Community University Partnership Initiative: reflections

Community University Partnership Initiative: reflections

Yesterday I attended a Community University Partnership Initiative event at Birmingham City University. This brought together academics from several faculties of the University to meet two external organisations, City Year and Youth Sport Trust. Both are organisations making a difference with young people in Birmingham, but wanted to find out more about how they could work with universities. For me, this threw up a number of questions and issues to consider, given our evaluation work at M and E Lab:

Organisations may be already doing research, and have a sense they might want to work with an external organisation such as a University, but without knowing what that can offer. Whilst tenders for research collaboration or project evaluation can be useful in distinctly defining what is needed, sometimes a more open approach is required, that allows two parties to co-design a research process and offer their full skillset.

Where organisations may have existing materials or data they’d like to use in research or evaluation with an organisation, they need to be clear on what can or can’t be shared, under the terms that the data was collected – this is a legal, GDPR issue as much as anything else. For example, the raw data might not be shareable, but previous reports based on that data and made available to the public might be.

Given the last point, this strongly argues the case for evaluators working with organisations at the start and throughout their projects, rather than as a validation exercise at the end point. Terms for data collection can be set out from day one, alongside other benefits such as the possibility to compare ‘before’ and ‘after’ change, through interviews or survey, for example.

Finally, I can see that events such as CUPI have the potential to be very helpful. In this case the two organisations came away with a much clearer sense of how to structure their calls to academics to make them appealing, accurate and focused towards their needs. The University and its academics will hopefully benefit from coming together to deliver multi-disciplinary work.

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