Recovery and Renewal

Core Academic Co-Leads: Dr Koen Bartels ( and Gerald Jordan (

Communities are becoming a popular policy focus for improving wellbeing. However, the effects of spatially targeted interventions are much debated, as well as the definition of communities itself. What makes a strong community, how can trust, mutual support and belonging be fostered, and who might be excluded from particular communities? The Community Renewal and Recovery theme examines the complex ways in which wellbeing takes shape in diverse places and spaces and how the notion of community is mobilised in wellbeing policy and practice. How do wellbeing relationships between communities, local authorities and third sector organisations develop, and how are communities engaged, represented and involved in decision-making around wellbeing? In the wake of the Covid pandemic, we aim to identify new ways of addressing structural wellbeing inequalities within and between communities.

Discussion Group Sessions on 'Wellbeing and Communities' 

We have regular hybrid discussion groups sessions about various dimensions of wellbeing and communities. The sessions have an accessible and reflective format: a member briefly offers their perspective on the focal question to kick-start an organic conversation in which we share our diverse views and experiences. The sessions are open to anyone from across and beyond the University with an interest in wellbeing and communities, and can be joined in person or online. If you’d like to join or propose a topic, please contact the Core Academic Co-Leads.

Upcoming sessions 

Community-led education for 'living diversity'       
Reza Gholami & Giada Costantini (Education and Social Justice)           
Wednesday 17 January 2024, 1-2pm

Research Better Together: Participatory Research in Social Care
Kelly Hall, Caroline Jackson and Clare Harewood (Social Policy and Birmingham Voluntary Sector Council)
Wednesday 31 January 2024, 1-2pm

The Mindset Revolution project: Strengthening youth influence on mental health through arts-based and creative methods  
Wednesday 14 February 2024, 1-2pm
Sonia Bussu (Public Administration and Policy)

Doing longitudinal multi-media reasearch with communities: the experieces of Our Bigger Story          
Angus McCabe (Social Policy)
Wednesday 6 March 2024, 1-2pm

Creating a community of practice: Social prescribing and structural change in community wellbeing
Koen Bartels & Elizabeth Woodcock (Public Administration and Policy)
Wednesday 17 April 2024, 1-2pm

Major events legacies: Getting the communities ready for the next major event   
Xiao Liang (Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences)         
Wednesday 22 May 2024, 1-2pm

Lobbying and Legacy: investing in community partners    
Hannah Absalom and Darren Hartley (Public Administration and Policy and TAROE Trust)       
Wednesday 12 June 2024, 1-2pm

Past discussions

How is wellbeing framed, measured and operationalised in policy? (June 2023)
What matters for community engagement and wellbeing in Left Behind places? (April 2023)


How can we understand the legacies of large-scale interventions for social, economic and wellbeing inequalities in local communities? (Jan 2023)
How could we strengthen connections between wellbeing policy, research and communities? (Dec 2022)


In what ways can participatory approaches help to better understand and improve urban wellbeing? (Nov 2022)
What do we understand by community and how can we study the wellbeing of different types of communities? (July 2022)


How and why do we create capacities for collaboration and empowerment around wellbeing? (March 2022)
What is wellbeing and how do we understand it in relation to communities? (Feb 2022)


Social Prescribing, Assets and Relationships in Communities (SPARC) Network

The SPARC Network is a cross-institutional collaborative learning space of academic partners from the University of Birmingham, Bangor University, and the University of Strathclyde and practice partners from The Active Wellbeing Society (TAWS) Birmingham, Wirral ABCD Network, and Gwent Public Health. It is distinctly focused on asset-based approaches to social prescribing, addressing health inequalities, and coproducing a social model of wellbeing. It aims to be a space to share experiences, knowledge, and developments, identify opportunities for collaboration, research and change, and engage in ongoing relationship-building and learning.

Communities responding to COVID-19

Commissioned by Local Trust, this in-depth research explores how communities across England have responded to, and are recovering from, COVID-19. The study is being undertaken by a coalition of researchers, led by the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC). It explores how different communities have fared during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings, alongside multiple outputs from the research, provide an insight into the impact of crisis on communities, and the factors shaping their resilience, response and recovery.

Mobilising UK Voluntary Action during COVID-19

The project explores voluntary action responses to the pandemic across the four UK nations. 

Major events legacies for disadvantaged communities and individuals

 This ongoing research project examines the legacies of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games for disadvantaged individuals and communities. It is led by Dr Shushu Chen, Dr Mary Quinton, Dr Jet Veldhuijzen van Zanten and Dr Mark Lee. An Institute of Advanced Studies workshop took place on Wednesday 14th September 2022 at the University of Birmingham, and included internal and external academics in presentations and discussions to explore opportunities for wider collaborative and cross-disciplinary research.