The Imagine project is a five-year project running from 2013 to 2017 which brings together different research projects working together across universities and their local communities. Using the new knowledge we gather, together we are imagining how communities might be different. We are researching, and experimenting with different forms of community-building that ignite imagination about the future and help to build resilience and a momentum for change.
We are demonstrating the potential (or not) for community-university partnerships to bring people from very different backgrounds together to make better and more resilient collective futures. Community partners from Greece, Sweden, England, Germany, Wales and Scotland are working with academics from each of these countries.
Coordinated by Professor Angie Hart, the University of Brighton's research is looking at ‘The social context of civic engagement’ using the concepts of Communities of Practice (CoP), resilience, Community University Partnerships (CUPs), and co-production.
The first project ran throughout 2013 and 2014 and involved community researchers from Greater Manchester’s Centre for Voluntary Organisation, Boingboing, and the Community Partner Network based at the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement working alongside academics. We have completed a series of qualitative interviews with community partners and academics to better understand and capture the key elements of resilient community-university partnerships and to understand how community is (or is not) created through them.
The second project from 2014 to 2016 is using a Communities of Practice approach to frame the study. The CoP approach to CUPs brings people together to develop shared ideas and views on problem-solving, practice and theory development. By working in partnership with others from different settings (for example voluntary, statutory and university sectors), CoPs are particularly valuable for making connections and learning within and between participants from different backgrounds and expertise but sharing a mutual interest. To accommodate social and economic differences, and diverse opinions, a CUP needs to be resilient and take into consideration social context and issues such as inequality, power and voice. Professor Hart and colleagues have used the CoP approach previously and are excited about other people exploring its potential.
This project is coordinating a range of CUPs in five international sites using a CoP approach to explore ways to build child and family resilience, including the development of resilience in workers and volunteers supporting children or other family members. These CoPs bring together people with very different backgrounds, power statuses and experiences, including parents, young people, practitioners and academics.