Strengthening community participation and resilience in Bradford through global south-north learning and participatory research
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Bradford
Unit of AssessmentPolitics and International Studies
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Sociology
Summary of the impact
Since the Bradford Riots in 2001, research at Bradford has helped to
defuse underlying tensions between deprived, multiethnic communities and
between them and the local state thus strengthening community resilience
in the city. Building on global research, particularly in Latin America,
we have introduced participatory and peace-building methodologies into the
locality, but with implications beyond it. The Programme for a Peaceful
City enhances our impact through academic-practitioner reflection spaces.
Our research with rather than on communities fosters their voice in
policy, contributing to a non-confrontational response to the EDL in 2010,
2012 and 2013 and bringing community activists from Bradford's diverse
communities together to co-create the ESRC-funded Community University
(Comm-Uni-ty) in May 2013.
In the 1990s and early 2000s we conducted research on civil society,
social movements and NGOs, with particular reference to Latin America (1).
The research output critiqued the incorporation of grass roots agency into
state and international donor driven agendas to the detriment of pro-poor
change, critical social agency and institutional innovation. In 2000, the
intellectual and practical relevance of this research from the global
South to social change amongst poor, multi-ethnic communities in a
de-industrialised Northern city (Bradford) was recognised with the
appointment of Jenny Pearce (Lecturer 1993-1995, Reader 1995-1999,
Professor 1999-present) to a commission under Sir Herman Ouseley to
explore community fragmentation in Bradford District. Pearce founded the
Programme for a Peaceful City (PPC) in 2001 to channel research to the
community, create `safe space' for dialogue, build partnerships and
enhance research impact. The International Centre for Participation
Studies (ICPS) was established in 2004 as a research hub for Global South
North learning, participatory social action and co-production of knowledge
with community and institutional partners.
The members of the research and action ICPS team include: Deputy
Director, Dr Graeme Chesters (Senior Research Fellow 2005-present) who has
critical theorising of non-state social action to the theory-practice
experimentation of the ICPS; Dr Ute Kelly (Research Assistant 2000-2004,
Lecturer 2004-present) has conceptual and practical interest in dialogue
and deliberation; Heather Blakey (Research Fellow 2004-2008) focussed on
participatory budgeting; Lisa Cumming (Programme Officer 2003-2005,
Community Associate 2005-present) has expertise in facilitation and
dialogue and bridges the academic-practitioner divide.
Throughout the life of the ICPS/PPC, the interface between research and
practice has been central. This methodology is highlighted in the REAP
(Reciprocity, Externalities, Access and Partnership) approach to
university-community engagement (2), a piece of commissioned research to
measure such engagement and which sees the community as participant not
recipient in a reciprocal relationship with the University. By
experimenting with different process methods (e.g. community researchers;
co-produced research), we have built connections to a range of community
groups (3,4).This enabled us to create a feedback loop between the
university, the community, statutory and council bodies, aimed at
enhancing community voice. This innovative cycle of `practice, reflection,
practice' was implemented through co-producing knowledge with community
activists in three Latin American and three UK cities for ESRC funded
project on municipal innovation in non-governmental public action
2008-2010 (3); working with community researchers on Bradford's white
estates on community participation (4); working with young Asian
auxiliaries for research on the Bradford riot (5) and `Power Talks' with
community activists (6). These approaches have built trust with research
participants, enhancing credibility with policy makers, demonstrated in
our contribution to community resilience against provocations from the EDL
2010, 2012 and 2013.
The key messages from the underpinning research are that community and
grass roots based organisations and movements generate knowledge for
change, which can influence the effectiveness of policy, extend its reach
and widen citizen participation. For community agency for change to be
unleashed, institutions need to reflect differently on their relationships
with citizens and the way horizontal relationships, rather than
traditional top down policy processes, can improve their knowledge base
and practice. The ICPS has disseminated these messages through our
participatory methods and feedback processes, based on a strong foundation
of funded research (over £500,000 of grant funding) in the locality,
including grants from the major Research Councils (AHRC/ESRC) and the
leading UK research funder on poverty (JRF). While this research emerges
in the locality, we argue, it has significance nationally and even
globally to tackling poverty, exclusion and conflict.
References to the research
1. Chesters G, Welsh I. (2006) Complexity and Social Movements.
2. Pearce J, Pearson M, Cameron S. (2007) The Ivory Tower and Beyond:
The University of Bradford at the Heart of its Communities The
University of Bradford's REAP approach to measuring its Community
Engagement. Bradford: University of Bradford.
3. Pearce J. (ed.) (2010) Participation and Democracy in the
Twenty-first Century City. Non-Governmental Public Action Series.
London: Palgrave Macmillan.
5. Pearce J, Bujra J. (2011) Saturday Night and Sunday Morning: The
Bradford Riot and Beyond. Bradford: Vertical Press
6. Pearce J. (2013) Power and the Activist: From the Neighbourhood to the
Square. Development and Change 44(3): 639-664
Safer Communities Partnership, 2004-2006, £30,000. The Bradford Riot.
Bradford Council, 2011-2012, £20,000. Evaluating Bradford's Response
to the EDL. Pearce, ICPS.
Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF):
Minority in Minorities: Beneath the Surface of South Asian
Participation, 2005- 2006, £25.000. Pearce, ICPS and School of Health.
Participation and Community on Bradford's Traditionally `White'
Estates', 2007-2009, £63,309. Pearce.
The Impact of Recession, Poverty and Sustainable Communities in
Bradford, 2010, £50,000.
Chesters as part of an Oxfam UK/ICPS bid.
Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC):
Municipal Innovations in Non-Governmental Public Participation:
UK/Latin America, 2007-2008. £229,963. Pearce.
Comm-Uni-ty: A Community University on Power and Participation.
Knowledge Exchange Award, 2013-2014, £70,000, with 50% funding from JRF.
Pearce, ICPS, PPS.
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC):
Power in Community, Scoping Study Connecting Communities Programme.
March 2011-October 2011, £32,691. Pearce
Details of the impact
Our impact is not about a linear thread between outputs and outcomes, but
an iterative and cumulative influence on ways of recognising agency for
change, the importance of community participation and voice in decision
making and community resilience against external provocations. ICPS
research has combined with the PPC's innovative knowledge exchange and
peace-building practices, thus enhancing impact. The partnerships we have
built with formal and informal community organisations and individual
activists (e.g. Schools Linking Network, Tenants Federation, All Keighley
Communities Together, Diversity Exchange, Manningham Sports Centre
Coaching Group; Democratise the Mosque Group) statutory bodies (eg Police,
Youth Service); Council Officers and others, have generated relationships
which have facilitated receptivity to our research messages and new
thinking and practice amongst these actors around community participation
and responses to threats of urban conflict.
Building Community Voice
Working with community researchers has enabled activists and residents in
communities not only to gain new skills but to be heard by decision makers
(a). The importance of this message was recognised by JRF which
commissioned a local playwright to write and direct a play from the
research (b). This was performed three times in Bradford in 2010 to local
residents and policy makers followed by discussion on stage between them,
and once in Birmingham in 2011 as JRF rolled out work on `white estates'.
A long term partnership was formed from this research with activists from
Braithwaite Estate trying to reactivate the District Tenants Federation.
Our AHRC funded research on Power in Community was used by the latter to
stimulate discussion on power, and in July 2013 the theme of power in
community was the focus of their reactivation conference for which
Professor Pearce was the keynote speaker. The leading activist in this
effort is now a member of the Community University Council and two other
housing activists are participants in the Community University. This work
on community voice fed into the regional Yorkshire and Humber Empowerment
Partnership,a network bringing together around 50 community groups, to a
role of `reflecting back' on community presentations to a regional
Empowerment Commission in 2008 and to an invitation to write the forward
to the collected essays on the Partnership's work (d).
Thinkspace and the Community University: Fostering New Learning and
The ICPS and PPC have worked together on knowledge exchange spaces for
many years (11 `Thinkspaces' held between 2009 and 2013) where academics
and practitioners share thinking and practice about dialogue,
participation and peace-building, underpinned by the REAP approach to
University-Community Engagement (c) and commissioned research on dialogue
(d, e). Interviews with Schools Linking Network (an innovative project to
connect Bradford's `segregated' schools, now rolled out nationally which
supports young people, schools and local authorities in exploring
identity, diversity and equality in communities) and Council Officers
evidence this impact (d). The philosophy and methodology of co-producing
knowledge encourages partnerships; for instance it brought 16 community
participants in the Power in Community Project to a feedback session in
February 2012. The idea of the Community University was born there; a
successful partnership around a co-designed proposal led to ESRC/JRF
funding and Comm-Uni-ty was launched with a Kickstarter Day in July 2013,
bringing community activists from `white' estates, the inner city Muslim
communities, and more professional backgrounds together with academics to
co-construct a space for learning about power and participation (f).
Rarely does such a mix of Bradford citizens work together on new learning.
The idea of building a `Community University' has potential significance
beyond Bradford; activists, academics and policy thinkers outside the
District have been invited to act as friends and associates to facilitate
this wider impact.
Addressing Urban Conflict, Building Peace and Resilience: Responses to
the EDL Protests in Bradford District (2010, 2012 and 2013)
In 2010 the PPC undertook a series of peace-building interventions when
Bradford faced the English Defence League, which included the largest
policing operation in a city since WWII. This drew on learning from the
2001 riots research (b), and built on long term work with the Bradford
police including an exchange programme with the community police in
Medellin, Latin America (2002-2006) (g,h).The PPC participated in over 20
discussions between activists, the Council and Police which led to a
successful channel of communications on the day and a series of practical
agreements. The PPC also negotiated the use of `street mediators'. The PPC
recruited, informally trained and facilitated the `Stop It Kicking Off
Network. This led to the request to the ICPS to evaluate Bradford's
response. A feedback session of the draft report brought together over 40
people at all levels of activism and policy making in the District
(including the Chief Executive) in December 2011. The value of the report
was formally recognised by the police (h) and the ICPS/PPC can claim that
they have helped change the culture of policing potential unrest in
Bradford, securing institutional support for grassroots peacekeeping and
encouraging inner city youths to see themselves as part of resilience
efforts. The PPC disseminated the evaluation research via Thinkspace in a
workshop attended by 20 people, further enhancing the impact on
practitioner thinking. The report secured acceptance of street mediators
with real influence, leading to the PPC's `Stop it Kicking Off Model'
being used in a regional EDL demonstration in Keighley in 2012 and in
Bradford 2013. Council Officers recognised the report's role in `cascading
learning' (e). The research has national significance, evidenced by
requests from the CEO of Croydon Council to share the report with senior
Council and police officers (i), and the invitation to the PPC officer to
be a Director of a national consortia of Far Right specialists, known as
Sources to corroborate the impact
a. Skinner S, Taylor M, Wilson M. (Feb. 2013) Review of JRF
Involvement in Bradford, unpublished report. ``We used the
research to influence thinking about how we change our mindsets towards
people' (p.8, quote from local Incommunities housing officer)
b. Conor Ibrahiem, (2010) "Estate of Mind", Arakan Creative. www.arakancreative.co.uk.
Play Commissioned by JRF from the White Estates Research. This play
highlighted and disseminated key messages from the research on `white
estates' and fostered on stage discussion about controversial aspects
between residents, council officers and ICPS research. The play was also
performed in Birmingham feeding into JRF's efforts to promote wider
research and national discussion on `white estates'
c. Hart A, Northmore S. (2011) Auditing and Evaluating
University-Community Engagement: Lessons from a UK case study. Higher
Education Quarterly 65(1): 34-58.
d. Yorkshire and Humber Empowerment Partnership (YHEP). (2011) Empowerment
Reflections from Yorkshire and Humber. Yorkshire and Humber
e. Twigg L. (2013) ICPS/PPC: Interviews with User Groups,
unpublished report, Bradford. An Adviser to the Schools Linking Network
summed up the importance of the ThinkSpace: `it's not about telling,
it's about the sharing of knowledge from all sides — which is remarkable'
(p.10) A Council Officer said they were `helpful because I can stop
being a Council Officer..I can bring back learning ...and share it with
staff in Council who can't attend but are struggling with issues'(p.10)
f. Community University website www.brad.ac.uk/ssis/comm-uni-ty/
g. Abello Colak A, Pearce J. (2008) From State Centred to Community
Centred Policing: Lessons from Bradford/Medellin Community
Police Exchange. ICPS Working Paper 9. This paper has also fed into
editorial discussions 2012-2013 on the UNDP Human Development Report for
Latin America on Violence and Security (forthcoming, 2014) and is
referenced in it.
h. Email from Detective Superintendent, North East Counter Terrorism Unit
i. Email (12/9/2012) from the Head of Corporate Equality and Community