Illuminate Community and Voluntary Sector Research Programme


Bespoke research-led consultation and evidence of impact gathering incorporating service-user voice and skills development.

This programme is intended for advice services, support groups, employment projects, social enterprises, charities, youth clubs, disability organisations, community groups, museums and arts organisations.

The Illuminate Community and Voluntary Sector Project is designed to enhance service-user voice; gather evidence for fundraising purposes; and deliver transferrable skills to volunteers and service-users. It is hoped that this will also help a range of groups to develop resilience to the various pressures which may obstruct access to education, increase employability, and to enable them to challenge stereotypes about them perpetrated by the media.

Now in its third year, Illuminate, originally developed for use in schools, has been introduced across London and Kent. Illuminate has focused on issues as diverse as how to manage and enhance community cohesion in a school in a bipartisan area; how a new international 6th form will appeal to a range of young people; how a new Health Hut can support girls who are being bullied; and what effects a new building can have on people in terms of its noise levels. The project can be delivered flexibly across a day or a number of weeks.

How it works

  1. Your organisation identifies a range of questions. These can be in response to the requirements of a funding application, service-user feedback, statistical data in need of context, Senior Management Team (SMT) or Directors, action planning, staff, volunteers and service-users undertaking study that requires them to undertake a research project.
  1. Small groups of volunteers and/or service-users with a variety of skills and needs are identified for Illuminate Researcher sessions.
  1. Illuminate staff from Goldsmiths train small groups of people in research and presentation methods: interview techniques; focus group leadership; visual research (taking pictures or film); observation; journaling; and summarising ideas and evidence for presentation. These sessions develop many transferrable skills.
  1. Illuminate Researchers take the research brief and are guided through a process to reach their own questions. They then carry out small pieces of research, with regular mentoring.
  1. Illuminate Researchers and helpers summarise findings and can then present to organisation’s staff and Directors and at an annual research conference at Goldsmiths. Certificates are presented to participants.
  1. Goldsmiths research staff can write a research report which can be given to staff and Directors.

Example: Improving employability for young people with disabilities

  • Funding proposal question: “How can we best support young people with disabilities into employment? What are employers looking for in terms of support and information?
  • Illuminate Researcher Team chosen to include young people and volunteers to work together. Team A records an audio-journal of their job application experiences for a week. After constructing a series of focus group questions, Team B conducts a recorded focus group discussion with service-users. Team C identifies and interviews five local employers.
  • All three sets of data are collated and presented to staff and directors.
  • In collaboration with staff and Directors, Goldsmiths research mentor writes up findings, incorporating available statistics.

Illuminate: developing resilience, voice, and engagement through evidence-based practice

The project aims to promote the development of robust research methodologies in the community and voluntary sector and to provide a best practice model for the service-user voice agenda, demonstrating its ability to support the self-advocacy skills of often-silenced groups through becoming a pragmatic and embedded feature of organisational governance. Research conducted about various models of service-user ‘voice’ and participation in governance has found that ‘being listened to’ and ‘being taken seriously’ are crucial to participant engagement and success.

Timetabling and accreditation

Illuminate can be delivered flexibly, as special day workshops or as a series of shorter sessions on your premises or at Goldsmiths. Some participants would be eligible to use the project to form part of an MA accredited module offered at Goldsmiths in the Department of Educational Studies.

Costing and fundraising

The package can include staff training, student sessions, report to directors, Goldsmiths presentation event and basic participation certification. The costing will be prepared depending on the package required and ranges between £392.85 and £5,500. Different packages are available and the cost will reflect the number of hours required to deliver your package. We also offer a funding application support role and may be able to help you apply for funding for an Illuminate project.

If you have specific questions about the course, please contact us through the Teachers' Centre