Not in my patch! Having research undertaken in your professional locale

Reflections from a council officer with a Communities up Close research site

Reflecting on my involvement with the Communities up Close project, I have to say my overwhelming sentiment is that it has been a mutually beneficial journey. I say that, as having working in my local authority patch for some six years now, I have been party to a number of academics being ‘parachuted’ into the neighbourhood. I’ll be totally honest, I started in a cynical mind-set when Communities up Close was first mooted given my previous experiences. I was wrong.

Working closely with Lucy Mort [an IPPR Research Fellow] over a number of months, what I found right away was a willingness to start a genuine conversation rather than a mere academic study. Lucy was passionate about getting to know the area and that was crucial. Lucy quickly won me over.

Despite several years’ experience in the area, the neighbourhood is so dynamic, it’s a constant challenge to keep up with the pace of change. As an ‘outsider’, albeit a professional one who works in the neighbourhood, it is vital to keep a dialogue going with residents who have that ‘lived experience’. This dialogue, in my view, keeps you honest and gives you direction of where to channel energies in what can seem a myriad of competing priorities.

The Communities up Close project provided another avenue for that dialogue, and perhaps more crucially, it created a space for a conversation on the emotive issue of migration. The resulting report has proved enlightening. Whilst the report did playback some things I had knowledge and understanding of, it highlighted other issues that weren’t as well known. The method of engagement allowed those involved to engage in way they might not have done with a statutory organisation. In the short time since the report has been produced, it has already been used to inform and further conversations around migration.


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