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Beyond projects: nurturing healthy systems

11.12.23 By Jill Cornforth

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In recent months, The Ideas Fund team has been looking at the ‘systems’ that sit around opportunities for community/researcher collaboration, and investing in projects that aim to strengthen the health of this system.

Our recent learning conversation, facilitated by Collaborate CIC, focused on the rationale for systems change in complex areas of work.

Kirsty Neale from The Ideas Fund team shared the work we’ve been doing to build on the learning, impact and momentum from the community/researcher collaborative projects funded over the past 2 years, by supporting regional partnerships focused on exploring systems change in each of the four areas.

Ellen Care from Collaborate shared some definitions and conditions for systems change, along with examples of their work in this area. They also shared the framework for a healthier public engagement system which they developed based on insights from The Ideas Fund and the knowledge of other stakeholders in the sector, which you can read more about here.

We heard from Katy Rutherford from Norfolk Community Foundation who spoke about their experience working on a UKRI-funded Community Research Network project, among other systems change work they’re doing.

We also heard from Dr Gill Hughes from the University of Hull and Kate MacDonald from Timebank Hull and East Riding, who are working with others on a regional partnership grant from The Ideas Fund to try and weave together different exciting strands of work happening in the region and ultimately create stronger collaboration and a better city.

Our speakers reflected on the key foundations required for doing this work and the practicalities, challenges, impact and learning from across their work so far.

You can see the slides from the session here and the recording of the session can be viewed here.

We’re always happy to hear from anyone wanting to continue the conversation about developing a healthy public engagement system! Get in touch with us at