Community Research

At Norfolk Community Foundation, we are committed to rooting our work in a deep understanding of local communities.

All too often, we see services being designed or policies introduced, without a real understanding of people’s lived experience and without capturing their ideas about the change that is needed. This results in ‘hidden’ needs being missed and fails to fully harness the skills, knowledge and capacity that exists in our communities.

Over our years of grant making, we have developed a detailed knowledge of Norfolk’s communities, their needs and assets, and are now starting to focus our research in key areas.

Izzy talks to visitors at the Royal Norfolk Show. Izzy stands in front of a yellow food bus and engages three people while smiling.

Over the past two years we have started to be more focused in our community conversations to broaden and deepen our understanding.

Our approach includes:

  • Adopting the principles of asset-based community development – building on the assets and strengths that already exist in an area.
  • Basing our work on detailed insight into what’s wanted and needed in a local community – not jumping to solutions from a set of assumptions or limited data.
  • Co-producing specific delivery approaches with people and organisations that are rooted in their local area.

Our work supports both national and local research priorities and includes:

Qualitative research – Nourishing Norfolk

In summer 2022, we carried out qualitative research in seven Nourishing Norfolk food hubs to understand the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and the difference that the food hubs were making in local communities.

Qualitative research – Together for Women and Girls

As part of a relaunch of Norfolk Community Foundation’s Together for Women and Girls programme, we invited women across the county to share their views on issues that matter to them through an online survey. We also released a small funding round, inviting community groups to hold focus groups with the women and girls they work with to explore these issues in more depth. We offered grants of £500 and free training to prepare to run the sessions. The insight we gain from both the survey and focus groups will be published later this year and will help to inform the direction of the Together for Women and Girls programme and where we target our support.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – Community Research Network programme

We are one of 25 areas selected from nearly 300 nationally by UKRI to pilot new approaches to involving communities in designing and conducting research to understand and share insight into their local area. We have been working in partnership with The Feed and Shrublands Youth and Adult Centre to find out:

  • How to build the knowledge, skills and capability of people with lived experience to design and conduct research.
  • What issues local communities feel are most important to them and how community-based research could help us to collectively understand them better.
  • How we can link the insight generated through community research to influence local funding strategies and the design and delivery of services and programmes.

We have run a series of learning events to help voluntary and community sector partners to build their knowledge and capacity around community research and recently published a set of reports (Community Research Resources Bank), tailored to a VCSE audience, for organisations that are keen to find out more.

Jo, Corrie and Laura look at a laptop screen together at the office.
Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board (ICB) – Research and Engagement Network Development (REND)

Norfolk and Waveney is participating in NHS England’s Research and Engagement Network Development (REND) programme. The programme is focused on involving diverse communities in health research and the development of health care provision. Norfolk Community Foundation is managing the distribution of grant funding to the voluntary and community organisations participating in the programme and co-ordinating activity with Suffolk Community Foundation for communities in Waveney.

Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board (ICB) – Community Voices

The Community Voices programme, funded by Norfolk and Waveney ICB, focuses on using trusted communicators to have conversations with communities that experience health inequality about their experiences and what matters to them. Topics explored through Community Voices include Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy, healthcare inequalities, smoking cessation, and children and young people and asthma. Norfolk Community Foundation’s role has been to manage the distribution of funds to voluntary and community organisations, enabling them to create a network of community champions who are trained and supported to have conversations with communities about their health and support and increase access to care.

[Image: © Brand Story Studio]
Norfolk County Council – Qualitative research

In early 2023, we supported Norfolk County Council to design and carry out qualitative research to inform the marketing strategy and key messages for its Multiply adult numeracy programme. We also ran a focus group fund on behalf of the County Council’s Adult Social Services department to help inform the development of a new Adult Social Services strategy. Voluntary and community organisations that work with people who draw on Adult Social Services ran focus groups to gather insight into people’s experiences and what support they would like to receive in future.

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) – Qualitative research

In early 2024, we carried out research on behalf of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to explore the role that voluntary and community organisations want to play in addressing community safety and serious violence issues within their local community. We ran a survey and carried out interviews with community organisations to gather insight and inform a series of recommendations, which are being considered by the OPCC.

Current and future areas of work

We are working with the Great Yarmouth Homeless Alliance and Lloyds Bank Foundation to publish the findings of a peer-led research project into people’s lived experience of homelessness in Great Yarmouth. We were commissioned to work with the data collected through their research and help them to develop this into a research report, which will be published in summer 2024.

We are also working with Norfolk County Council, Community Action Norfolk and other local partners on a participatory policymaking programme, led and facilitated by the Young Foundation. We are exploring how young people can be actively involved in shaping solutions to the challenge of social isolation and loneliness as experienced by people aged 25 and under.

In summer 2024, we will have the opportunity to submit an application to the next stage of UKRI’s Community Research Network programme which, if successful, would support the growth of our community research activities over the following three years.