Participatory Research Theme

The notion of participative research, in which service users or citizens become partners or co-researchers in the research process is a core characteristic of our approach to social research. Our Participatory Research Theme is cross-cutting across all four of our Research Groups.

A number of academics across the School of Social Policy's Department of Social Policy and Social Work and Health Services Management Centre are engaged in collaborative working with service users, carers and members of the public. Read more about the Health Services Management Centre's Patient experience and public involvement programme

The Survivor Arts Project at the University of Birmingham provides a space where survivors' perspectives can be communicated through the arts.

Find out more about Suresearch, which is a network of Service Users in Research and Education.

Participatory research videos

The notion of participatory research, in which service users, carers or citizens become partners or co-researchers in the research process is a core characteristic of our approach to social research here at the University. This is based on our belief that people who have experience of using services, or of caring for someone who has, can bring breadth and depth to our understanding of the issues we are researching.

Take a look at our series of short videos which illustrate how a participatory approach can work in practice.

Some highlights of our participatory research

Who knows best? Older people's contributions to understanding and preventing avoidable hospital admissions

Faced with an ageing population and a growing number of people with long-term conditions, a common concern for policy makers has been that high levels of emergency hospital admissions concentrate too many resources in expensive, acute care, leaving insufficient funding to invest in community-based alternatives. Under successive governments, this has led to a series of attempts to make more effective use of hospital beds, recognising that these are scarce resources for which demand outstrips supply.

Our project focuses on older people’s experiences of emergency admission to hospital: by interviewing older people themselves, and their carers and families, we are looking to hear this ‘expert patient’ voice, which is often ignored in research in this area and needs to be taken into account to get a more rounded picture of the process of emergency admission and what could possibly be done to prevent older people reaching this crisis stage in their health and care.  An Older People’s Reference Group will also guide us throughout the project, made up of people who have experienced emergency admission themselves or as a carer or family member of someone who has.  This group frame our thinking and have already aided us in creating the documents to be sent to participants and in testing the interview and focus group methods.  They will continue to direct us throughout the project at every stage. Read more about the project here.

Hearing the voices of carers with learning disabilities

Carers with learning disabilitiesThe Carers with Learning Disabilities Network was formed after carers with learning disabilities were seen as a priority by the Families Lead in the Valuing People programme. Over the past 12 months a partnership has been formed between ourselves and members of the network, alongside Mencap and The Norah Fry Research Centre in Bristol. Our work has focused on developing collaborative research to explore experiences of people with learning disabilities who are carers. Most recently, with support from the ODI, a consultation exercise was conducted, the findings from which have been submitted as part of the government's 'Fulfilling Potential' consultation. You can read the findings from our consultation 'Fulfilling Potential Consultation: The views of people with learning disabilities who are carers'. If you would like further information about the network or about our research, please contact Nicki Ward,

Older people's experiences of care transitions project

Colleagues across the School of Social Policy have recently completed an SDO-funded project, exploring older service user and carers' experiences of transitions in care. Designed as a participatory study, the research was designed, carried out and analysed in partnership with 23 older people as 'co-researchers'. An evaluation of the participatory approach was undertaken to assess the impact of older people's involvement as research partners on the process and outcomes of the study, and explore the experiences of those taking part. The final report is now available from the NHS NIHR website.

Read HSMC news item 'New report into older people's experiences of transitions in health and social care', which includes video responses to the report.

We have put together a Care transitions resource pack for those involved in co-research projects as a useful starting point.

Bringing wisdom to research

Members of the SDO Care Transitions Project recently held a public workshop - Bringing Wisdom to Research - which explored the opportunities, practicalities and impact of involving older people in research and service evaluation. It was delivered in collaboration with the national organisation INVOLVE and with co-researchers from the care transitions project. The event was attended by health and social care practitioners, voluntary sector organisations academics and representatives of older people's groups in the area.