Developing our community health research hub: the view from community

Published: 23 August 2022

SHW's community engagement coordinator Susan Grant reports back on recent conversations with organisations and networks in Glasgow about our exciting plans for a community health research hub and a public engagement space within the Clarice Pears building

SHW's community engagement coordinator Susan Grant reports back on recent conversations with organisations and networks in Glasgow about our exciting plans for a community health research hub and a public engagement space within the Clarice Pears building.

Photo of Mary Barbour statue at Govan Cross

Mary Barbour statue at Govan Cross

As part of our consultation with community groups about the School of Health and Wellbeing’s new Clarice Pears building and the development of our community health research hub (working title), I commenced some community conversations this summer. My focus was on organisations and networks in the university’s locality such as North West Glasgow Voluntary Sector Network and in the Thriving Places areas of Glasgow, identified as having consistent levels of inequality relative to other parts of the city. We talked about what their emerging issues and health priorities were and what would be meaningful to them in terms of engagement with SHW and wider UofG.

The pandemic brought into focus the value of the third and voluntary sector as they pivoted their activities and mobilised themselves quickly to support the most vulnerable in their communities. While it was clear during our conversations that the impact of the pandemic is still being felt, they are now dealing with the cost-of-living crisis, and an increased demand on services such as the recent summer holiday programmes.

Photo of a building in Partick, Glasgow

The Annexe health and wellbeing centre in Partick

The second round of the Glasgow Communities Fund is open now and is a key fund for organisations in our city to sustain services tackling poverty and inequality. The most common areas of concern across the city were: an increase in mental health issues especially within young people; isolation in older aged adult populations; the health impacts of obesity and reduced mobility; food and fuel poverty. Other economic issues such as digital poverty and health issues such as an increase in late cancer diagnoses were also mentioned. I was struck as I always am when out in community by the passion and dedication of these frontline workers and volunteers to the communities they serve and am excited by the prospect of working alongside some of these partners as the hub develops.

Photo of a building in Maryhill, Glasgow

Maryhill Burgh Halls

The importance of hub and the public engagement space within the Clarice Pears building has been at the centre of SHW's plans from the early stages. It sends a clear message that we want to widen access to research through sharing our expertise and resources in supporting organisations and by responding to community needs. In our wider consultation with Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC), from the perspective of community organisations, the hub was seen as a potential source for up-to-date current intelligence around health improvement research and health protection information. Participants indicated they would be interested in advice in carrying out their own research and, in my conversations too, it was noted that community organisations would like help to evidence need and support funding applications and measure the impact of their activities. Community groups don’t want us to "take over" but instead provide support. "We’re all in these little silos of research in the community, whereas the community should be at the centre. And if it (the hub) has that kind of ethos, where the community can have their say, they can influence, and are the power then I think that would be the unique selling point." (focus group participant). If we can develop these local partnerships, we can help to address power imbalances in research.

A recent report published in July 2022 "An equitable future for research and innovation" from The Young Foundation’s Institute for Community Studies commissioned by UK Research and Innovation in July 2022 said:

"Whether local government, charities, community organisations or informal community networks and groups, non-research actors have been invited to participate, but are rarely given power over what and why knowledge is needed, how knowledge that affects them is created, or what knowledge is valued. The imbalance of power has ranged from inequality over decisions, even in well-intended partnerships aimed to produce knowledge about an issue, to grave issues of injustice where communities’ experiences are used or 'exploited' in research."

Photo of Chest, Heart and Stroke Community Hub in Drumchapel shopping centre

Drumchapel shopping centre, home to Drumchapel Thriving Places within Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland shop

I am grateful to everyone who shared their insights with me during these conversations. Thank you also to all the SHW volunteers who have joined the Community Engagement with Health Research group to represent their respective areas and to support this work.

Susan Grant 
Community Engagement Coordinator 
School of Health and Wellbeing

Register for the Developing the Clarice Pears Community Research Hub event

First published: 23 August 2022