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About this funding

Diverse community groups

Our Community Grants aim to create more equitable partnerships between communities and researchers, test new ways of funding and learn more about the impact these collaborations can have on groups, researchers and communities. Since 2021, we have given grants of more than £3 million to over 70 projects in the four regions where we fund – Derry & Strabane, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Hull and Oldham.

Shifting power to communities

Individuals, community groups and charities in these areas were invited to apply for grants to run projects related to mental wellbeing, and offered wraparound support from local Development Coordinators to help build relationships with researchers on their own terms. There was a particular focus on reaching communities who were traditionally overlooked by this work, such as young people, rural or minoritised ethnic communities.

We wanted to understand what happens when you shift power to communities in how they engage with research and researchers. As part of this shift, it was important that community groups - rather than universities/researchers - hosted the grant wherever possible. Where necessary, groups have also been supported to access a ‘financial hosting’ service which enables them to manage the grants and help make the funding as accessible as possible.

Following the initial co-design process with communities, researchers and public engagement professionals, it was also important to shift power away from the British Science Association and Wellcome in terms of deciding who received the funding, with decisions being made by local representatives where possible.

The projects

The first projects got started towards the end of 2021, with another cohort joining in 2022. The groups we have funded cover a range of types of community group, from small informal grassroots groups to established national charities. Funded projects feature a broad range of topics from sport, nature and the menopause to issues faced by disabled, refugee, LGBTQIA+ communities, veterans, cancer survivors and those living with experiences of addiction. Researchers are also playing a variety of roles in these projects, including sharing technical or creative skills, supporting data collection or critical reflection, training peer researchers and acting as mentors and facilitators. You can read more about the different projects we have funded here.

Some of the original projects have now successfully applied for extension grants to continue expanding, embedding and sharing their work. There has been a focus on deepening learning, and providing opportunities for others to apply what they’ve learned through training and resources, or using their new skills in different ways. You can read more about some of the grant extensions awarded so far here.

In each area, our local Development Coordinators facilitate a Community of Practice for community groups and researchers working on funded projects, enabling peer support and collective problem solving. The discussions and issues raised at these meetings have provided a lot of insight into the challenges of partnership work, funding processes and systemic barriers. These reflections continue to inform our funding approach and our wider systems-change work, which you can read about in more detail here.

The funding process

Across the two open funding rounds in 2021 and 2022, we adapted our approach to take account of the feedback we received and what we were learning about building effective and equitable community/researcher partnerships.

This included:

  • Using information webinars and an online eligibility checker in Round One in 2021
  • Piloting an “incubator” approach after the first round, giving unsuccessful applicants a £3,000 grant to revise and resubmit their application with tailored support
  • Simplifying the application to an Expression of Interest in Round Two in 2022. Local panels of community members, researchers and existing grant holders selected seven groups to receive £3,000 to participate in an incubator process where they could get to know a researcher and develop a proposal for a larger project grant
  • Once selected at this early stage, the process was then not financially competitive, meaning all Round Two groups with an eligible proposal could receive funding within an overall budget, to try and reduce the amount of “wasted effort”.

You can read more about the process we used in the different rounds, and the changes we made in response to feedback and learning in our Insights Report - best viewed on laptop/desktop screen.

Where next?

We are currently focused on supporting our existing projects, and do not have plans for any further open rounds of funding at present. Please keep an eye on our Twitter page to hear more as this work progresses, or you can contact us at