University teams up with community researchers

Date posted

6 February 2020


A team of community researchers will join forces with academics to help improve their neighbourhood.


UK Research and Innovation today announced its backing for the Seven Kingdoms of Wester Hailes, one of 53 new UK-wide projects worth £1.4million which will enable members of the public to actively contribute to research and innovation projects that affect their lives.


Part of the agency’s Enhancing place-based partnerships in public engagement programme, the project involves community partners working with Edinburgh Napier to contribute to the local place plan being developed with support from the Scottish Government’s Chief Architect.


Wester Hailes, in south-west Edinburgh, is made up of seven distinct neighbourhoods; Calders, Clovenstone, Dumbryden, Hailesland, Harvester, Murrayburn, and Westburn.


Local residents there will get the opportunity to become community researchers, and get involved in a variety of place-based activities with support from researchers from across the university. The work, backed by cutting-edge technology, will include virtual reality, oral and art-based storytelling projects and the creation of a book.  


Previous research carried out by the university has shown that the seven neighbourhoods in Wester Hailes have a distinct identity, and the project will help local residents and organisations to better understand the challenges this presents and how creating a local place plan may help.

Researcher taking photo of child in busy community centre


Photo credit: Oliver Benton


The collaborative approach in Seven Kingdoms of Wester Hailes – one of 25 place-based partnership projects to share a £500,000 funding pot - will bring new skills to the community and bolster its relationship with the university.


Project lead Dr Louise Todd, from the university’s Business School, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be leading on this fantastic public engagement and research initiative.


“This is an exciting interdisciplinary project that will involve researchers from across the whole university and at every stage in their academic career.


“Working with our network of community partners in Wester Hailes to co-create and co-design place-making activities, the project will be of tangible benefit to both the local community and to the university’s public engagement and research communities.”


Dawn Smith, Edinburgh Napier’s Public Engagement Officer, said: “UKRI funding provides the opportunity to work collaboratively to support the community in developing its Place Plan, creating a legacy and a stronger relationship between local residents and the university.”


Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent the public spaces as the heart of every community, strengthening the connection between people and the places they share.


Tom Saunders, Head of Public Engagement with UK Research and Innovation, said: “This is one of 53 pilot projects that we have funded, all using exciting ways that researchers and innovators can involve the public in their work.


“In 2020 and beyond, we will build on the lessons we can learn through funding these pilot projects to help us achieve our ambition of making research and innovation responsive to the knowledge, priorities and values of society and open to participation by people from all backgrounds.”


The projects announced today actively encourage people who would not usually get involved in research to take part in ground-breaking discovery and innovation.  They cover a diverse range of topics from plastic pollution to period poverty, and net zero carbon emissions to air quality.


Another project will see farmers working with researchers in Devon to make informed decisions on future land management to deliver carbon emission targets


And homeless people in the north west of England will help the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the University of Liverpool to explore women’s experiences and perspectives of managing menstruation while living in deprivation.

The Scottish Parliament’s Planning Act (2019) encourages communities to produce their own Local Place Plan and is designed to increase public participation with local issues.  Wester Hailes has been chosen by the Government as a Place Plan pilot community, and the Chief Architect (Scottish Government) is seconded to Wester Hailes, based at WHALE Arts, until spring 2020 to spearhead the pilot project.