘charge’ put towards the PJ. It is believed that the co-creation of this ‘charge’ will ensure that the direction of enquiry is framed by engaged publics rather than being a purely academic framing.

Project update

October 2019 – We held a pilot focus group in Truro, to test the usefulness of a focus group as a route to co-creation of the ‘charge’ for the Publics Jury. Further focus groups will be held later in the year. We drew on the evidence from the March workshop to create three ‘data stories’ as conversation starters for the group.

Cartoon Cartoon Cartoon


Three people sitting at a table, talking

Workshop, March 2019

March 2019 – we held a launch workshop in Truro that brought together researchers, members of local community groups and organisations and residents of Truro. The aim of the workshop was to begin to understand: what are the acceptable uses of ‘Big Data,’ for health research, especially health data gathered from sources such as social media and store cards?; who should be able to access these resources?; what should they be able to use the data for? and who should manage these processes?



PROJECT – Transforming Engagement

Beacon: Transforming engagement

15 April 2019

The Centre’s Beacon Projects aspire to exemplify the ways in which the Centre aims to create and sustain cultures and environments of health through transdisciplinary engaged research.

Understanding how transformative community engagement creates the conditions for health

Professor Katrina Wyatt
Dr Robin Durie
Dr Felicity Thomas
Dr Amy Jones

This project will explore whether and how transformative engagement can lead to better health in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Working with C2 partnerships, this research will also respond to the C2 partnerships’ own aim to explore ways of developing regional delivery mechanisms for C2 and develop an evidence base for this new approach.


Non-communicable diseases represent a global public health challenge, and are a driver of health inequalities. Yet many programmes aimed at improving the health of the population inadvertently exacerbate rather than ameliorate health inequalities. Connecting Communities [C2] is a learning programme and implementation framework that seeks to create the conditions for health and wellbeing in economically disadvantaged communities. C2 was initially designed and developed by researchers and healthcare practitioners and refined in partnership with community residents and service providers (including housing, health, the police, fire services, housing and local government). The C2 approach responds to the senses of isolation, fragmentation and abandonment experienced by people in very low income communities, and seeks to alter the nature and quality of relations within communities, as well as between communities and service-providers, in order to create the conditions for potentially transformational change. Complexity theory is the underpinning theoretical framework for the C2.

Unlike most traditional public health programmes, C2 does not start with a pre-identified problem and a predetermined set of activities to address the problem. Rather, local ‘problems’ affecting health are co-identified through extensive engagement with communities, and the partnerships which are created on the basis of this process support emergent and transformative outcomes. (Appendix 1 shows the C2 framework which centres on understanding the social and cultural context of people’s lives to identify barriers to health). It can therefore be argued that the engagement processes within C2 constitute the intervention, and the emergent partnerships between residents and service providers are a sustainable means of delivering services in response to local issues. For example, a housing renovation programme led to increases in educational attainment and employment in the area. A 70% reduction in children on the at risk register was reported and a co-created police response to antisocial youth behaviour (involving dance workshops with young people) resulted in very large reductions in truancy and improved health outcomes including a 25% reduction in asthma rates in its first two years. Both partnerships are still ongoing. There are over 20 C2 partnerships across the UK and five partnerships in England have expressed the desire to create regional hubs to deliver C2 in their locality.

The project brings together the C2 programme and partnerships with an engaged, transdisciplinary, research approach to understanding how altering the nature and qualities of relations can support health and well-being. Working with the C2 partnerships, two further neighbourhoods that wish to implement the C2 approach will be identified. [Initial discussions with C2 partnerships suggest that these will be in Stoke-on Trent and Thanet]. With the existing C2 partnership in each site we will identify, and provide support for, community-based researchers to work in these neighbourhoods to capture qualitative and quantitative evidence of connectivity and its relation to health and wellbeing. Using a combination of ethnographic and a community-informed, co-created, social network mapping approach we will seek to understand how the nature of relations changes during the C2 implementation process and whether this is associated with a change in wellbeing.

Engaged research approach: A repeated theme expressed by communities that have suffered social and economic decline is that of loss – loss of community spirit, loss of jobs, loss of local services, and loss of community spaces. Similarly, residents talk of feeling isolated from other residents, and abandoned by service providers. Loss and abandonment serve as key indicators of communities in decline, of communities suffering from “ill-health”. It is therefore striking that publics that have been engaged in academic research frequently talk of being abandoned by researchers when periods of funding come to an end, of feeling a sense of loss after being left behind by “drive-by” academics. A major objective of this project will be to build an authentic community-led approach, enabling communities to come to the fore in the research in order to co-identify issues and questions specific to their own community and to co-create possible solutions with service providers. Furthermore this will support the creation of an evidence base that the Partnerships can use to demonstrate what the C2 approach has transformed, as well as how and why these changes have come about.

Towards a framework of transferability: A further key challenge facing engaged research initiatives is that the very conditions for their potential success – namely, the development of strong local relations alongside the co-creation of a site-specific receptive context for the research collaboration – appear to militate against the possibility of translating successful engaged research initiatives to other sites. Indeed, standard models of evidence and evaluation aimed at supporting transferability and scalability appear to depend on the bracketing of context and local relations. This proposed research will develop a radically different set of principles and practices for translation and transfer, principles which embody the delivery of the work in specific sites and which are informed by the theoretical grounding of the work as a whole. For this work, the conditions of transferability are constituted by the narratives that the communities develop about their own experiences of change, by the direct experiences of the local settings which C2 provides, and which have been identified as the key for the development of the new regional learning hubs, and by the trust that is founded in collaborating with communities that have “done it for themselves”.

Transforming engagement: This project aims to become a beacon for “transforming engagement” in two main ways. First, by embodying the ethos and practices of engaged research, it will seek to show whether and how community engagement can itself be healthful. The participatory approach to collecting narratives and representing relationality within the neighbourhoods will enable us to demonstrate how engagement creates the conditions for community connectivity, and how community connectivity is in turn a condition for health. Second, the work will show how research projects can be genuinely co-designed and co-delivered by communities in partnership with academics. In particular, this project is responding to a community-identified vision of work that is being led and delivered within new neighbourhoods by the C2 partnerships. This is a radically new model of working, and it is founded in our learning from C2 that the conditions for transformative change for health are created through community engagement led in partnership with communities themselves

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