As the world physically distanced, a small team of community researchers from the Keep Talking Project came together remotely through creative activities, shared stories and support for each other.
Led by Staffordshire University in partnership with Expert Citizens CIC, Keep Talking follows the Get Talking Hardship project which trained and supported 43 community researchers to help shed new light on people’s experience of poverty in Stoke-on-Trent.
The impactful findings were raised in the House of Commons and earlier this year Staffordshire University successfully bid for £38,000 UK Research and Innovation funding to continue this work and build a sustainable model for community research moving forward.
New podcast Keep Taking About… looks at the role of a community researcher, identifies some of the challenges they have overcome, both in their own lives and throughout the global pandemic, and how they have built a community which has supported the group’s wellbeing and cohesion.
Nicola Gratton, the Lead for Civic Engagement and Evaluation at Staffordshire University, said: “Our move to lockdown posed a few challenges. We had to adapt the way we were working quite quickly to make sure that the wellbeing of the community research team was at the forefront of everything that we did.
“I think that’s really important because when we get to the end of lockdown or as things start to ease, what we are going to need is a really strong and resilient community research team to help us address issues of hardship and poverty but also all of those other issues that are going to be coming up around the city over the next few months and years.”
The community researchers continued to engage with the Keep Talking project in a range of creative ways, including poetry, photography and baking – even creating a book of recipes that helped people through lockdown. They share these experiences in the podcast series which covers isolation, disability, creativity, friendship and family, and community.
In the first episode, community researcher Phil Parkes discusses how he has used his own experiences of addiction and homelessness to help others through the Keep Talking project.
He explained: “I know the stuff that I’ve been through has actually got a use now and I can use my lived experience to identify with individuals who I’m talking to about certain things and use the rapport that I can build up with people to get them on board and help them see things in a different way.”
Fellow community researcher Chloe Harris, who lives with cerebral palsy and relies on full time support, added: “It was really good for me to get involved in the Get Talking project because I’d struggled, due to all my issues, to find meaningful work.
“So, Get Talking was a really good way for me to keep going out into the community and also get involved and feel like I’m giving something back.”
Over the next month, a new podcast episode will be released each week leading to the launch of a series of resources including a guide cowritten by the Keep Talking Community Research team, on creating the right environment for community based participatory research, a comic book of what it means to be a community researcher and a book of poetry and photography produced by the team during lockdown.
Listen to the Keep Talking About… podcast here.