‘Find your village’ – collaborative community research to tackle health inequalities funding

How can researchers, community organizations, and local artists/creatives come together to explore the best methods of employing cultural and organisational assets to promote culturally-coordinated understanding and to improve wellbeing, child development, as well as community connectedness and inclusion?

Migration to an urban, western environment may be really challenging for families, especially coming from a culture where ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ (Allport et al 2019). Members of this project team have previously conducted work to share learning from Bristol’s migrant communities entitled ‘Find your Village: feasibility work on refugee resilience narratives with Bristol Somali Community

The research team want to encourage all families in our cities with young children to ‘Find your village’ – to make confident connections with other people around them, so that parents can de-stress and solve problems, and their children grow up happy, confident and achieving good things without need for child development and disability services. A Policy Briefing that was an outcome of the above study summarises key messages for policymakers. The researchers advocate for the development of culturally-coordinated understanding and action, describing three ‘pillars’ to build a ‘village’ for migrant children and families in the global North

  • Healthcare and other providers understanding the populations they work with.
  • Negotiating and co-creating knowledge about needs and ways to improve parent-child relationships.
  • Sustainable communities that can offer peer support and help parents in turn feel able to contribute to their society (Allport & Osman unpublished).

What will the project involve? 

This iteration of the ‘Find your Village’ project seeks to explore, pilot, evaluate and describe transferability/scalability for cultural and organisational assets and mechanisms of promoting culturally-coordinated understanding and action to improve wellbeing, child development and longer term outcomes, as well as community connectedness and inclusion.

Some of the activities the researchers will collaborate upon to form and strengthen their funding bid are:

  • Pilot peer support projects in different contexts
  • Quantitative and Realist evaluation
  • Community artistic & cultural workshops linked to the above projects and other selected contexts
  • Integrating findings from the above diverse artistic responses to ideas of ‘Find your village’, using public engagement processes and systemic theory to explore how a multi-cultural city can also be a complex of interconnected villages to the benefit of all our wellbeing, and especially for the confident development, engagement and life chances for ethnically diverse young people
  • Development of ‘toolkit’ to articulate ‘transferability’ of the co-production processes that could foster culturally-coordinated understanding and action in other local contexts
  • Articulating a policy and commissioning framework within which this thinking could be enacted

The team have a long list of artistic and creative partners, strong connections to systemic and cross-cultural thinking and practice, a rich range of community groups that could serve as growth points, good academic connections for peer support, built environment, community development as well as health and intervention science.  The intention would be to establish a team of relevant, engaged and supportive co-applicants and collaborators demonstrating the key skills and linkages to make this a successful application and deliverable programme of work.

The project’s invitation for each artistic/cultural practitioner/groups of practitioners is:

  1. an initial meeting to develop the vision and reflect on the possible ways they would imagine creative engagement could go.
  2. a workshop, involving all/most of the group, each presenting what they might envision, leading to group discussion/reflection about how that might make a whole, and potentially feed into the desire to reduce health inequalities.
  3. time dedicated to a formal write up of these workshiop outcomes (consiting of words and possibly graphics/illustrations) into the format for the application.
  4. a review of how that looks to each practitioner within the whole in order to make any changes/additional suggestions before submission.

Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • Jenny Ingram (Bristol Medical School) is a researcher who specialises in in maternal and child health, particularly breastfeeding to understand and improve breastfeeding practices; the impact of tongue-tie; infant sleep practices; and enhance family-centred care in neonatal units.
  • Tom Allport (Bristol Medical School) is a researcher and paediatrician who works on understanding ways to improve children and young people’s development and participation despite the challenges of disabling situations.
  • Samira Musse (Director, Barton Hill Activity Club) is a parent and community activist who lives on the 14th floor in a tower block and mainly Somali community in central Bristol. The estate has eight blocks with an estimated 2000 school aged children. Her work with Barton Hill Activity Club seeks to create positive change for children and families where they live.
  • Sonah Paton (Director, Black Mothers Matter) works to create dedicated resources, a platform and safe space for black mothers to get information and support on the issues faced by them during pregnancy and the first year after birth. She has recently dedicated her focus to community projects and is a director at St Paul’s Adventure Playground, Bristol.
  • Marianne Mannello (Assistant Director, Play Wales) has extensive experience working with communities and influencing policy regarding the issue of children’s play and particularly children’s play in public/community spaces.
  • Malcolm Hamilton (PlayDisrupt) PlayDisrupt has worked with Barton Hill Activity Club and Dr Tom Allport, with Brigstow funding, in a collaborative process with local Somali children and young people, developing their skills and engagement as advocates and ambassadors for environmental change.

What is to come?

The primary outcome of this project will be a substantial funding bid to the UKRI.

The researchers believe this project will:

  • demonstrate (highly cost-effective) potential to improve learning outcomes and life-chances, stopping cycles of disadvantage.
  • articulate a vision, toolkit for transferability and theory of change relevant to commissioners, policy-makers, practitioners and community groups.

This approach may also have relevance for all disadvantaged or marginalised children & families.