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University of Wolverhampton academics to head up research into community response of Covid-19 pandemic

A team of academics at the University of Wolverhampton has been successful in winning a bid to carry out research into the local community response to the pandemic.

The Institute of Community Research and Development (ICRD) has secured the project from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Public Service Reform Directorate who is looking to evidence the innovation and enterprise shown by the West Midlands local community in response to COVID-19.

The ICRD will lead the research project in partnership with Birmingham based BVSC (The Centre for Voluntary Action) and academic colleagues at Coventry University.

The Institute for Community Research and Development (ICRD) works with partner organisations to undertake pioneering community development studies that improve the life chance of individuals. The team delivers research and evaluation projects and have worked with the Home Office, the Economic and Social Research Council, the NHS, the Criminal Justice System and other UK and European organisations.

The research project will capture a range of responses to the pandemic from communities across the West Midlands’ 18 Local Authorities including voluntary and community organisations, faith groups, mutual aid groups, neighbourhood groups and social enterprises. Evidence that highlights innovation, enterprise, good practice or flexibility will be evidenced in the research.

Councillor Maria Crompton, WMCA portfolio lead for public service reform and deputy leader of Sandwell Council, said: "People across the region have organised themselves to look after their neighbours during the pandemic, creating new collaborative links between them, their communities, and the public services and businesses that underpin their lives.

“The challenges we have collectively faced have been immense, we must acknowledge that there are still hard times to come and we must all work together to face these challenges in the months ahead.

“In trying to build back better, we need to understand what has worked well, and what WMCA can do through its investments and partnerships to nurture and make space for that."

Professor Laura Caulfield, Chair of the Institute for Community Research & Development at the University, said: “The project team is highly experienced in leading research on complex social issues, particularly in the voluntary, community and faith sectors, as well as engaging stakeholders from a wide range of backgrounds and designing robust methodologies.

“Without a doubt, the pandemic has had an immense impact on our communities and, as a result, neighbourhoods have had to build resilience in order to cope with the rapid change.

“This research will be vital in exploring how public services have changed in response to COVID-19 as well as showing us what we can learn from these changes and how we can move forward to a create a fairer, greener and healthier West Midlands.”

Wayne Langford, Director of the West Midlands Combined Universities (WMCU), a formal partnership between Birmingham City University, Coventry University and the University of Wolverhampton, said: “Our three, flexible and locally anchored universities are working together to help deal with COVID-19.

“To date we have provided premises, PPE equipment, research, staff and facilities, and now we will play a vital role in capturing information to understand how communities have dealt with this pandemic. We will continue to support the WMCA in driving recovery in our region.

“It’s really exciting to see two of our Universities teaming up with the WMCA and voluntary organisations to capture the evidence needed to shape the future of public services across our region, ensuring that we harness the knowledge gained during the pandemic to help us all prepare for any future crises.”

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) covers 18 local authorities and three Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across the West Midlands region. The research report will be available in the autumn and will feed into the Comprehensive Spending Review process and Devo Next.

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