The CommonHealth Assets project is led by Rachel Baker, Professor of Health Economics and Director of the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health at Glasgow Caledonian University. Rachel oversees a multi-disciplinary collaboration between researchers at GCU, Bournemouth University, Glasgow Centre for Population Health, Queens University Belfast, the University of East London and community led organisations in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.The project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research. 

Collaboration is at the heart of this research. By working alongside community-led organisationsand a wide range of stakeholders and investigators from several disciplines in our research and activities, we will co-create research that isrelevant, effective and user-friendly.The team includes experts on assets-based approaches, health economics, community developmentand realist approaches to research. Methodologically, the project combines qualitative methods, policy analysis, photovoice, Q methodology and economic evaluation.

We will work with community led organisations, or ‘CLOs’, which we define as place-based community-owned and governed organisations usually found in the ‘third’ or voluntary sectors, in areas that are often called ‘deprived’ because of poverty, poor physical and social environments and lower health outcomes. CLOs are vital to communities, and regularly offer a range of activities, such as walking or cooking groups, language classes, and community gardens or cafes.
Assets based approaches are about ‘doing with’ (rather than ‘doing to’) and working with communities to build on their strengthsand mobilisethe knowledge and skills of local people. Assets-based approaches also involves recognising that to do this successfully requires shifting control back into the hands of communities. They are designed to bring people in communities together to achieve positive change, focusing and mobilising their own knowledge, skills and experience, rather than viewing communities as having ‘deficits’ that need ‘fixed'.

CLOs are different in different places. Some are large, some are very small. Some are likely to have been established for a long time, while others will be fairly new. Some will betowns and cities, while others mightbe based in remote or rural communities. Some work with specific groups of people, while others are designed to cater for the needs of the whole community. Whatever their size or shape, they are responsive to local needs, but it is unlikely that the same approachwork will exactly the same in different places, or with different groups of people.

In order to capture these different impacts, we will draw upon an approach called ‘realist evaluation’ to develop a working theory of what works, for whom, in what circumstances. A range of research methods will then be used to test and update the programme theory. The methods we will employ include stakeholder interviews, a creative method called ‘Photovoice’, analysis of policies and funding streams in different places, workshops, a card sorting method called “Q”, and a survey of users to measure costs and benefits. Each method tells us something different about the CLOs and how they work, their communities, their funding and how users feel before and after taking part.When approaches are shown to work locally, issues of scale and sustainability are important to consider, both for policy and for practice