Kirklees Council and the University of Huddersfield have been working together on two complementary strands of research to help us better understand cohesion issues and support our developing work on ‘Connecting Communities’.
The aim was to build an understanding of cohesion-related issues that would be useful to our front-line workers and help us develop policy and strategy which ‘fits’ people’s real-life circumstances.
We did this work in two strands:
- Strand 1: mixed-methods research to investigate communities and issues that we didn’t know enough about. (Also involving Calderdale Council).
- Strand 2: action research (3 phases) to help us understand cohesion and how we can best work together to support change and encourage cohesion.
More specifically we wanted to explore:
- attitudes to cohesion, cross-community contact and mixing and the extent to which themes/issues articulated by particular political groups resonate with the attitudes/dispositions of predominantly White communities. [Strand 1].
- the level of contact/mixing between people from different communities, the ‘best’ things happening in communities, what brings people together and what can be done to further strengthen ‘cohesion’ locally. [Strand 2].
Our methods included a targeted household survey, ‘key informant’ interviews with professionals (including council officers, high school headteachers and police officers), focus groups with local people, staff observations, reflective diaries and group discussions.
The findings were really informative. We found some perceptions of ‘unfairness’ as well as some contrasting viewpoints and contradictions – for example a lack of mixing/a reluctance to mix v. a desire to meet and get on with different people. This is something we need to be mindful of in our day to day work out in communities. People were particularly strong in their views that cohesion is not something that should be ‘forced’.
Professor Paul Thomas from the University of Huddersfield highlights the findings from Strand 1 here. We used these (see full report) as the focus of a July 2014 seminar hosted by the university to help shape our next steps. We later reflected on Strand 2 (the action research) at a joint Connecting Communities Leadership Team-frontline practitioner event in January 2015.
The development and application of both strands of the research has been central to our partnership work and strategic direction as the Kirklees Connecting Communities Leadership Team – the findings are already informing our action plans and will continue to support and shape the work we do with local communities. And critically, since our action research involved front-line staff in the design and implementation of the fieldwork, it has also contributed to capacity-building around our policies and approaches for cohesion and community-based research and evaluation.
We’re continuing to work together to build our understanding of community relations and influence the Connecting Communities agenda in Kirklees.
Posted on behalf of the Kirklees Connecting Communities Leadership Team
(Photo credit: Kirklees Community Engagement Team – It’s Time to Talk)