Blue spark shape

Round one - Monitoring reflections

20.04.22 By Beth-Louise Sturdee

Yellow spark shape

The projects we funded at the end of 2021 have all started, and we have just received their first progress reports. Jill from The Ideas Fund team describes what we’ve learned from those reports so far.

In late 2021 we awarded grants to 42 community organisations, to partner with researchers on mental wellbeing projects. We have just received the first progress reports back from these groups, and it’s been great to see how the projects and relationships are developing. We have created a progress reflection slide deck here which outlines the key themes and reflections from the initial months of their partnerships.

Project logistics

  • Projects are generally going well and activity with participants has started, but there have been some common challenges. Lots of projects experienced delays in getting started, for different reasons. Covid 19 has continued to have a big impact on the delivery of some projects, including on staff or volunteer absence and the need to find alternative ways to deliver work such as moving online. Processes like ethics approval and agreeing contracts with Universities have been a real challenge for some projects, though we’ve seen some creative responses to this such as the creation of internal ethics steering groups.
  • Community groups and researchers have both felt the benefit of taking some time to get to know each other and plan their project – or have reflected that it might have been better to spend a bit more time doing this! They would also have found it useful to establish a bit more clarity on their different roles from the start. We’ll be thinking about how we can create more space for this in the future.
  • Partners from across our projects have reflected on the investment of time needed to make their partnerships and projects work well. Groups in the Highlands and Islands have had some particular challenges related to geographical distance and a reliance on digital tools for communicating.

The Partnership

  • We asked both researchers and community partners how the relationship was going, and the potential for this partnership to change their work.
  • Most people are reflecting on the new perspective their project partners are bringing to their work, and have found this both exciting and challenging. Some are already identifying opportunities for their partner or the project to shape their wider work, or considering other ways they can work together in the future such as on new projects and funding bids.
  • We asked researchers about their reasons for getting involved in these projects with communities. Social responsibility, potential for identifying future research themes and building new connections were all key reasons.
  • One of the best things we saw reflected in the monitoring was the depth of mutual respect and admiration developing between researchers and community groups. There was a recognition of different but complementary knowledge bases and a strong appreciation of the value of their partner.
  • We have worked with Development Coordinators in each of our four regions to find ways to reflect on this learning. We have also used it to shape the next round of funding, which you can find out more about here. If you would like to chat with one of The Ideas Fund team about the learning please get in touch at