Blue spark shape

Project reflections and what's next

19.01.23 By Beth-Louise Sturdee

Yellow spark shape

The Ideas Fund matches community groups with researchers to explore ideas related to improving mental wellbeing. In this blog we reflect on their progress and what’s to come for 2023.

Projects from all four areas that were awarded funding in 2021 from our first round of grant support sent us their final monitoring updates in November 2022. A lot of what we heard from both community groups and researchers resonates with updates from earlier in the year. With numerous illustrations across the programme of the benefits to mental wellbeing and increasingly rich learning highlighting the benefits of community group and researcher partnerships.

One example in Scotland is the OPEN Project on the Shetland Islands, which is led by young people as peer-researchers working collaboratively with researchers. Their feedback is that all partners involved have been “thriving from” the relationship and collaboration. In Oldham, Support and Action Women’s Network (SAWN), have found a research partner who “has become an integral part” of their operation and note how the partnership is “mutually beneficial and co-productive.”

Naturally, some partnerships have had their challenges. As illustrated in our previous blogs about learning, we have heard from some communities and researchers that they would have liked greater clarity on roles and expectations from the outset, with more time to build the relationship before project delivery. This learning contributed to the development of the ‘Round 2’ process in 2022, from a revised application to introducing a funded ‘incubator’ development period for all new partnerships prior to delivery of projects. Announcements on Round 2 project grants and reflections on the learning from the process and incubator period will be published on this website in the coming weeks!

Round 1 projects in their final stages of delivery in 2022 have been looking ahead to what’s next. For some, this has led to conversations with The Ideas Fund team about the possibility of extending and building on their previous grant, to explore what further potential impact can be achieved from working collaboratively with researchers, from the groups and researcher’s practice to influencing ‘game changing’ developments for their communities. OPEN Project in the Shetland Islands were the first project to apply and be supported by an extension, which aims to continue influencing the local authority and National Health Service to improve health services for young people in the area. We have been continuing these conversations with projects and will also be announcing the first sweep of extended projects soon.

Alongside the new Round 2 and extended Round 1 projects that will shortly be announced, we have lots of other exciting plans for 2023. In the coming weeks we will have a written ‘impact report’ covering our first two years, produced by The Liminal Space. This piece of work has looked across the updates and learning received from communities and researchers to pull out key reflections and stories. The report will support us in telling the story of The Ideas Fund, and we hope encourage new audiences to get as excited about the Fund as we are!

Additionally, over the past months we have been working with Collaborate CIC to explore how funded partnership work could support collective action for ‘healthier’ systems; the systems that impact on collaboration between communities and researchers. We’ve held workshops in three of our four areas so far, and invited each one to develop a more detailed proposal based on the ideas and discussions that have come out of them. Each area is being invited to collaboratively apply for up to £100,000, for projects of up to eighteen months in length starting from Spring 2023. Collaborate have shared more on the process so far, in their blog here. Watch this space for more on this!