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Community research that changes lives

The best research brings about change.

Many communities are facing hardship and pressures, feeling ‘left-behind’ or not listened to. Community research can illuminate the issues communities face, give communities a voice and lead to positive change.

Uncover > Action is a new conference from Local Trust and ARVAC (Association for Research in the Voluntary and Community Sector) focusing on community research that has made a difference to people’s lives. It will bring together exciting examples of research made with and in communities and show how impact can last beyond a final report.

The conference will aim to:

  • Provide insight into what communities care about today
  • Give a platform to overlooked and unheard voices
  • Share research that has led to change in policy and practice, locally or nationally





Arrival and registration

Entrance Foyer, Ground Floor.

Tea, coffee and refreshments will be available in the Neighbourhood Room, Ground Floor. 


Welcome and introductions

Speakers Matt Leach, Local Trust / Dr Jurgen Grotz, ARVAC

Max Nasatyr Room, 3rd Floor 

Speakers, questions and answers

Speakers Mandy Wilson/ Linden West, Canterbury Christ Church University / Hetan Shah, Royal Statistical Society

Max Nasatyr Room, 3rd Floor 

Mandy Wilson 

Mandy has over 30 years’ experience in community work practice, management, research and evaluation. Experienced in resident-led, neighbourhood-level development, she works with local, national and international bodies to link programmes and policy development with ‘on the ground’ practice and experience. 

Linden West

Linden is Professor of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University and an author and researcher in the field of lifelong learning, adult and higher education. He is the author of Distress in the City: Racism, fundamentalism and a democratic education(UCL Institute of Education, 2016). 

Hetan Shah  

Hetan is Executive Director of the Royal Statistical Society; Visiting Professor at the Policy Institute, Kings College London; and chair of the Friends Provident Foundation, a grant making trust. He is also Deputy Chair of the Ada Lovelace Institute, which has a mission to ensure data and artificial intelligence work for people and society From February Hetan will be taking on the role of Chief Executive at the British Academy, the UK’s national body for the humanities and social sciences – the study of peoples, cultures and societies, past, present and future.

Chair: Dr Jurgen Grotz, ARVAC 

11.00am - Breakout sessions

Perspectives on co-producing research

Speakers Katherine Blaker, University of Sheffield/ Teresa Driver, Wharton Trust / Alison Allam, Royal Marsden Hospital / Leila Baker, Just Ideas

Lil Patrick Room, 3rd Floor 

Hear experiences from two co-production projects: a neighbourhood collaboration; and a collaboration between nurses and people affected by uncommon cancers supported by Just Ideas and UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research.

Community responses to violence

Speakers Paul Bragman, Community and Economic Regeneration Consultants Ltd / Sian Penner, Sian Penner Associates Ltd (SPA) / Cllr Martyn Rawlinson, Preston Council

Fred Miller Room, 3rd floor 

Despite significant government resource being allocated to reduce rates of street conflict and violence the problem persists. This workshop will consider the role that community research can play in helping to overcome these issues.

Using public data to bring about change

Speakers Stefan Noble, Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion (OCSI) / Michael Mclean, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)

South Bank 1, Lower Ground Floor 

Exploring how public data has been used to influence government policy and inform decisions; a platform that helps communities to access open data; and how data has been used to better identify and understand ‘left behind’ communities. 

Public Scrutiny: Putting communities in the driving seat

Speakers Adam Lent, New Local Government Network (NLGN) / Sally Lloyd Evans, University of Reading / Sonia Duvall, Whitley researchers

South Bank 2, Lower Ground Floor 

This session will explore how communities are increasingly taking a leading role in designing, delivering, researching and evaluating public services. It will look at practical examples and explore how transformative they have been. 



Neighbourhood Room, Ground floor 

Tea, coffee and refreshments.

12:20pm - Breakout sessions

Opportunities and challenges of using arts methods in research

Speakers Katy Goldstraw, University of Wolverhampton / Kara Jarrold, Sense / Ed Stevens, King’s College London

Lil Patrick Room, 3rd Floor 

This session will explore the experiences of three researchers’ approaches to arts-based methodologies. Participants will undertake an interactive reflection on arts-based research utopias to co-produce best practice principles for arts-based research.   

Understanding community business

Speakers John Higton, CFE Research / Dr Alan Southern, University of Liverpool / Ian Wilson, Sheffield Hallam University

Fred Miller Room, 3rd floor 

In this session, the authors of three recent Power to Change reports on different aspects of community business explain their findings and discuss how input from community business staff and users shaped their research and helped maximise its impact. 

How putting communities in control affects health outcomes

Speakers Jennie Popay and Rebecca Mead, Lancaster University / Daniel Button, New Economics Foundation

South Bank 1, Lower Ground Floor 

Drawing on findings from two research and evaluation projects, this interactive session will explore how communities can develop their collective control in practice and the outcomes of this process. 

Keeping the community in place

Speakers Santiago Peluffo and Simon Salvador, Latin Elephant / Fay Holland, Groundwork UK

South Bank 2, Lower Ground Floor 

This session will focus on three pieces of research that each explore, in different ways, how place relates to community action. It will cover the perspectives of small independent businesses, grassroots community groups and residents of a regenerated estate. 



Neighbourhood Room, Ground floor 

(1.25 - 2.35pm)

Film drop-in session


Max Nasatyr Room, 3rd floor 

Drop-in to watch a 30 minute film loop of community-based research projects and the impact they have made.

(1.40 - 2.20pm)

ARVAC Annual General Meeting (AGM)

South Bank 1, Lower Ground Floor 

Annual AGM for ARVAC members.  

2.40pm - Breakout sessions

Getting started: ARVAC’s Community Research Toolkit

Speakers Dr Jurgen Grotz, ARVAC

Lil Patrick Room, 3rd floor 

An introduction to ARVAC’s free online Community Research Toolkit, showing community groups that it is possible to undertake research themselves. The toolkit helps groups to plan their research from start to finish. 

The impact of inequalities

Speakers Claire Gordon, Social Life / Kirsty Bagnall, Ambition for Ageing, GMCVO / Dr Charlotte Selleck, University of the West of England

Fred Miller Room, 3rd floor 

This session looks at the experience of place and impact of inequalities in three divergent communities. Questions will be posed around the role that gender, age, ethnicity and social deprivation play on communities members’ sense of attachment and involvement, and the obstacles and opportunities available to community members. 

Using film: recording or empowering change with small community groups

Speakers Tot Foster, Open University / Angus McCabe, University of Birmingham

South Bank 1, Lower Ground Floor 

Film is a powerful medium for recording and enabling change. This session will explore the benefits and challenges of using film to empower people, as a tool for reflection, and to tell stories of transformation. 

Widening the Circles: Who gets to be involved in place-based community development?

Speakers Graeme Fancourt and Marilyn Taylor, Just Ideas / Jane Perry, Independent researcher / Paul Wright, Open Door Community Foundation.

South Bank 2, Lower Ground Floor 

From areas across England with high levels of population churn, to a particular Midlands estate, this session explores some thoughts on who is ‘resident enough’ to be considered a resident, and how those involved in community development might ensure there is a wide-enough engagement across a neighbourhood to be representative of the reality of that place in the here and now. 


Reflections and what’s next

Speakers Matt Leach, Local Trust / Louise Tickle

Max Nasatyr Room, 3rd Floor 

Louise Tickle, Local Trust’s former Journalist-at-large, will present a multimedia roundup of the day’s highlights


Conference close

More about this event


ARVAC is a free membership organization for researchers in the voluntary and community sector providing information and training in research for and about the community sector. Find out more

About Local Trust

Local Trust supports people to do brilliant things in their communities and share research and learning to influence others. Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, Local Trust support the Big Local and Creative Civic Change programmes. Find out more