The Local Knowledge for Local Solutions was about residents of communities developing the research skills to develop solutions to problems in their areas.
About the project
The project was part of Southwark Alliance's Neighbourhood Renewal programme and targets three priority neighbourhoods within Southwark: South Bermondsey and North Livesey, East Camberwell and West Bermondsey.
Southwark Alliance commissioned a consortium made up of the Centre for Urban and Community Research at Goldsmiths, GAP Research (link opens a new browser window), a community-based research company, and Magpie Resource Library, a Deptford/New Cross community group, to deliver Stage 1 of the project. Stage 1, in the spring and summer of 2003, included:
- interviewing key people in the local neighbourhoods (this was done by a team based at GAP, including CUCR's Caroline Blunt
- desk research to collate exisitng data on the neighbourhoods (this was done by Neil Spicer and Ben Gidley at CUCR)
- “reality check” events to take our findings back to the neighbourhoods (this was done by Magpie)
- creating neighbourhood profiles, based on the data collected in the interviews, desk research and reality checks (these were edited by Ben Gidley at CUCR)
- the development of a Toolkit for action research training (this was the joint work of the partnership, co-ordinated by GAP)
In Stage 2, the Toolkit and Neighbourhood profiles are being used in Southwark to train residents as researchers, to report to the Southwark Alliance. The consortium was later commissioned to train these residents in Participatory Action Research tools. The residents' research reports are influencing the future spend of Neighbourhood Renewal money in the borough.
CUCR also acting as the "critical friend" to the project in stage 2, to evaluate and learn from the process. Our Critical Friend reports can be obtained from Ben Gidley (e-mail b.gidley). Ben has contributed an article on the lessons of the project (link opens a new browser window) to Quarterly Bulletin of the Association for Research in the Voluntary and Community Sector.
Results of the project
Since completing the project, many of our resident researchers have gone on to gain employment as researchers or community sector workers, including some who have gone on to deliver community research in Southwark in projects led by Magpie and supported by Ben Gidley and Luis Jimenez at CUCR These include a neighbourhood Management Pathfinder in South Bermondsey and a public health consultation for Southwark Primary Care Trust. CUCR has also used the Action Research Toolkit in other projects, for instance training parents on the North Peckham estate as researchers for a Sure Start programme.
Our work on this project built on our experience with the New Cross Research and Training Project (the NX Project), which involved local people in research and discussion about the needs of the area, leading to a government-funded community-led regeneration programme locally, the Get Set for Citizenship SRB.