Our Research Programmes and Projects

Our approach is strongly end-user-focused, embedded in a community development and co-production philosophy.

We work with governments and practitioners in ensuring that our research impacts upon policy and practice worldwide: recently we have worked in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America.

Our research is conducted by key academics and within two core themes: Online Harms and Cybercrime and Community Health and Wellbeing.

Each theme is divided into subjects, such as: 

Teaching and training

'Learning by doing' - learning, teaching, employability and student success: ICC offers innovative short teaching and training courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, bespoke in-house CPD courses and supervision of PhD students in our core areas. 


We are a hub of highly skilled multi-disciplinary researchers (from a broad range of subjects including health, economics, law, policing criminology, sociology and psychology) and practitioners committed to developing innovative research, policy and practice solutions that have and will deliver real and lasting benefits to society across our areas of identified expertise. 

Research ICC Hub

We have a strong record of high-quality research utilising a range of methods and methodologies including:


  • innovative digital methods such as online focus groups and depth interviews
  • community participatory action research
  • rapid evidence assessment and systematic literature reviews
  • evidence syntheses
  • research with vulnerable populations
  • evaluation research into complex interventions
  • mixed methods study designs
  • mining big data sets
  • ethics in research and GDPR


We can provide a range of expertise and advice on research design and the dissemination of findings to different stakeholders in the creation of social value.

Online Harms and Cybercrime

H2020 Drivers of Cybercrime

Website: H2020 Drivers of Cybercrime

Twitter - @CcdriverH2020

Project funding

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme Under Grant Agreement no. 883543 

The CC-DRIVER project began in 2020 and includes partners from 12 EU countries, it is led by Trilateral Research.

The project uses a multidisciplinary approach from the domains of psychology, criminology, anthropology, neurobiology and cyberpsychology to investigate, identify, understand and explain drivers of new forms of criminality. The research focuses on human factors that determine criminal behaviours such as cyber juvenile delinquency and adolescent hacking.

Scientific investigation of drivers into cybercrime, impact of online disinhibition and the effect of youth decision-making processes will inform evidence-based intervention, mitigation and deterrence strategies. Measures will be designed to raise awareness regarding criminality and to divert youth from crime.

The UEL research is led by Profs Davidson and Aiken and focuses on youth pathways into cybercrime building on their previous research undertaken in collaboration with the Europol Cybercrime Centre (EC3). This ground breaking research led to the development of an EC3 EU wide awareness campaign for young people. The research includes a survey of 8000 young people in 8 EU countries and a series of stakeholder interviews.

Adult Online Harms

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)

This project explored adult online hate in the context of the UK Online Harms White Paper 2019 and was commissioned by the DCMS, the work was led by Prof Julia Davidson in collaboration with Prof Sonia Livingstone (LSE) and the UK Council for Internet Safety Evidence Group. This document synthesised existing evidence on online harassment (including cyberbullying and trolling), revenge pornography and image-based abuse, and hate crime. It highlights patterns of abuse based on age, sexual orientation, race and religion.

Read more.

Child Online Protection in Rwanda

This project was funded by End Violence Against Children and was undertaken in collaboration with 5Rights. Rwanda is committed to the roll-out of ICT technology and ensuring that children and young people benefit.

Principal Investigator Professor Davidson, with co-lead Baroness Beeban Kidron (CEO & Founder, 5Rights Foundation) and partners from the University of Rwanda and Government of Rwanda, developed a National Child Online Protection Policy and Implementation Plan on behalf of the Government of Rwanda, Ministry of ICT and Innovation (MINICT) which was implemented in June 2019.

The COP policy and plan are based upon research undertaken by the Team exploring stakeholder views about  child online safety. The initiative has so far resulted in the development of COP training modules for undergraduate students and dissemination of awareness-raising messages to the wider community. This project builds upon other research undertaken with COP stakeholders by Prof Davidson in the EU and the Middle East. This work is ongoing.

UK Safety Technology Market

This research was led by Perspective Economics in collaboration with Profs Davidson and Aiken and was funded by the DCMS. Safety Tech providers develop technology or solutions to facilitate safer online experiences and protect users from harmful content, contact or conduct. The research was based upon stakeholder interviews and economic sectoral analysis.

The findings suggest that there are at least 70 dedicated Safety Tech businesses within the UK, as well as a wider community of over 100 organisations committed to protecting users online. The Safety Tech sector has grown rapidly with an estimated 35% annual growth rate since 2016. In 2019, the sector generated an estimated £226m in annual revenues.

We estimate that Safety Tech revenues in the UK could exceed £1bn by the mid 2020s.

Community Health and Wellbeing

GCRF kick out COVID-19

This is a solution-focused project aiming to engage, encourage and enable disadvantaged children and young people (e.g. boys and girls living with disabilities and/or disadvantaged) to develop their potential, and to help their communities better support them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The kick-out COVID-19 project was funded by the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF). The project commenced in January 2020 and ended in July 2020.

Dr Darren Sharpe at the ICC led the project in collaboration with Dr Clement Chileshe, the Founder and President of Sport In Action (SIA), and James Fallah-Williams and Ibrahim Sesay, Founders of Practical Tools Initiative, in Sierra Leone.

The initial aim was to empower disabled young people to enter the labour market but was repurposed therefore to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As such, the project responded to the pandemic by setting local initiatives to share health literacy information and provide emergency aid (e.g. food parcels, masks and other PPE items) to help shield and protect disadvantaged communities during the COVID-19 pandemic period.

The partnership aims to contribute to resources and efforts in communications for the prevention of COVID-19 spreading further.

The partnership aims to do so through the production of visual and audio tools to be shared on mainstream and social media platforms. Furthermore, it will contribute to the provision of COVID-19 prevention materials, inspire a call to action at individual levels and facilitate general public contributions to most vulnerable children's COVID-19 prevention and mitigation needs. Finally, it will generate a planning tool to determine the support needs of children and young people aged 12-25 (e.g. survey and interview schedule).

To date, the project has been able to share COVID-19 health-related information on social media to over 422,260 users and distributed over 17,000 items of PPE to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and families in Zambia and Sierra Leone. 

Scientifically, we are producing and sharing knowledge on the mental health and wellbeing issues affecting children and young people living through lockdown, which is being shared with policymakers. Inspired by our COVID-19 health literacy animation, the Head of Diversity from West London NHS Trust has commissioned Dr Darren Sharpe to work with an inter-departmental team to co-produce two BAME COVID-19 animations aimed at children and young people.

Youth Safeguarding Network

Recovering from COVID-19: An alliance to improve the online and offline health and welfare of vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people living in Rwanda, Zambia, Sierra Leone and South Africa

Project overview

Professor Julia Davidson, Dr Darren Sharpe and Dr Marcello Bertotti at the University of East London (UEL) have been awarded a grant through the 2020-21 QR Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF) administered by Research England (the Funder) for the project "Recovering from COVID-19: An alliance to improve the online and offline health and welfare of vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people living in Rwanda, Zambia, Sierra Leone and South Africa". GCRF is intended to fund challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research whilst strengthening UK and overseas capacity and responding rapidly to emergencies. The Project commenced on 1 March 2021 and ended on 30 July 2021.

About this study

The goal of this solution-focused project is to address the online and offline challenges to health and welfare caused by and/or exacerbated by COVID-19 restrictions on the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people (CYP) living in Zambia, Rwanda, South Africa and Sierra Leone, building upon existing Institute for Connected Communities (ICC) research and in-country networks. Working together, we will co-design, co-produce and test purposefully tailored COVID-19 and other resources that promote the online and offline health, welfare and wellbeing of CYP living in adverse circumstances and settings in the participating sites during and post pandemic.

Technically, we will weave together - where appropriate - the Digital Self-Defence tool that will be piloted and formulated in Rwanda, the Young Commissioner framework already applied in Zambia, and the CYP Social Prescribing framework used across England. We will combine our tried and tested mechanisms/approaches to promote the voice and influence, and the digital safety, of CYP, and to connect grass-roots organisations to better promote and protect CYP health and welfare during this health emergency. Partners from the global south will provide the local knowledge and outreach systems (e.g. relationships) to effectively test and scale-out the initiative to targeted groups of vulnerable CYP, and to identify where the digital self-defence tool is more broadly applicable.

This initiative is novel and important because we focus on groupings of CYP that are rarely studied, and for which scientific data are lacking. Although we will be working with vulnerable CYP who are considered 'high risk', some of the outputs will have broader relevance for other groups of CYP. As part of our procedures, we will draw on Institute for Connected Communities'  (ICC) CYP social prescribing experience to consider where and how best to strengthen the referral process (e.g. including counselling) to widen access to both informal and formal health and welfare systems. 


UK Team

Professor Julia Davidson (Project PI)

Dr Darren Sharpe (Project Co-PI)

Dr Marcello Bertotti (Co-I)

Dr Ainul Hanafiah (Co-I)

Mohsen Rajabi (Co-I)


South African Team

Dr Chinwe Obuaku-Igwe

Unathi Mahlasela


Rwandan Team

Ninette Umurerwa



Zambian Team

Dr Clement Chileshe

Frankson Mushindu


Sierra Leonean Team

James Fallah-Williams

Ibrahim Sesay

Study locations by country

South Africa

Research: We are applying a mixed methods/ethnographically informed and community participatory model of peer support assessment as the basis for designing a peer-to-peer mental health promotion and support group. Having collected quantitative data in the pilot project, we intend to unpack emerging data points and track changes in our cohort/participants through qualitative focus groups, interviews and comparative surveys. 

Intervention: We intend to train more peer mentors who will be available in selected communities to offer mental health first aid to their peers. We will provide incentives such as noise-cancelling headphones, a mobile application, masks, hand sanitisers, internet access/data, airtime, and mental health promotional materials translated into three languages. In order to meet our target of providing population-focused solutions, we intend to hold thirteen sessions of the writer’s clinic (i.e. student writing workshops) between the inception of the project and December 2021.

Learn more.



Research: Led by Sports in Action, the research component of the Kick-OUT COVID-19 phase-2 project will investigate: the availability and accessibility of COVID-19 information for children and young people (CYP) living with disabilities and their caregivers; the availability and accessibility of COVID-19-related PPE for CYP living with disabilities and their caregivers; and the access to health services for CYP living with disabilities and their caregivers. We will also assess the attitudes of health professionals towards CYP living with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the social and economic lifestyles among CYP under Kick-OUT COVID-19 income generation support. Finally, we will gather insights into how the Government and key stakeholders perceive the work of Sport In Action as a coalition partner during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Intervention: This will include sensitisation and education for COVID-19 risk behaviours, and production and placement of communication materials on social and mainstream media, as well as in-person messaging using megaphones during handouts and health screening events. There will also be provision of materials for the reduction of COVID-19 infection, and reduction of COVID-19-enhanced vulnerabilities. We will use existing structures to deliver masks, hygiene products and income generation ventures, as well as advocacy and engagement of duty bearers and persons of high influence to contribute to the improvement of CYP's lifestyles. Finally, we will systematically collect data related to the impact of Kick-OUT COVID-19 project interventions on COVID-19-influenced vulnerabilities among CYP living with disabilities.

Learn more



Research: The research aims to design a 'digital self-defence' training tool based upon focus group research with children and young people (CYP) and Child Online Protection stakeholders. By speaking to CYP, we can understand and translate more clearly how they would like to be safeguarded and communicated with in establishing digital self-defence in the context of online sexual violence. By speaking to teachers and safeguarding practitioners from NGOs, we can build a tool that reflects their concerns about delivering information, their preparedness in tackling occasions of concern relating to sexual violence, and knowledge gaps. This preliminary research will also provide an opportunity to understand Rwanda-specific needs in the context of a rapidly digitally developing future. During the focus group interviews, CYP, stakeholders and NGO members will be asked to discuss what topics they think are essential in safeguarding against sexual violence in a digital age, the best and worst ways to communicate online safety to CYP, barriers to disclosure, and what to do when a child or young person has been the victim of sexual violence. 

The research will be conducted in the context of the recently introduced Child Online Protection Policy ( 2019) and 5 year implementation plan developed by Prof Davidson & Baroness Beeban Kidron (5Rights Foundation)  in collaboration with the Rwandan Government, the Ministry of ICT, the University of Rwanda and other stakeholders. https://5rightsfoundation.com/our-work/child-online-protection/rwanda-cop-policy.html

Intervention: The research team will ask the students broad questions about these topics; they may prompt students so as to gather more information, but the interview questions will not stray from these main topics. During the focus groups, CYP will be asked to discuss their screen lives and experiences. They will share what they love about their online lives, voice their fears, vent their frustrations and offer  messages to parents and peers. The findings from the focus groups will be incorporated in the self-defence tool and utilised as supporting materials for front-line practitioners.

Learn more


Sierra Leone 

Research: The research component of the Kick-OUT COVID-19 phase-2 project will investigate the combined impact of COVID-19, the eleven-year civil crisis, the Ebola epidemic and the mudslide, and their effects on disabled or disadvantaged children and young people (CYP), especially their livelihoods, and their health and wellbeing. In response to the findings in phase one – where we used a planning tool (i.e. survey) to collect evidence about how CYP were coping during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what support services they needed coming out of lockdown – we intend to re-apply the planning tool, supplemented with in-depth qualitative interviews, to better understand the support needs of young people struggling to transition into meaningful work, training and/or entrepreneurship to build meaningful lives in spite of human-made and natural disasters. 

Intervention: We will help rehabilitate disabled or disadvantaged CYP affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Sierra Leone. We will deliver merchandise goods to business-oriented CYP, and artisanal tools in tailoring and carpentry to CYP with these skills, and refer CYP who want to return to school or college to educational institutions. We will deliver sustainable support (e.g. capacity building and teaching module) to disabled or disadvantaged CYP to better manage disaster and health emergencies.

We will undertake policy advocacy that will enable disabled or disadvantaged CYP to have increased access to public information systems and support services regarding their health and wellbeing in emergencies. We will work with policy influencers including the Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs Ministry, the Ministry of Education, SLANGO (Sierra Leone Association of Non-Governmental Organisations), and other community stakeholders.

Learn more

News and updates


Dr Ainul Hanafiah A.Hanafiah@uel.ac.uk

Co-designing community based diabetes services

The Young Commissioner project has developed a model to empower young people to work with commissioners, providers, researchers and families to improve services and achieve better outcomes for themselves and other children and young people.

Me and EU

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded site, 'Me & EU', which is complemented with a mobile phone app, aims to give young voters the key, relevant information to make informed decisions in the UK Referendum on EU membership, 2017 General Election and to understand the key issues being debated in the Brexit negotiation.

Me and EU Open Lab

The easy-to-understand tools breaks down some of the complexities involved with the Brexit negotiations and colourfully presenting information on a range of topics, including security; the environment and sustainable energy; income and economic justice; education; travel and transport. The site is coordinated by UEL and NTU and is part of King's College London UK in a Changing Europe programme.

The website was shortlisted for the 99% Campaign Youth Digital Award at the 5th Annual IARS Research and Youth Leadership Awards 2016. IARS annual awards aim to celebrate and reward cutting-edge research and youth leadership from around the world and exemplifies the project meaningful involvement of young people.


Keep Me Safe in Europe (KMSE)

The Keep Me Safe in Europe (KMSE) e-learning tool is a collaboration led by Anglia Ruskin University, the University of East London and other organisations including Walsall Council, European University Cyprus and the South-East European Research Centre.

Reducing blindness in India: Global challenge in reducing blindness


The ORNATE India project is funded by RCUK and aims to reduce the risk of visual impairment due to diabetes by developing a diabetic retinopathy care pathway.

This project is in collaboration with Moorfields Hospital Trust, UEL, LSE and Imperial College London in the UK and four major ophthalmology centres in India and the Government of Kerala. The strategy of this UK-India academic programme is to increase research capacity and capability at individuals, institutional and national levels and establish partnerships to address the challenges of decreasing blindness due to Diabetic Retinopathy (DR) through research. We will select a few government centres, private hospitals and well-established diabetes and ophthalmology centres to ensure support is provided at all levels.

ESRC international studies for life course research

ESRC International Centre for Life Course Studies in Society and Health (ICLS). This in collaboration with UCL, Imperial College London, Manchester University, and Orebro University, Sweden.

Communities Driving Change

Since 2007 ICC has played a major role in the development, delivery and evaluation of Communities Driving Change (formerly called Well London).

Project title: Tower Hamlets Communities Driving Change

Communities Driving Change was commissioned by Tower Hamlets Public Health to improve the health and wellbeing of communities in the Borough of Tower Hamlets by empowering communities to take control over their immediate environment and facilitate positive change in their health and wellbeing. Public health money in the region of 4 million pounds was diverted from frontline services and placed in the hands of local residents to design their own services.

Four providers were commissioned, each working in one of the localities in the borough (North West- The Young Foundation, South West- My Time Active, South East- Poplar and Limehouse Network CIC, North East Locality- Bromley by Bow). The programme structure is based on the Well Communities model and consists of three phases: scoping (identifying three areas of focus within each locality with vulnerable communities), engagement and action planning (identifying the priority issues for each area of focus and devise action plans based on these priorities) and delivery (delivering the programme and facilitating communities to take ownership over organising and designing activities, continuously engage new members and help the sustained delivery of the activities).

UEL IHHD (now ICC) was commissioned to fulfil two roles:

1) Professor Gail Findlay and Bridget Imeson support delivery by providing asset based community development training and individualised support for each providers throughout the programme; and

2) Dr Darren Sharpe, Nora Morocza and Ruby Farr are evaluating the programme delivery and outcomes and provide data collection and local evaluation support for each provider. 

The aim of the programme is to empower communities to take action over their immediate environment and their health and wellbeing; address capacity building within the community, and facilitate 1) engagement in local services, 2) partnership working between local services and voluntary sector and 3) community led initiative and cooperation with stakeholders.

Furthermore, the programme aims to achieve a system change that responds better to the local communities' needs and reduces the burden on health services (especially on the NHS), reduces health inequalities and facilitates the shift towards culturally appropriate healthcare. 

The programme principles are based on 'co-production' and 'engagement', which is conceptualised as a method, approach and mindset to modelling effective ways to stimulate communities to drive change. At a micro level, much of the Communities Driving Change programme input to date has centred on co-produced activities to stimulate reach, and to engage and accelerate community decision-making to produce community-defined health and wellbeing activities.

The programme aims and objectives alongside the fidelity factors have been co-produced with the provider and commissioner teams, and are reviewed on a yearly basis. The overall evaluation framework adopts a realist evaluation approach and uses action research methods focusing on four domains: community engagement, capacity building and co-production; the effects on the individual and community; whole system change; and fidelity, as early, mid and end outcomes/impact for the participating teams and residents.

Furthermore, the team works closely together with commissioners and the four locality providers to collect and integrate various types of data such as grey literature (documentary analysis), quantitative and qualitative surveys, individual and group interviews, focus groups and video methods (e.g. vox pops). Our data analysis combines the salutogenesis framework, which comprises an asset- and a strengths-based approach, with implementation theory. 

To date, over 300 different activities with approximately 1,600 sessions have been running by, for and with residents, which have involved over 15000 registered residents and 15,000 attendances across the four localities.

Our team has been working closely with Tower Hamlets' partners and has supported the delivery through bimonthly Action Learning Sets, Asset Based Community Development trainings, team coaching sessions, evaluation trainings and workshops, on-site and virtual evaluation support.

The four locality provider teams have supported local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic by referrals to additional services, food and medicine delivery, providing activity and home learning packs for children and adults, wellbeing calls, and supporting GP practices in helping vulnerable residents.  

The programme won the UEL Public and Community Engagement Award in the 'Partnership' category.

More information

This is an innovative framework that enables disadvantaged communities and local organisations to work together to improve health and wellbeing, build community resilience, and reduce inequalities using a community development and co-production approach. This framework approach has been developed over two phases through work with 33 London neighbourhoods, across 20 London boroughs, supported by Big Lottery funding.

Our vision is empowered local communities who have the skills and confidence to take control of and improve their individual and collective health and wellbeing.

Our mission is to develop a robust, evidence-based framework for community action for health and wellbeing that will influence policy and practice to secure real enhancements to wellbeing and reductions in health inequalities across all communities in our capital city and beyond.

Over 35,000 people have participated in Well Communities, which have delivered a wide range of positive outcomes and impacts from improved open spaces to empowered communities with increased knowledge, skills and confidence, and greater capacity for working together to make a positive contribution to their community's health and wellbeing.

A unique feature of Well Communities is the robust research and evaluation that runs alongside each programme to capture its effectiveness and cost-effectiveness together with comprehensive implementation support, to ensure the fidelity of, and learning about, the model. This IHHD-led research has also involved collaboration with a number of other research institutions, including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Centre for Health Service Economics and Organisation at Oxford University.

Supported by the Mayor of London and endorsed by Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Well Communities has been recognised nationally and internationally as best practice.

Documentary evidence of the effectiveness of the approach and its very positive impact in Phase 2 is captured in a short film. More information can be found on our website

Dynamic Populations

This research project aimed to improve understanding of the nature of patient 'churn' in Newham and to co-produce improvements that could mitigate its impact on health outcomes and on primary care services.

More information

This project aimed to improve understanding of the nature of patient 'churn' in Newham and to co-produce improvements that could mitigate its impact on health outcomes and on primary care services. The research has brought together evidence from a number of complementary sources, including: a literature review; individual and GP Practice level data analysis; insights from patients and staff; and early improvement evaluation with case studies. It has also developed a new set of measures for calculating churn rates in the primary care context, facilitated the coproduction of improvement recommendations and scoped the potential for economic impact evaluation.

Social Prescribing

The Institute of Connected Communities has developed national and international expertise in the evaluation of social prescribing schemes, research, policy development and training. The team (Dr Marcello Bertotti in particular) have successfully completed a wide range of impact, process and economic evaluations in Newham, City and Hackney, Waltham Forest, and Redbridge.

They are currently about to complete an evaluation of social prescribing for young people in four English sites (Luton, Sheffield, Brighton and Southampton). ICC has also contributed to an economic evidence review, social prescribing toolkit, national guidance for the NHS and coordinated research work on social prescribing for the Greater London Authority.  

Dr Marcello Bertotti and Caroline Frostick are co-founders of the social prescribing network and have contributed significantly to the development of social prescribing in the UK culminating with a visit to HRH Prince of Wales. have collaborated with other organisations (Conexus and Bromley by Bow Centre) in development of the first accredited Level 3 Certificate in Social Prescribing in the country which they now successfully co-deliver in various parts of the country from Newcastle to Thanet.

Projects Currently Underway in Social Prescribing

1. Evaluation of social prescribing for young people in four English sites, funded by the Health and Well-being Fund (DHSC), PI (Dr M Bertotti, UEL), team includes Dr Darren Sharpe, coordinated by StreetGames. 

This evaluation is the first of its type in the country as no other evaluations of social prescribing for young people have yet been published. It will provide outcome, process and economic evaluation data from four models of social prescribing for young people (Brighton, Southampton, Sheffield, and Luton). It is due to be completed in Sep 2020.

2. 'Developing social prescribing to improve mental health and wellbeing for children and young people', funded by UKRI (Emerging Minds call).

Lead applicant (Dr E Stapley, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families) Co-I (D Hayes, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families), Co-I (Prof J Deighton, Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families), Co-I (M Bertotti, IoC, UEL), Co-I (Paul Jarvis-Beesley, StreetGames).

This project will be the first research study to a) explore CYP views on different referral pathways for SP, and b) understand facilitators and barriers to implementing and executing SP with CYP who have mental health difficulties. These results will be highly relevant to policymakers at NHS England who are set to employ an extra 1000 link workers by the end of 2021, as well as CCGs, clinicians, and third sector services thinking about (or already implementing) SP.  

Given the increasing prevalence of mental health difficulties in CYP, enabling better access to SP, via theory-led recommendations, will allow CYP to better manage their mental health whilst also facilitating personal choice. It may also allow CYP to access support while on long waiting lists enabling earlier intervention. The project is due to complete by Autumn 2021.

Community assets in health

What interventions work best to maximise the potential of people in building community, reducing health inequalities, and improving health?

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

The aim of this research (36 months research starting in Jan 2021) is to find out how community organisations' use of 'assets based approaches' improves health and wellbeing, and how that might be different in different contexts.

Where we find positive effects we will examine whether those effects can be applied elsewhere ('scaled up'), and how community organisations can find ways to survive (sustainability).

This research will result in new knowledge to address the gap in evidence. We will work with 10 (or more) CLOs based across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We will interview and run workshops with their staff and stakeholders, to find out what they already know about how programmes work, and what data they already have about their impact. We will measure outcomes, before and after participation, for 225 CLO participants to see how things change for people who connect with the CLOs in their communities. An economic analysis will estimate costs and compare those with benefits to participants.

The findings of this project will be presented visually, in a photographic exhibition in communities and online, through social media, in policy briefings, and in academic conferences and papers.

Collaborators: PI (Prof R Baker, Glasgow Caledonian University), Joint Lead (Prof M Kelly, University of Cambridge), co-I (J McLean, Glasgow Centre for Population Health), Co-I (Prof S Porter, Bournemouth University), Co-I (Dr P Seaman, Glasgow Centre for Population Health), Co-I (Prof H Mason, Glasgow Caledonian University), Co-I (Prof C Donaldson, Glasgow Caledonian University), Co-I (Dr M Bertotti, Institute of Connected Communities, University of East London), Co-I (Ms M Simpson, PPI based in England), Co-I (Prof M Roy, Glasgow Caledonian University), Co-I (Prof A Morgan, Glasgow Caledonian University), Co-I (Dr K Galway, Queen's University of Belfast), Co-I (Dr J Cassidy, PPI based in Scotland) .

Sustainability as a behaviour?

Exploring the sustainability of community assets for mental health using the Behaviour Change Wheel & the Theoretical Domains Framework

Funded by UKRI (MARCH network) 

PI (Bertotti, IoC, UEL), Co-PI (Daniel Hayes, Anna Freud Centre), Co-I Anna Moore (Anna Freud Centre), Co-I Paul Jarvis-Beesley, StreetGames), Co-I Caroline Frostick (IoC, UEL). This project (duration 12 months starting in Autumn 2020) aims to understand the sustainability of community assets in mental health by examining behaviours at individual, organisational and population levels. It includes a) a systematic map b) interviews and focus groups with stakeholders. Stakeholders include people involved in developing, running, overseeing and participating in public, private and third sector organisations to support communities' mental health.

Questions will focus on barriers and facilitators to enacting that behaviour and be underpinned by the Behaviour Change Wheel (BCW) (Michie et al., 2011). This is a comprehensive, theory-led methodology designed to understand and improve the implementation of interventions and evidence-based practice. Furthermore, the BCW allows for findings to be translated into recommendations at individual, intervention and policy levels in building community, reducing health inequalities, and improving health, funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

Previous Research Projects

REACH Pregnancy Programme

The  REACH Pregnancy Programme [Research for Equitable Antenatal Care and Health] aims to generate high quality evidence on how to improve access to antenatal care and enhance the value and experience of that care, for pregnant women living in areas with high levels of poverty and ethnic diversity. REACH is funded by an NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Health Research.

There are three main projects within the research programme:

  • Community Reach
  • Pregnancy Circles
  • User involvement in maternity services

Post Research Ethics Analysis (PREA) for Health Research in Humanitarian Crises

PREA is a research project investigating ethical issues in health research in humanitarian crises. 

It aims to identify good ethical practice from lessons learned in the field and develop a tool that assists reflection on ethical issues in humanitarian research. The PREA project is firmly based on the assumption that research ethics needs to go beyond ethical approval mechanisms and support ethical practice during and after research projects. The PREA tool will provide researchers and other stakeholders with a pragmatic instrument that assists learning lessons about the actual ethical challenges that develop during health research in humanitarian crises. It aims to encourage good practice regarding equitable and meaningful stakeholder involvement from inception right throughout to completion and dissemination of research.


PROMISE  (PROactive Management of Integrated Services and Environments) is a paradigm of co-producing an alternative discourse in mental health care. 

A discourse that creates hope and agency and empowers patients to take the driving seat in moving towards recovery and life beyond illness. A discourse that empowers staff to 're-innovate the wheel' and continuously improve on the small changes that make a big difference. A discourse in which patients and professionals can empower each other to eliminate reliance on force across the entire recovery journey. PROMISE has been funded and supported by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care East of England (CLAHRC EOE).   Additional matched-funding has come from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) and the Institute for Health and Human Development at the University of East London.

Contact us

Tel: 020 82234705

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