The Research Engagement and Impact Awards aim to recognise and reward staff at the University of Reading who have achieved extraordinary things by engaging and interacting with people outside of academia to drive better understanding of research and to influence change. The Whitley Researchers were delighted to win this award for two years running: in 2017 and in 2018.
Whitley For Real
Sally Lloyd-Evans, Whitley Young Researchers, Paul Allen and the Whitley Researchers
Reading, like many towns, appears prosperous, but some communities at its heart live with a legacy of social inequality. Since 2014, Dr Sally Lloyd-Evans has worked alongside residents in Whitley and other local partners, to develop a collective now known as the Whitley Researchers. Armed with research tools, the team is identifying needs within the community that will help them to address issues of economic and social exclusion.
As the Whitley Researchers’ ambition and influence grows, their work is extending to include young people, parents and schools. In partnership with Reading Borough Council, the team has co-produced a research project that involves the whole community.
This phase seeks to understand and highlight young people’s attitudes and aspirations to further education, transitions to work, and their future lives. The methods are fresh, innovative, and often unique. A group of 13-14 year-olds at the John Madejski Academy have become the Whitley Young Researchers who now devise their own research questions and approaches.
They’ve devised a research tool they call the ‘Aspiration Game’. Based on the familiar board game ‘Snakes and Ladders’, the game facilitates conversation around the barriers and opportunities young people living in Whitley face. It’s already encouraging children as young as seven to think differently about the future.
A recent ‘Question Time’ event highlighted the ‘fantastic work’ of the Young Researchers in shaping borough-wide services, to representatives from Reading Borough Council, Affinity Housing, other schools, the police and fire services. A growing list of partnerships with other schools and local organisations means the initiative is inspiring everyone with an interest in Whitley’s future to ensure voices of young people are heard.
“This is an excellent example of how working with young people to develop their skills and confidence can help to give communities a voice.” – Judges’ comment
Working Better With Whitley
Sally Lloyd-Evans and the Whitley Researchers
Starting in 2014, Dr Lloyd-Evans worked with the Whitley Big Local and residents to create a community research network, known as the Whitley Researchers. The aim was to use participatory research to empower residents to take ownership of the project, working out what would have the most tangible impact in their lives. This led, in 2015, to a report on transport issues in the area and then, in partnership with local authorities, to the introduction of a new bus route by Reading Buses. Residents gained better access to local services such as schools, work and the hospital. Better yet, the Whitley Researchers have continued to work on developing their community, setting up a primary schools travel programme and establishing the ‘Whitley for Real’ partnership with Reading Borough Council to shape their strategy and help to tackle social inequalities in South Reading.
“Our research team is committed to working together in a friendly and inclusive way where everyone’s work is equally valued. This close partnership with the community also encourages people to consider studying at university, helping to change local attitudes to higher education and making a difference to residents’ lives.” – Sally Lloyd-Evans