Nicola Gratton

Lead Civic Eng'Ment & Evalu - Assoc Prof

Research, Innovation and Impact Services

As Lead for Civic Engagement and Evaluation my role involves leadership and implementation of our University's Connected Communities Strategy. This includes coordination of several university wide initiatives to engage members of the public with Staffordshire University and support colleagues and students to partner with communities to have a positive impact across our regions. This includes the development and facilitation of Staffs CAN (Community Advisory Network), a group of community partners and members of the public who inform our Connected Communities Strategy and our work with communities across the region. I also coordinate the Connected Communities Staff group and Student Networks and lead the design and implementation of our Connected Communities Evaluation Framework.

As a member of RIIS SMT I have a specific focus on public engagement in research, inclusion and sustainability. My research specialism focuses how participatory action research and coproduced knowledge can tackle issues of social justice and lead to place based change in communities. I have lead several participatory action research projects in collaboration with community partners, including Get Talking Hardship, Raising Voices (both funded by the National Lottery Community Fund via VOICES) and Keep Talking (funded by UKRI Enhancing Partnerships for Place Based Engagement fund). My interest in community participation, coproduction and engagement stems from an extensive career in youth and community practice, management and training.

Between 2007 and 2011 I also worked at University of Derby as a Senior Lecturer in Community and Youth Work, developing and delivering teaching for the professionally validated BA (Hons) Community and Youth Work Programme. While at the University of Derby I was also self-employed Director of Here and There Consultancy, and delivered a range of commissioned projects with youth and community groups and organisations including research, training and consultancy. I joined Staffordshire University in 2011 as a Senior Lecturer in Youth and Community Work in the Creative Communities Unit. During my career at Staffordshire University I have had a varied role that involved teaching on MA Youth and Community Work, delivering community-based projects, collaborations and research, representing Staffordshire University as a consortium partner and managing the participatory evaluation of Appetite, leading the social impact subgroup and sitting on the bidding team for Stoke-on-Trent’s bid to be City of Culture 2021 and supporting Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service to use Get Talking participatory action research to develop their Children and Young People’s strategy.

I launched Staffordshire University's Civic Fellowship Scheme in 2020, lead over 100 community researchers to deliver place based research and change and and recently launched Staffordshire University's first Participatory Action research Programme for Staffs and PGR students. 

Professional memberships and activities

 Fellow of Higher Education Academy.

Academic qualifications

  • MA Community Education with a Post Graduate Certificate in Youth and Community Work - De Montfort University
  • Post Graduate qualification in Learning and Teaching - the University of Derby
  • BSc (Hons) Combined Science in Psychology and Education – Lancaster University


  • Public Engagement in Higher Education
  • Civic Universities
  • Supporting community researchers
  • Civil society
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Asset Based Community Development
  • Community development and engagement
  • Creative consultation and engagement
  • Creating informal learning opportunities
  • Access to arts and culture for underrepresented groups
  • Participatory action research Coproduction of knowledge Public Engagement in Research Civic Universities and their impact Ethical engagement with communities Equality, diversity and inclusion Asset Based Community Development Community development and engagement Creative consultation, research and engagement

Research interests

  • Participatory action research to address social inequality (Get Talking)
  • Access to arts and culture for people with learning disabilities
  • Civic University development
  • Hardship and poverty
  • Digital inclusion
  • Inclusion
  • Creative consultation and public policy

Enterprise and commercial interests

I was a self-employed Director of Here and There Consultancy between 2007 and 2011.


Module leader for the Get Talking: Creative Community Consultation short course (Level 3)


Gratton, N., Jones, M. (2023) More-Than-Civic: Higher Education and Civil Society in Post-Industrial Localities. In: Dobson, J., Ferrari, E. (eds) Reframing the Civic University. Rethinking University-Community Policy Connections. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Gratton, N. (2022). Taking sides: The role of universities in supporting community driven approaches to addressing poverty. Local Economy, 37(8), 647–654. 

Gratton, N. and Reynolds, J. (2022) Participatory evaluation for large-scale arts programmes: challenges, adaptations and unexpected shifts in culture. Research for All Journal, 6 (1). Doi:

Gratton, N., Fox, R. and Elder, T. (2020) Keep Talking: Messy Research in Times of Lockdown. In Kara, H. and Khoo, S. (Eds) Researching in the Age of Covid-19. Volume II: Resilience and Care. Policy Press. Pg. 101 – 110. Doi: 

Gratton, N. (2020) From Engagement to Strategy: The Journey Towards a Civic University. In Sengupta, E., Blessinger, P. and Mahony, C. (2020) University–Community Partnerships for Promoting Social Responsibility in Higher Education. (Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning) Volume 23, Bingley UK, Emerald Publishing Limited. pp. 105–120.

Gratton, N. (2019). ‘People with learning disabilities and access to mainstream arts and culture: A participatory action research approach’, British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 48 (2) pp. 106-114.

Page, S., Gratton, N., Brindle-Wilkinson, R., Chamberlain, V., Campbell, N. (2020) Informing Prison Theatre Improvement through World Café Conversations with Prisoners. Prison Service Journal Issue 248, pp. 45-55

Gratton, N. and Beddows, R. (2018) ‘Get Talking: Managing to achieve more through creative consultation’, in M. Stout (ed) From Austerity to Abundance? (Critical Perspectives on International Public Sector Management), Volume 6, Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Limited, pp 141–160.

External profiles

in the UK for Quality Education

Sustainable Development Goal 4, Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2023

for Career Prospects

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Facilities

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Social Inclusion

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023

of Research Impact is ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Very Considerable’

Research Excellence Framework 2021

of Research is “Internationally Excellent” or “World Leading”

Research Excellence Framework 2021

Four Star Rating

QS Star Ratings 2021