Nicola Gratton

Lead Civic Eng'Ment & Evalu - Assoc Prof

Research, Innovation and Impact Services

I have an extensive background in community and youth work practice, starting my career as a youth worker at Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Over the next 11 years I worked at operational, managerial and strategic levels within Stoke-on-Trent Youth Services. Prior to Staffordshire University I was a Senior Lecturer in Community and Youth Work at the University of Derby developing and delivering teaching for the professionally validated BA (Hons) Community and Youth Work Programme. Alongside this role I was also self-employed Director of Here and There Consultancy, carrying out a range of projects with youth and community groups and organisations including research, training and consultancy.

I joined Staffordshire University as a member of the Creative Communities Unit in 2011, leading the MA Contemporary Youth Work programme and teaching on a range of modules including Get Talking: Creative Community Consultation, Making it Happen in Community Arts, Working with Groups, Partnership Working and Working with Young People. The role also involved working on community-based projects, collaborations and research, including 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.

As Lead for Civic Engagement and Evaluation I have supported Staffordshire University to develop a Connected Communities Framework and embed civic and community engagement into practice, established the Civic Fellowship scheme through which community members are recognised for their contributions to Staffordshire University and am a member of the Staffs Inclusion Group. My research specialism is addressing social inequalities through participatory action research, specifically supporting teams of community researchers to engage in research that can affect positive change within communities. I led on Get Talking Hardship, a projects commissioned by Stoke-on-Trent’s Hardship Commission which worked with 43 community researchers to understand the experiences of people living in hardship in the city, and Keep Talking, a UKRI Enhancing Partnerships of Place Based Engagement project in partnership with Expert Citizens CIC that worked with existing teams of community researchers to understand how to develop sustainable participatory research that benefits place.

Professional memberships and activities

I am a Fellow of the 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
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Supporting community researchers
  • Creative research outputs
  • Groupwork
  • Partnership working
  • Civil society
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Asset Based Community Development
  • Community development and engagement
  • Creative consultation and engagement
  • Working with group
  • Creating informal learning opportunities
  • Social value
  • Access to arts and culture for underrepresented groups

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


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.

UK University

StudentCrowd University Awards 2022

for Job Prospects

StudentCrowd University Awards 2022

for Student Satisfaction

Complete University Guide 2022

for Social Inclusion

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023

for Course Content

StudentCrowd University Awards 2022

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

Research Excellence Framework 2021