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Project report: Research Ready Communities, Salford


Research Ready Communities project report - led by Inspiring Communities Together, Pendleton and Charlestown

Project Goals and Background

The Research Ready Communities (RRC) programme is a six-month planned programme of activities, devised by the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network (CRN).

Inspiring Communities Together (ICT) have worked in collaboration with the NIHR Clinical Research Network Greater Manchester (CRN GM) team to follow the RRC programme:

  • Identify community research champions to work with ICT staff members across the areas of Charlestown and Pendleton
  • Carry out listening exercises with older people in the neighbourhood, some on a one to one basis, some in group sessions
  • Carry out a mapping exercise to gather a picture of key people, groups, services and places where older members of the Charlestown and Pendleton community can find out about research and get involved.

Community Champion Training

Once ICT had identified Community Champions, ICT staff and volunteers undertook a two-day training programme to find out more about how the programme would unfold.

Day 1 is a workshop to support understanding more about health and social care research and its importance. It includes information about initiatives where interested members of the public can register their interest in getting involved in research, in a number of ways. Inclusion in research was an important feature in the agenda as the chosen group for this project was the minority group of older people in Charlestown and Pendleton.

Day 2 was completely focused on the role of Community Champions; the need to map the locality and how to carry out the one to one or group conversations. 

Community Mapping Exercise

A community mapping exercise was carried out before and after the listening exercises to identify sources of strength and activity in the community that could support access to information about research.

Key questions asked were:

  • Where do older people go already to socialise, meet around particular interests or issues, or to get information? 
  • What groups for older people already exist and bring people together?

Understanding this information better helped ICT and volunteers co-design the delivery of this project in a way that complemented and built upon people’s existing connections and interests within the community.                                                    

Listening Exercises

The Community Champion team carried out a number of conversations with older people throughout June to August 2023. They decided how best to carry out conversations, reflecting the needs, availability and interest of older people.

They chose to attend a health fair and a community event held at Pendleton Gateway to try to engage with older people in the wider community, while also arranging listening exercises at three sheltered housing schemes and with the local fibromyalgia support group.

Evaluation and Next Steps

In September 2023, the ICT Community Champion Team and CRN GM colleagues spent a day together, identifying the main themes to come out of the project. 

All the information gathered through the Charlestown and Pendleton community mapping exercise and listening exercises, was reviewed to search for themes in what people knew or felt about health and research and their potential preferences for finding out about research.

What did Inspiring Communities Together find out?

Mapping Exercise Summary

Using the model to the left, many places, people and organisations were identified as sources of strength and activity across Charlestown and Pendleton that could support access to information about research. This exercise was carried out twice. 

The first time helped ICT and their volunteers co-design the delivery of this project in a way that complemented and built upon people’s existing connections and interests within the community. 

The second time, with CRN GM was to identify places, people and organisations to connect and work with in the future to enable older people to find out about research opportunities and, where possible, to be able to take part in a way that is aligned with how they live. Some of these organisations will have representation at the November event, some will be connections of the future. Conversation this time included digital connections and use of local media or newspapers to relay key information about health and care research and then to maintain momentum.

Both times the exercise was carried out, it was identified that Charlestown and Pendleton can be an extremely well-connected place to live in. There are many services, people and activities an older person can get involved with and so the opportunity for research connections to grow is there, waiting for relevant services to realise the potential for working with this community.

Summary of Listening Exercises

In total 54 older people were involved in the project.  Some took part in both a group activity and some in a 1:1 conversation, whilst others only took part in one or the other.

  • 17 1:1 conversations completed
  • 37 people took part in 4 group sessions

Inspiring Community Together Community Champion Team - Observations and Key Themes


What is Health? What is Research?

It was observed and experienced that in this community and age group included, it was common to not be able to express a sense of health or what health means on a personal level. 

Often, this led to comments about a GP or hospital service, as though the concept of health was so connected to those service providers, there was no personal view. This sometimes led to a difficult conversation for champions, aiming to navigate a questionnaire related to health and research. This itself is a learning point for Inspiring Communities Together as listening to the older person’s voice is crucial to the services they deliver. 

Health and Research Literacy

During the evaluation day, it was recognised that people taking part in the Research Ready Communities programme could be exposed to supporting literature or given suggested topics for conversation prior to interview. 

The ICT team identified that there is an opportunity for the communities of Charlestown and Pendleton to further participate in research community conversations related to health and research information. In particular, identifying a range of adult audiences; a range of content appropriate to levels of literacy and comprehension;  a range that is solely pictorial and possibly a video that can run in service waiting rooms.

Key Themes

Lack of Understanding
  • There was often an assumption that research was 'medical'
  • Many thought research would involve needles and/or procedures
  • Many thought it would take up a lot of their time
  • Language used is too technical. Research has a lot of 'research speak'; jargon; abbreviations and language that is not easy to understand and turns people off from being interested in research
 Negative Personal Experience
  • Don’t know how to get involved. Participants did not know where to find out about research or how they might become involved in research
  • Can feel disempowering. Some people reported that they felt research was something “done to them”
  • Outcomes of research aren’t shared.  Some people told us they had given a lot of time to research but had not heard about the findings, outcomes or if it made any difference
Motivation to get involved
  • To help others, even if the research wouldn’t directly benefit them, people could see that it could help other people in the future
  • Because of experience of a particular health condition
  • To improve services - will research improve access to, and availability of, GPs, NHS dentists and other primary health and care?

Creation of an Action Plan

From this point, the group developed themes for the development of an action plan that primarily focused on sharing what was discovered.

A community feedback session is being held in November 2023 to include those who wished to stay connected to the project; members of the public plus key stakeholders in these communities such as local health and care professionals, local authority employees with responsibility for communities/care/public health. 

Some key stakeholders are related to place rather than service. For example, there could be well-respected and connected people in the community that could support spreading the work about research.

While these themes are an action plan for ICT and its key stakeholders, they could serve a research team well as guidance for working within Charlestown and Pendleton.

Action plan themes 

  • Share this report
  • Increase knowledge
  • Find new ways to publicise research ie local radio/podcasts
  • Develop literature that’s understandable
  • Run campaigns
  • Work in places people know and trust
  • Work with community hubs
  • Encourage research conversation in health support groups
  • Plan ahead - to foster trust
Events / Promotion
  • Make research known
  • Plan events for research results and their relevance to be shared
  • For health and care providers - horizon scan for relevant studies

What’s Next for Charlestown and Pendleton?

The Research Ready Communities Programme has come to an end but it’s important that ICT, the people of Charlestown and Pendleton and key stakeholders further develop connections and include people in this community in conversations about research.

It is hoped that the relationships developed over the past year and those to come through this report will continue to flourish and grow. It’s important for stakeholders and research teams to find ways to sustain this work to ensure the community sees an improvement in  research connectivity and visibility. It’s also important, where there is interest, to ensure the community has access to literature or information that is easily understood.

Research Community Champions

Raising awareness of research to the local community can be more effective when led by members of that community.  The Community Champions will be invited to continue this engagement work, supported by the CRN.  This could be anything from promoting digital initiatives such as ‘Be Part of Research’ and any relevant studies, through to talking at events.  

There may be opportunities for other people to get involved if there is an interest.  They will then become part of a wider Research Champion network in the region to share best practice and future initiatives.

Health and Research Literacy

At time of finalising this report, we are discussing the possibility of ICT and volunteers from Charlestown and Pendleton being involved in a project on behalf of NHS England to develop literature or media related to research that is easily readable or in picture format. 


We are enormously grateful to:

Tania Nelson and Geoff Yates, ICT Volunteers and Research Ready Community Champions.

Pendleton Gateway, residents and staff at Hornbeam Court, Spruce Court and Heraldic Court and members of the Fibromyalgia Support group based at the Energise Centre.

We are also grateful to the CRN Greater Manchester and Co-ordinating Centre PPIE Team for their support with the project with special thanks to Khadija Badri and Britanny Ouldcott.