2023 update: Two years of co-creating research for social change

At the Binks Hub, our vision is to co-create research that’s truly with and for communities. We’re now two years into our work bringing together communities, artists and academics as equal partners to share and develop knowledge, and are pleased to share this update on our impact and activities over this time.

As a new research hub, our initial work focused primarily on building relationships and raising awareness both within the University of Edinburgh and with community and arts organisations outside of the university, culminating in our launch event in May 2022. Successes we’d particularly like to highlight since our inception include:

  • In October 2021, we recruited our full team of staff, welcoming Dr Jimmy Turner (Research Fellow) and Rhiannon Bull (Project & Communications Manager) to the hub, before Dr Marisa de Andrade joined us as co-director in January 2022
  • In May 2022, we used our launch exhibition to showcase our community of exciting collaborators working on participatory and arts-engaged projects
  • Across the last two years, we’ve run 20 collaborative, interdisciplinary, co-produced and community-partnered events (including seminars, conferences, and creative workshops)
  • We’ve also developed new modules and training within the university; through forging a strategic and important link with the Research Training Centre (RTC), we’ve delivered innovative teaching in creative and participatory methods, including ‘Creative Social Work and the Arts’, ‘Participatory Research Methods’, and ‘Creative Ethnographies’
  • Our support for students has included establishing our PhD/ECR network, funding five students from under-represented groups to complete the Health, Humanities and Arts MSc by Research, and offering internships working with us at the hub
  • We were winners of the University of Edinburgh’s 2022-23 Social Responsibility and Sustainability Changemaker Award
  • We’ve appointed someone for our Binks Hub PhD Scholarship, who will begin this September, in addition to supporting three other PhD projects linked with the Binks Hub

And we’re well on our way to creating change across our four impact areas. These all interconnect to help us achieve our goal of using co-created research for social change, and some of our successes in relation to each of these areas are detailed below.

Connected communities

We aim to offer opportunities for individual and collective storytelling through the arts so that communities and individuals can build new connections and strengthen networks that will enable renewal. Some of the exciting projects we’ve been working on to achieve this aim include:

  • Developing and delivering Citizen Researcher training with Tonic Arts (NHS Lothian), People Know How, and Inari Collective
  • Participation in the INCLUDED Project, which will investigate the ways in which we can facilitate the participation in research of people living with advanced dementia as co-researchers
  • Collaborating with Active Inquiry on the Drama for Democracy project, which aims to use Scottish theatre spaces as sites for participatory democracy
  • Developing the Recycling a Hospital project in partnership with the Edinburgh Futures Institute around the opening of their new building
  • Collaborating with The Ripple Project in Craigentinny on a community collage project, plus a photography workshop with community organisations based in north-east Edinburgh working with trauma-experienced young people

Positive youth transitions

Our research, co-developed with young people, supports positive destinations for young people by generating policy and practice relevant findings, while also giving participants research experience and opportunities to learn new skills and gain qualifications. Work in this area has included:

Health inequalities and wellbeing

Our research enables understanding of the reasons for some of these health inequalities and informs policies and practices which can alleviate these. We’ve focused on this area through:

  • The “REALITIES in Health Disparities: Researching Evidence-based Alternatives in Living, Imaginative, Traumatised, Integrated, Embodied Systems” project, which brings together a transdisciplinary team working across three localities in Scotland to address health disparities
  • Working with the Scottish Poetry Library, the Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW), and the University of Stirling to produce a Poetry for Wellbeing toolkit for social workers
  • Our symposium on human flourishing held in June

Methodological and theoretical innovation

The work of the Binks Hub is leading methodological and theoretical innovations in arts-engaged participatory research. We’ve been innovating through:

  • Commissioning research into the use of ‘toolkits’ as a dissemination method
  • Writing boundary-pushing work, including a book that  won the 2023 qualitative book award, which recognises a work that makes a major contribution to the study and practice of qualitative approaches
  • Running a series of creative methods workshops using artistic practices including zine-making, artistic mapping, music, photography, tapestry, wood-turning, and printmaking
  • Establishing a network for PhD students and early-career researchers interested in using artistic and participatory methods in their research
  • Running events on the ethics and complexity of community engagement from universities – including a seminar on partnership working with Marianna Hay, and a session on ethical collaborations with community organisations with Alison Urie of Vox Liminis 
  • Running collaborative grants-writing workshops and subsequently providing seed funding for projects developed in these workshops: ‘Co-creating new research directions with the ECREDibles’, ‘Group drumming as creative arts intervention’, ‘Textiles, art, and reproductive labour’, ‘Connection, poetry, magical realism, and speculative fiction’)
  • Speaking at the Scottish Public Engagement Network (ScotPEN) annual gathering on our public engagement work

We’re grateful for the generous funding of the Binks Trust, which has made all of this valuable work possible, and we’re looking forward to seeing what the next year brings.

Dr Emma Davidson, Dr Marisa de Andrade, and Dr Autumn Roesch-Marsh
Co-directors at the Binks Hub