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Community innovation at the heart of new Loughborough University research projects

Harnessing the power of the community is at the heart of two new Loughborough University research projects set to get underway following the award of funding.

The projects are designed to improve social outcomes for people through collaboration.
 
On the Town is being led and co-ordinated by lecturer Carolina Escobar-Tello from the Loughborough Design School.  It aims to bring together local and higher education student communities by focusing on improving peoples’ lives through community building activities steered by, and for, young local groups.
 
There will be a focus on using community animation to interact with participants via collaborative workshops.  Impacts for participants will include increased skills in organising, leading, communication and civil engagement.  It is hoped that one outcome would be the creation of a local ambassador programme, fostering dialogue between the community and the transient student population.
 
Coventry and Keele Universities are also involved in the research.  The similarities and differences between the three communities in respect of their differing student numbers and student profiles will be considered as part of the project.
 
Dr Carolina Escobar-Tello comments: We are seeking to explore innovative ways for existing relationships to develop and new relationships to be nurtured. Key to success will be to empower the local communities with skills to engage in relationship building that places community interest at the heart of the interaction. 
 
“The impact will bring people closer together, boost their sense of belonging and local pride and ensure students have a positive relationship and understanding of the community.”
 
Loughborough University London is a partner in A Silicon Valley for Greenwich a project that will contribute to the Smart City programme for Greenwich, launched last year. The programme sets out how the Council proposes to implement ‘smarter’ approaches to the challenges it faces delivering services in the Borough and in creating new opportunities.
 
The research, which is being led by Ravensbourne and also involves the University of Greenwich, will focus on the preventative healthcare agenda for young people. The project will link healthcare professionals and digital providers with community networks and ensure that the needs and views of young people are addressed.
 
The experiences and views of the young people will be recorded through digital narratives.  This will have a direct benefit to the young people who will be able to develop skills, build confidence and relationships, better understand personal needs and build trust with health care providers.
 
Loughborough University London will specifically lead the development, implementation and evaluation of the collaborative service design approaches throughout the project.  These approaches will be used to engage the project partners and support the co-creation of the new services.
 
Dr Ksenija Kuzmina comments: “The focus for this work is on expanding the notion of citizen engagement in the Smart City agenda in the particular context of preventative youth healthcare.  The key for success will be to enable collaboration amongst all partners in order to co-create smart services that embrace the needs of the young people.
 
“Our work will also demonstrate the potential for Higher Education Institutions to act as catalysts for social innovation within their localities as part of the technological transformation of cities. The opportunity it presents for Loughborough University London to work in partnership with other universities is also particularly exciting.”
 
The two research projects were awarded funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Social Innovation Fund following a ‘sandpit’ event.  The event was organised in collaboration with the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE).  More information is available here.