Communities will be at the heart of £5m policy research partnership

Local communities will be at the heart of a regional research partnership which is set to provide evidence for vital decision-making in the Yorkshire and Humber region to deliver on climate change, inequalities and data gaps.

The University will lead the community component of the project – working with local people so that their preferences, experiences and voices are heard.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced a £5m grant for the Yorkshire Policy Innovation Partnership (YPIP), a research partnership that will coordinate initiatives, evidence and learnings to help reduce inequalities and address climate change in Yorkshire and the Humber. 

Working with 12 Yorkshire Universities and all Yorkshire and Humber Councils, YPIP is rooted in a commitment to empowering communities, by researching ‘with’ rather than ‘on’ people.  

At its heart will be the YPIP community panel – comprised of 12 members with diverse experiences of disadvantage, marginalisation or isolation – who will become equal decision-makers with key policymakers and researchers in the region. Researchers associated with the University of Hull will be leading the community component of the project, with the University of Leeds leading the partnership.

The University of Hull is one of the partners in the YPIP collaboration and Professor Joe Cook is leading on the ‘Communities in Their Places’ core work stream which is central to ensuring that the YPIP is both community-led and community-responsive.

Professor Cook, who has championed working with communities and local people for more than 20 years, said: “This element of the collaboration places community voice and lived experiences at the centre of our work programme.

“I’m delighted to be leading the YPIP ‘Communities in their Places’ work. Too often community preferences, experiences and voice are an afterthought and sidelined in both policy-making and research. Both myself and the YPIP partners, are determined that this will not be the case with YPIP and that we will work endlessly to embed community knowledge and needs within all elements of the YPIP collaboration.”

Professor Gary Dymski from Leeds University Business School is leading the collaboration with co-director Kersten England CBE, who is heading up Bradford City of Culture 2025 after stepping down as chief executive of Bradford Council last year. 

Professor Dymski said: “All the members of our YPIP team are excited that we’ll have the opportunity to make a difference for the communities, councils, and businesses of Yorkshire and the Humber.

“We are a vast region with a diverse population that resides in spaces ranging from remote rural hamlets to dense inner-city neighborhoods. Our plan is ambitious: we want to make a difference on the inclusive growth and sustainability living challenges facing people across its length and breadth. YPIP gives our 12 Yorkshire universities some resources to use in this common effort.”

The Communities strand of the project involves two core activities: first people with lived experience will be recruited and rewarded to form the Community Panel. These 12 members will be joint decision-makers alongside academic and policy partners and will have an equal say over the work undertaken and the projects funded through the Commissioning Fund. The second key element of the Communities programme is to build upon successful community-led initiatives in the region and to create open collaborative spaces bringing together local people, their voluntary and community sector organisations with local authority decision-makers to address our core priorities of inclusive and sustainable growth.

The University of Hull team is comprised of: Professor Joe Cook, Professor Andy Jonas, Kate Macdonald (Timebank Hull and East Riding) and links closely with other University of Hull  programmes like the Ideas Fund (Dr Gill Hughes) and YPERN (Dr Stuart McLelland). 

Prof Cook said: “The University of Hull has established an inclusive approach to research where community members are central. This approach has already been explored in Hull through an innovative grant scheme: the Ideas Fund which has changed the traditional power dynamic to put the communities first enabling them to co-create ideas through knowledge exchange. The fund is run by the British Science Association (BSA) and funded by the Wellcome Trust – and has been a great success.”

Kersten England CBE, Co-Director of the Yorkshire LPIP bid, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that our bid has been successful. It’s ambitious, innovative and radical. We are creating a research ecosystem that brings the expertise and insights of communities, civic bodies and businesses together with the research excellence of the Universities of Yorkshire.

“Together we will tackle some of the most pressing issues we face not only as a region but as a nation – the creation of inclusive growth, delivery of a just transition to net zero and the role of confident resilient communities at the heart of these agendas.” 

A distinguishing feature of the YPIP project is that members of each of the 12 universities in Yorkshire and the Humber will play a key role in achieving the project’s ambitious goals.

Addressing regional challenges 

YPIP’s key aims to address these problems include:  

  • Data analytics: Build the Yorkshire Engagement Portal – a data hub for the region to provide up-to-date, legitimate evidence about the region’s economic, social and environmental status.   
  • Inclusive growth: Using inclusive business practices to increase entrepreneurial opportunities in the region, with a special focus on creating an Inclusive Business Network and improving creative opportunities for young people in Bradford.  
  • Sustainable living: Address key regional challenges in the move to net zero carbon, including retrofit guidance for the region’s high proportion of older buildings and close collaboration with the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission. 

YPIP began with a first phase of community consultation, and thanks to collaborative efforts with the Leeds Social Sciences Institute in the funding bid, was the only English partnership to win funding from UKRI for a second phase. 

The grant is part of a wider initiative of Local Policy Innovation Partnerships (LPIP), with three further LPIPs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Part of UKRI’s work to create opportunities and improve outcomes across the UK, LPIPs will bring together devolved governments, local authorities, businesses and communities to harness the power of research and innovation in addressing local challenges.  

Professor Alison Park, Head of UKRI’s creating opportunities, improving outcomes theme, said: “Local Policy Innovation Partnerships demonstrate UKRI’s commitment to bringing together a diverse range of partners, from local and devolved government, communities and businesses. Through these long-term collaborations, we will accelerate the use of research and innovation to reduce regional inequalities and drive sustainable, inclusive growth.” 

Professor Karen Bryan OBE, Chair of Yorkshire Universities, said: “This is a brilliant example of Yorkshire Universities’ core mission to promote and use research and evidence that relates directly to the issues that matter to communities, businesses and policymakers in the region.”