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About our Community Researchers

BAB Community Researchers are a group of volunteer older people with a central role in the evaluation of projects funded through Bristol Ageing Better. Since 2015 BAB Community Researchers (CRs) have co-produced and contributed towards seven reports, several local and national presentations, and taken an active role on advising on the development of the programme. They are currently doing research across a range of key BAB projects. BAB CRs are advised, trained and supported by researchers at the Bristol Centre for Public Health and Wellbeing, UWE Bristol, with additional support from the BAB staff team.


How did the BAB Community Researchers Project start?

The idea for the BAB Community Researchers (CR) Project came out of the original vision for the BAB programme. The voice and role of the older person in research and programme development is often restricted to roles on advisory groups or consultations. The Bristol Ageing Better partnership was determined to achieve much more than this by establishing a team of older community researchers who would be integral to all the evaluation activities undertaken as part of BAB.

Community Researchers are perhaps best described as researchers who have had little experience of formal research or evaluation work through their previous work. It is increasingly argued that they should have a central role in research and evaluation because it ensures it is carried out ‘with’ or ‘by’ members of the public rather than ‘to’, ‘about’ and ‘for’ them. 

Researchers at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) worked with BAB staff to recruit Community Researchers in two waves (2015 and 2016) through widespread advertising and recruitment events. The size of the group has changed over time, but since 2016 there has been a core, committed group of twelve CRs.


Who are the BAB Community Researchers?

CRs come from a wide variety of backgrounds – including family caring, volunteering, community activism, work-based learning, health and social care practice and private sector work. They bring a wealth of knowledge about Bristol’s neighbourhoods, local services and issues for local older people. Although some CRs have been involved in research in the past, for most it’s all a new thing.











How is the BAB Community Researchers Project meant to work?

The role of CRs is to take part in the evaluation of selected parts of the BAB programme. UWE researchers organise research training, coordinate and help convene monthly meetings for the whole CR group. BAB staff give monthly briefings and are on hand to help with the practicalities.   

Ideally, CRs are involved at every stage in the evaluation from choosing the research questions to presenting findings to audiences. Through discussion with UWE researchers, BAB staff and delivery agencies, the CRs identify areas for evaluation that they interested in working on. The twelve CRs usually work in smaller sub-teams on specific evaluation projects. Most projects run over several months and CRs fit their research in and around other commitments – apart from the monthly meeting there is no fixed pattern or minimum time commitment. 


But how does the BAB Community Researchers Project really work?

As with every aspect of the BAB programme, the BAB CR Project is all about ‘test and learn’. At times there have been delays, complications and frustration. At other times there have been discoveries, fun and successful results. The first report on how the BAB Community Research Project is going is due for late 2018. Also, look out for events on the BAB website to find out when CRs are talking about their work.


What research skills and training do BAB Community Researchers have?

The CRs take part in a rolling programme of research training. This is run by UWE researchers, with support from other specialists. So far CRs have taken up training in the following areas:

  • Research ethics. Consent. Confidentiality. Handling sensitive information
  • Health, safety and lone working
  • Appreciative enquiry
  • Interviewing
  • Questionnaire and topic guide design
  • Co-production
  • Types of evaluation
  • Dementia awareness
  • Creating research questions
  • Social return on investment
  • Case study research
  • Ethnography


What are the BAB Community Researchers currently working on?


Title Methods
BAB Community Development for Older People (CDOP) Evaluation [broken down into several sub-evaluations] A series of ethnographies and case studies in selected areas across the city.  Process evaluation
BAB Community Navigators Evaluation Mixed methods. Qualitative process evaluation. Quantitative outcome evaluation and cost/benefit analysis
BAB Community Kick-Start Fund Evaluation

Interviews and survey with award holders. Case studies.

Analysis of project records
BAB Age Friendly City Evaluation Key stakeholder interviews and system-change evaluation


What have BAB Community Researchers achieved so far?

BAB CRs have co-produced and contributed towards the production towards the following research and evaluation projects:

  1. Audit of Volunteers and Volunteering in Bristol
  2. Greater Fishponds Community Asset Map
  3. BAB Community Kick-Start Project: evaluation report on unsuccessful applicants
  4. BAB Community Kick-Start Project: evaluation report on early stage award holders
  5. Kick-Start Fund Greater Brislington Mini Project
  6. Care Homes Pilot Project Evaluation Report
  7. Community Webs Final Evaluation Report

BAB CRs supported the roll out of the standard programme questionnaire for participants (Common Measurement Framework/Wellbeing Questionnaires); piloted the use of Social Return on Investment methods; and advise on the assessment of funding applications to BAB.

The work of the BAB CRs is attracting a lot of interest both nationally and locally. This may be because it is increasingly believed that there needs to be a much stronger voice for citizens in how programmes are evaluated. So far UWE researchers and BAB CRs have presented their work at local and national events on healthy ageing, social gerontology, reducing social isolation and loneliness, and community research.


What don’t BAB Community Researchers do?

BAB CRs have a set of roles that are specific to the BAB programme. Given the wide variety of community research activities on other schemes, it is hardly surprising that people can think the BAB CRs are doing things they are not!

CRs are not involved in the evaluation of all BAB funded projects. This is largely because there are constraints on time and resources.

CRs do not act as ‘in-house’ researchers for agencies delivering BAB funded projects. CRs are supported by UWE to adopt an external or ‘outsiders’ point of view in their research. This can help make the evaluations more independent and robust, which is of value to everyone. However, CRs can be ‘critical friends’ in their role, give recommendations, and may want to participate informally in activities in order to understand projects more fully.

CRs are volunteers, rather than paid employees of UWE or BAB/Bristol Age UK. CRs have received training in ethical research practices, safe research conduct, and appropriate conduct in fieldwork settings. The UWE Principal Investigator (Mat Jones) has responsibilities for the research governance of the UWE evaluation, of which the work with CRs forms one part. 


Can I become involved as a BAB Community Researcher?

We would like to broaden the diversity of our CR team and would welcome enquiries from other people aged 50 or over who are interested in taking part in voluntary community research with BAB and UWE. Contact Mat Jones at University of the West of England Bristol - or 01173288769


Who do I contact for more information?

If you would like to know more about the BAB CR Project, in the first instance contact Mat Jones at University of the West of England Bristol - or 01173288769


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