The Institute for Community Studies is a different kind of research institute, with people at its heart. We believe that involving communities leads to better decision-making on the issues that most affect them. We engage with people across the UK, amplifying their diverse perspectives, and directing their most urgent questions toward policymakers and researchers.
Encouraging more equal relationships between institutions and communities, we challenge traditional models of commissioning and research, supporting genuine partnerships to shape how knowledge is produced, how evidence is valued, and how policy is created.
We work with:
- community representatives and organisations addressing local and societal issues
- policymakers at national, regional, and local level, involving communities in shaping policy and systems
- funders of research, innovation, and system change seeking to benefit and engage with communities
- practitioners and researchers within and outside of academia committed to building evidence with communities.
The Institute gives weight to participatory social and peer research, supporting people to make positive change in communities they belong to and identify with. This brings:
- access to ‘less heard’ voices, involving people who might otherwise be unwilling to engage
- research ‘with and for’ people, mitigating the power imbalance between researcher and subject
- the added value of lived experience bringing rich, nuanced experiential knowledge
- better data with a reduced risk of misunderstanding between researcher and subject, greater honesty and openness, and increased relevance
- activated communities, supporting self-critical communities invested in their own wellbeing
- valuable experience and training that may increase individuals’ employability, confidence, and self-esteem, and can promote social inclusion, reducing exclusion and isolation.
Our research agenda
The Institute for Community Studies’ agenda was designed by communities, for communities, and develops through an ongoing process of listening and collaborative priority-setting.
Our report, Safety in Numbers?, published in the wake of the pandemic in 2020. It identifies questions that matter to communities, as shared with us by more than 3,000 people across the UK. Through a process of research and co-creation, we heard about the issues, opportunities and challenges people face.
Key questions include: how can communities build economic resilience? What role can they take in keeping people safe? And how can we strengthen community involvement, and find practical and policy- based solutions to local problems? The Institute for Community Studies’ agenda will dig deep to explore what’s working, who’s innovating, and what’s changing in response to these loud cries from UK communities.
If you would like to know more or are interested in working with us, please contact our Associate Director, Richard Harries.