Role of VCS organisations in academic research

Based on our current community support activity, our research focuses on reducing health inequalities and improving population health and wellbeing in Sparkbrook and surrounding areas by linking high quality research, innovation and engagement to operational practice in a community-led asset-based delivery process

The complexity of contemporary health issues requires that we all work across boundaries of community organisations, health providers and non-health disciplines. This enables us to embrace a host of behavioural, social, economic and environmental factors that affect the health of our target communities.

We recognise that, as community based organisations, we cannot do this in isolation. We do not have the competencies or capacity to research, design, develop or test services and interventions to improve population health and healthcare quality. We need to work with a wide range of organisations who undertake such activity, who are willing to listen to our experience and input, and support us in changing behaviour through research and by opening and sharing health data.

Generally, community-led VCS organisations are not established to undertake the academic rigor of researching biological, environmental and social causes of disease, including the determinants of health risk behaviours. Many do have an extensive understanding of its impact, and the potential, and frequent failure, of implementation of research findings into policy and practice.

VCS organisations have experience in the community elements of healthcare, with potential links to the quality and safety of provision, childhood health issues and supporting and improving quality of life and health issues with adults and families. This knowledge provides us with robust experiences and access to communities to influence health behaviour change. The extensive community knowledge and delivery experience of VCS organisations has enabled us to identify health and wellbeing sub divisions that have significant intersections with other causal factors.

This knowledge and experience provides us with the opportunity for collaboration within VCS organisations in this field, and participation in larger scale statutory delivery and research programmes that should recognise and acknowledge our access to the relevant communities and beneficiaries.

These relationships should be with not only commissioners, implementing policy decisions, derived from research, but also with the original researchers, enabling us to participate within, influence or even shape such research.

To influence delivery and improve the impact of our delivery we will undertake initial research into the following

  • Developing links with appropriate community based organisations and exploring how strategic partnerships can be developed with statutory partners and wider research institutes.
  • Sharing data and working openly and collaboratively
  • Exploring research and existing cross-disciplinary collaborations between health scientists and researchers related to our beneficiary communities.
  • Working collectively with VCS organisations to identify funding, engage VCS organisations in a process that better understands casual pathways and develop effective and efficient strategies for prevention of ill-health and tackling lifestyles that lead to disease
  • Identifying other potential collaborations by using social media and networks

This blog was initiated by our involvement with the eLife challenge at HackTheMidlands and influenced by the content and thinking of this post from Cardiff University, Biomedical and life sciences department, population health aspirations.

While the department outlines high level academic aspirations, we explore how Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) grass roots groups that we work with could initiate, influence, implement and benefit from research activity.

We believe this could have benefits for both the academic and beneficiary communities