In December 2022, the Black Country Integrated Care Board, with the support of colleagues from across the ICS, was one of 17 systems successful in a bid for funding, awarded through the Research Engagement Network Development Programme (REND).

The aim of the REND programme is to increase the number of people from under-served communities taking part in health and care research. Long term, this will aid in reducing health inequalities and make sure more people know about and can access, services when they need them.  

Building on our approach to working with people and communities, the ‘What If…’ research project will identify research topics from the ground up, then train and remunerate people with lived experience as ‘Community Reporters’ who in turn, gather and curate real-life stories of others with lived experience. 

Central to Community Reporting methodology is the belief that people telling authentic stories about their own lived experience offers a valuable understanding of their lives. Through creating spaces in which people can describe their own realities, Community Reporting provides opportunities in which people can use storytelling to enabling underserved communities to amplify their voice, challenge perceptions and catalyse change. 

Working with the Black Country VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance, the project will seek to elevate trusted voices and existing connections between people and communities that face the poorest health outcomes and local Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) groups and organisations. VCSE partners will recruit and support lived experience researchers from the diverse communities and support them to tell and share their stories how they see best. 

Once the stories have been analysed and insights synthesised, we will mobilise the learning by connecting people’s experiences with the groups and structures that are in a position to use this knowledge to bring about positive change.

Following the recent appointment of the Research Engagement and Partnership Lead to mobilise and coordinate the ‘What If…’ project, a project steering group – comprising of colleagues and contributors from across the Black Country and West Midlands – will convene for the first time in April 2023. Shortly after, Phase 1 of the ‘What If…’ research project will roll out, comprising of a series of ‘train the trainer’ sessions and the identification of the first research theme.  

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