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Hear from our community researchers for the London Prosperity Board

In this video, three of our community researchers for the London Prosperity Board explain our approach to research, and the difference it makes
So I think this project is important because as community researches we’re living and working in our own communities. We’re talking to the residents, just around us about their opinions, what they think of the local area. And it’s a new way of getting knowledge. We’re not professionals coming in, asking them questions with clipboards. We’re just having a chat over a cup of tea. And we actually think that the information, the knowledge we collect will have an impact at a high level, because the discoveries or the points that we make will be fed back to councils or housing associations, service providers so that they can better support their local residents. They’re getting information from the ground up.
As community researchers, we’re, of course, part of the community. And I think this way of doing research is truly how you find out what the community wants for itself, how they can then influence decisions further down the line around redevelopments or their built environments. It’s a hugely contrasting area that’s come about because of the huge investment that has come into this area in recent years. And there’s a lot of wealth in Tower Hamlets. We’ve got Canary Wharf. We’ve got all this new housing that’s coming up. And the concern is that maybe it’s not shared, which means that like the monetary value of this area does not translate into how prosperous it is or how well people do overall.
Right, so the purpose of the London Prosperity Board is to make people more aware of what makes communities prosper. Now London’s a very rich city. It’s part of a developed country. However, are communities really thriving from that development? Are they really thriving from that financial status? Where London is seen as the city, the hub, with the most money, are communities really thriving from that? Or are there some that are thriving and others that are being left behind?
And it’s about hearing those voices of those people left behind and why they feel they’re being left behind and how it’s actually impacting them and what more can we do to make changes to help the wider community as a whole to prosper and for London to really succeed. As community researchers we actually go and look around the area, so talking to actual residents, talking to service providers, talk to people who live and work in the local area and get in their points of view, impartially, and not assuming we know what the community needs are, but getting them to speak and getting their voices heard, and therefore getting a real understanding of what’s actually going on.
With us, we’re not authority figures. We’re literally here for them. We want to know about what’s going on for them. And although, we might not be able to be the change makers or the decision makers. We are the ones that make people aware, the right people aware, the people who want to provide these services for the community and make them aware of what are the needs of the community, so that they can actually see it as, OK, so this is what this community needs. Instead of doing this, we’re going to do this, because this is what the research out there says. And our research is accurate. It’s because it’s from the actual individuals. It’s their voices, their words.
And it’s a matter of understanding where they’re coming from and why is it that they’re experiencing what they’re experiencing. So it’s not just a matter of oh, yeah, we’ve got poor housing. It’s a matter of what is that. What does that even mean, poor housing? Why do you feel that they’ve got poor housing? Where does that stem from? What services have they been accessing? What services do they need? You know, going really deep with them, go really elaborate on the details of it and understanding the core issues at play.
So from the understanding, having that better understanding of what the community needs are, of the core issues, it helps us then find out new ways of being able to support communities to thrive and to prosper. For me the London Prosperity Board Project is about delving into the hearts of many communities and what they truly think about prosperity, whether they have any. It’s part of the reason why I’m a researcher is just to make people feel as if they’re being listened to, what the real deep issues are, the deep underlying issues are that may affect them from having a prosperous life.
And so the strengths of our approach to research is that the people who are on board I think, deeply care. For instance, like myself and my other colleagues that are doing the community research, these are people that are the community. So they’re going round and they’re not doing it for the money, because they’re working in their own community So they deeply, deeply care. And they understand those goals. They understand what it means to themselves and the community for a project like this to come to them. Community research, this kind of research is very focused. It’s very focused on what people actually want. It’s directly from the people. They’re not sitting there ticking a box.
It’s not a survey that’s being done. It’s them being given the opportunity to express themselves through the interviews, through the group sessions, through the outreach that we construct. I mean, just like how I was approached. I was approached before I joined this team by Jack. He found me on the streets. And the quote that rings a bell to me is he told me start hitting the gym not the streets. I was out there, up to no good. However, I saw someone that came directly to me and told me and offered me the chance. That’s what’s happening right now with what we’re doing. We’re going out there. We’re reaching out to the people.
We’re offering the chance to be heard, to genuinely be heard. There’s no copying and pasting. There’s no editing. There’s no words being fed into them. It’s just pure, pure, you know, it’s just pure.

One unique thing about the IGP’s approach to research, as demonstrated here, is the use of members of the community in building research. Unlike official surveys, where something external is tasked with gathering information, this approach allows new forms of knowledge production.

Miriam is a local, training to be a social worker – a job that entails working with troubled families in a range of ways. Ivy worked in capacity building and employer training in the neighbourhood. And Akbar helps run a boxing gym which aims to give children from deprived areas a place to focus their energies and stay off the streets. They are just three of our large team of community researchers, reaching deep into the community to gain a better idea of prosperity in the area, and what the barriers to it are.

It’s clear from the video that they are engaged in the particular barriers to prosperity in this area.

Do you think this is a valid way to ‘co-design’ a vision of prosperity?

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