WHAT WE DO
First and foremost, the CommonHealth Assets project seeks to evidence the ways in which community organisations utilise their assets to impact upon the health and wellbeing of their communities. Assets based approaches are about ‘doing with’ (rather than ‘doing to’) and working with communities to build on their strengths and mobilise the knowledge and skills of local people. These approaches 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'.
We want to understand how different community organisations support their own unique communities, especially at a time when people are facing challenges such as expensive housing, inflation, and the energy crisis. We will publish our findings and report to our funders, the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), and to the rest of our stakeholders, to show them what role community organisations currently play and could play in improving public health and addressing health inequalities.
Our researchers are working with 15 community led organisations across the UK, spending hundreds of hours, getting to know their staff, members, how they work, the challenges they face and how they impact on their communities. To make sure we capture as much of the picture as we can, we use a range of techniques, brought together under a realist approach to evaluation. Realist evaluation means developing working theories and collecting evidence of what works, for whom, in what circumstances. As part of the project, Jo McGreal is focussing on this for her PhD study.
The methods we employ to evidence and refine our initial theories include stakeholder interviews, a creative method called ‘Photovoice’, analysis of policies and funding streams, stakeholder 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 community organisations and how they work, their communities, their funding and how users feel before and after taking part in their respective activities.
Collaboration is crucial to the entire project. We are working with and in community-led organisations (CLOs). We define CLOs as place-based community-owned and governed organisations usually found in the ‘third’ or voluntary sectors, in areas that are often called deprived or disadvantaged, because of poverty, poor physical and social environments and lower health outcomes. CLOs are vital to communities, and regularly offer a wide range of activities, such as walking or cooking groups, language classes, and community gardens or cafes. Many of them connect with social prescribing systems and community link workers. As part of the project, Jill Mulholland is focussing on this for her PhD study.
We work with a wide range of other stakeholders and investigators from a range of disciplines in our research. One of the most important aspects of this co-creation approach is our Lived Experience Panel, which led by team members based at Glasgow Centre for Population Health. This panel, made up from community members of our CLOs, provides a vital link between the development of our work and the experiences of people in our CLOs’ communities across the UK.
The CommonHealth Assets project team 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. A full list of our partners can be found here