Changing policy and practices in the organisation of community-based Active Citizenship Learning
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Lincoln
Unit of AssessmentBusiness and Management Studies
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Sociology
Summary of the impact
Through active engagement in policy processes, systems research at
Lincoln produced a sustained change in governmental and third sector
approaches to citizenship education and hence citizen participation.
Translating and refining the initial concepts, a network of Third Sector
organisations and universities (including the researchers) ran successful
pilot projects to benefit more than 1,300 people. This led to the
inclusion of the `Take Part' concept in three government White Papers.
Pathways to impact were two national learning frameworks, an £8.7 million
programme (2009-2011), and a £0.77m capacity building cluster (2008-2013).
The programme reached over 18,000 people nationally, who became more
effectively involved in local democracy.
Social systems research has been used to explore and shape Active
Citizenship education in communities. The project has a number of
elements, where research and action are part of an iterative process:
- Raul Espejo (Research Professor in Information Management at Lincoln
1995-2002) initiated research on the reciprocal relations between
individuals and the organizational contexts, which articulated how
understanding the processes used by individuals to construct their sense
of reality within an organisation can improve effective
participation in organizations via the formation of
self-constructed action spaces [3.1, 3.2].
Critical study of citizenship education: Raul Espejo [at
Lincoln in 1995-2002) and Zoraida-Mendiwelso-Bendek. This consisted of
field studies enabling primary school children to construct their sense
of community through actions and conversations about their community,
with their community. The findings [3.3] elaborated the process
of constructing the children's `action spaces', and the key researcher
role of facilitating `constructed conversations'. The approach requires
specific organising and structuring of citizenship learning. The
research informed a national consultation on citizenship learning.
- It was followed by a pilot project on citizenship in communities
(2003-2006), which was evaluated. Lincoln was one of seven national
`hubs' of Active Learning for Active Citizenship (ALAC) [3.4].
The `hub' project in Lincolnshire tested approaches to organising and
structuring citizenship learning using Freire's participatory action
research, which is a significant methodology for intervention,
development and change within communities and groups. The research
identified key aspects of power relations in active citizenship. The
results enabled a more complete framework of relationships in
organisational systems to be developed and linked to wider policy on
active citizenship [3.5].
- The ESRC funded a national research and capacity building
programme, `Taking Part?', led by 3 HEIs (hosted by Lincoln),
2008-2013. Through this Lincoln used a knowledge co-production approach,
working with community organisations, to test and refine the ways in
which individual participants and groups could make operational the
concepts of `self-construction' and understanding power relationships.
The co-production method used in this approach is to work with
non-academic members of communities as research partners, helping them
to identify socio-political structures and social needs in their own
communities. This leads to development based on the communities'
knowledge of the socio-political spaces they occupy and the local
systemic effects. The programme used university and community
partnerships to test active citizenship learning tools in experiments
with Third Sector organisations, community-based research and training
for trainers. The results indicated that the approach enables
communities to `map needs', `explore the impact of public policy',
`strengthen self-organization', `develop evaluation tools', and
`facilitate reflective practice' [3.6].
References to the research
3.1. Espejo, R. (1996) `Requirements for effective participation in
self-constructed organizations', European Management Journal, 14,
4, pp 414-422. DOI: 10.1016/0263-2373(96)00029-1.
3.2. Espejo, R. (2002) `Self-Construction and Restricted Conversations',
Systems Research and Behavioural Science, Volume 19, 6, pp 517-529.
3.3. Mendiwelso-Bendek, Z. (2002) `Citizens of the Future: Beyond
Normative Conditions through the Emergence of Desirable Collective
Properties', Journal of Business Ethics, 39, 1-2, pp 189- 195.
3.4. Mendiwelso-Bendek, Z. and Herron, R. (2010) `Constructing
conversations: the Lincolnshire active Learning approach', in J. Annette
and M. Mayo (eds) Taking Part? Active Learning for Active Citizenship
and Beyond, Leicester: NIACE.
3.5. Espejo, R. and Bendek, Z. M. (2011) `An argument for active
citizenship and organisational transparency', Kybernetes, 40, 3,
pp 477-493. DOI: 10.1108/03684921111133692.
3.6. Mayo, M., Mendiwelso-Bendek, Z. and Packham, C. (2013) (eds) Community
Research as Community Development, Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Related grants include:
|Z. Mendiwelso-Bendek, University of Lincoln
||Lincolnshire Active Learning for Active Citizenship
||Home Office Civil Renewal Unit
|Z. Mendiwelso-Bendek, University of Lincoln
||Take Part Pathfinder Programme
|Department for Communities and Local Government
|Z. Mendiwelso-Bendek, University of Lincoln
||Regional Take Part Champions Programme
||ESRC, in partnership with The Office for the Third Sector and the
Barrow Cadbury Trust,
|D. Rae, University of Lincoln, M. Mayo, Goldsmiths’ University
College, London, and C.
Packham, Manchester Metropolitan University
|Taking Part? :
Capacity Building Cluster for research with the Third Sector
|ESRC, in partnership
with The Office for the
Third Sector and the
Details of the impact
This research set out a particular approach to citizenship education
involving `active' citizenship and the facilitation of research,
reflection and learning. Lincoln's research demonstrated effective use of
active learning (following Paulo Freire), and contributed new knowledge to
organise the context and the forms of relationship in the learning
process. It has helped make significant changes to policy and practice on
public participation in democratic processes, enabling people to influence
decisions in their locality, with the research team creating sustained
impact through engagement in follow-on activities in association with
other academics and a wide range of stakeholders.
The highly positive results of the evaluation of the pilot project on
citizenship in communities [5.1] were recognised in the Department
of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) White Paper, Strong and
Prosperous Communities (2006, Section 2.60), and included in the
action plan, Building on Success (2007, p9). Mendiwelso-Bendek
became Chair of the Take Part Network and an adviser to DCLG. This
combination of policy and personal advice provided a pathway for the
creation of impact.
The main impact has come in 2008-2013, with policies being implemented
and knowledge disseminated through networks, programmes, user training and
materials. A Principal Social Researcher at DCLG reflects that
Mendiwelso-Bendek's work (with other colleagues), `made a direct
contribution to the evidence base underpinning three government White
Papers, [...] and the implementation of the Take Part, Local Pathfinder
Programme. The Take Part, learning for active citizens' approach played
a key role in forming elements of the Government's strategy for
empowering communities' [5.2].
The 2008 White Paper [5.3] committed funding to promote
citizenship learning. The Take Part programme (the follow-on from ALAC)
received £8.7 million of public funding from 2008-2011, involving two main
pathways: a Pathfinder programme (to apply the learning from Take Part
more widely); and the `National Support' programme (to engage
organisations beyond the Pathfinders to run Take Part activities) [5.4].
Nineteen Pathfinders were established nationally with local strategic
partnerships. An evaluation of Take Part by the Community Development
Foundation [5.5] found that, `The programme had an extensive
reach... 6,569 people benefited from the pathfinders' work in 2009/10,
11,616 people benefited from the pathfinders' work in 2010/11, 967
learning opportunities were created by `Train the Take Part trainers'
activities across the duration of the programme... Beneficiaries
increased their civic and civil activity and became more effective in
their involvement' (p30). An evaluation of the Train the Trainers
programme by the Worker Educational Association (WEA) [5.6]
identified that 1,083 people, a significant number coming from
`disadvantaged postcode areas', participated in 63 courses. The results
included improved knowledge and awareness of political processes and
greater confidence to lead in communities and partnership working (p3-4).
Researchers at Lincoln also created local impact by leading a Pathfinder
programme, in partnership with local authorities and a range of
communities and voluntary organisations, and extended their local reach
through a Regional Champions programme, `Take Part in the East Midlands',
in partnership with WEA and supporting 5 district councils [5.7],
and a Lincoln Citizenship Network of some 50 organizations (churches,
colleges, local authorities, voluntary sector groups), working with a
range of beneficiaries, including refugees, asylum seekers and faith
communities. The project with Sports Volunteers was recognised with an
Inspire Award as part of the Olympics' Legacy, and there have been a wide
range of follow-on activities. Peter Bradley, Director of Speaker's Corner
Trust, has said that Lincoln's Take Part [was] `very important to the
development and subsequent success of a permanent Lincoln Speaker's
In addition, an ESRC Capacity Building Cluster (Section 3) led to
the formation of University and Community Partnerships, undertaking new
research, which has already influenced the refinement of Take Part
programmes, in particular developing `research mindedness' in the Third
Sector, to strengthen the independent role of civil society through
reflective active learning and development. A revised version of the ALAC
learning framework was published in 2011 [5.8] and outputs from
the action research have been published (e.g. [3.6]).
The `active' approach to community development is becoming embedded, for
instance, being recognised nationally by the Community Development
the Workers Educational Association, and the National Institute of Adult
Continuing Education (NIACE) [5.10], whose evidential letter
points out that the `Take Part programme and the `Taking Part?'
research cluster offered a chance to NIACE to continue to improve and
refine its approaches to community learning for active citizenship'.
Mendiwelso-Bendek has disseminated the University and Community
Partnerships approach through the Andrés Bello Convention in South
America. She has supported a programme engaging with community-based
research in the University of Concepcion (Chile) and the University of
Ibague (Colombia) where she provided a course to academics at Ibague
International Summer School 2013 [5.9].
The substantial impact of this research on the organisation and practice
of citizenship learning lies in its `conceptual robustness and its
direct applicability to local efforts' [5.2], and Lincoln's
strategy of maintaining a link with the programme from research to
practice. As one client has said, the `...work is a good example of
the direct benefits realised by linking academic research and expertise
specifically to a policy as it moves from design, through to
Sources to corroborate the impact
5.1 Mayo, M. and Rooke, A. (2006) ALAC evaluation report,
(research cited on pages 8, 52, impact pathways cited on pages 22, 23, 26,
29, 32, 35, 37, 63, 67, 70).
5.2 Letter from Principal Social Researcher, Decentralisation and Big
Society Directorate, Department for Communities and Local Government
(dated 4 Oct 2013, concerning period 2006- 2013).
5. 3 Department of Communities and Local Government (2008) Real
People Real Power (see p3, para14; p39, para2.22; p133), www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm74/7427/7427.pdf.
5.4 Take Part website, with links to programmes, networks and research
5.5 Miller, S. and Hatamian, A. (2011) Take Part evaluation final
report (see, e.g. p5, 30, 35), www.cdf.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Take-Part-Final-Report1.pdf.
5.6 Land, T. (2011) WEA evaluation of Take Part Train the Trainers
5.7 Take Part in the East Midlands (11 filmed case studies)
5.8 National Learning Framework and Guide to Practice: Take Part Learning
5.9 Ibague International Summer School 2013,
5.10 Evidential letter from the Director of the National Institute of
Adult Continuing Education (NIACE).