Award Winner 2018 – Birmingham City Council

Most engaging communication of local area research – Birmingham City Council

Annual Research Seminar Series (5th Year)

Summary

The seminar has been recognised locally as a forum for raising awareness of research within the local authority and also an opportunity for collaboration of academic and non-academic partners, especially the third sector. It provides the space to network and initiate research that can make an impact to local communities.

On 23rd November 2017, Birmingham City Council hosted a conference themed ‘Rising to the challenge of collaborative research’, aimed to showcase research undertaken either by the council or in collaboration with its partners. This was an opportunity for council staff to network with external partners involved with research.

This was the fifth in a series of annual seminars held since 2013. It was chaired by Steven Rose (Head of Strategic Research) and introduced by Hashum Mahmood (Service Manager Public Health – Innovation), with keynote speeches from Dr Martin Reeves, (Chief Executive, Coventry City Council & Honorary President, LARIA); Professor Graeme Betts (Corporate Director Adult Social Care & Health, Birmingham City Council); and Stella Manzie, (Interim Chief Executive, Birmingham City Council). The audience included colleagues from academia and from local public sector and third sector organisations and colleagues from within Birmingham City Council.

The objectives of the event included:

  • Raising the profile of research within the council;
  • Showcasing examples of collaborative research conducted by the council with external partners;
  • Identifying challenges to collaborative research, including resolution methods;
  • Developing research networks with local stakeholders;
  • Providing opportunity for council staff and students from local universities to exhibit research posters.

Synopsis

The research seminar series has been running since 2013 and was set up to raise the awareness of research and develop staff research skills within the local authority. Each year the seminar has a particular focus, which in the past has ranged from partnerships to evidence based practice and practice based evidence. The overall aim is to provide a forum of networking between academic and non-academic partners for further collaboration.

The evolution of the seminar over the five years has seen it benefit and providing a voice for local university students to come and present poster presentations of the research and dissertation work they have been conducting. Many of the presentations within the seminars have been delivered by staff with the authority, as well as representatives from community organisations. Each year the level of interest from delegates has exceeded the expectations of the organisers, with an average attendance of sixty delegates from a plethora of organisations.

Evaluations of the seminar have provided much learning for the organisers, with many delegates having attended previously and new faces emerging as well. The format of presentations followed by a panel discussion has been a highlight of the events, with many delegates commenting on this seminar series as a really great initiative that should be replicated in other areas. Presentations and previous seminar evaluations are available via the Birmingham Collaborative Research Support Network (BCRSN) group on Knowledge Hub.

The ability of the seminar to attract a high calibre of key note speakers, which have included the chief executive of the authority, senior representative from LARIA and a local Member of Parliament all indicate the importance and prominence strategic leadership value the importance of research to inform public policy. However, the support and enthusiasm by staff to engage and be a part of this seminar has been the driving force that has enabled it to run for five years and hopefully for many years to come.

Adrian Phillips, Director of Public Health Birmingham City Council considers that “Public Health is a data-led specialism and a strong evidence-base is crucial to developing effective services. The importance of sharing outcomes and building on research through collaboration partnership working results in synergy that’s greater than initial research undertaken and is integral to developing and maintaining services suitable for citizens’ needs. Each event has proven to be a fantastic vehicle for people involved in research in Birmingham to come together to share knowledge, whilst learning from one another. Over the last 5 years I’ve witnessed the team constantly strive to ensure the next event has greater impact than the last, encompass an ever-greater range of people who use this opportunity to highlight their research and constantly strive to ensure each event is current and appropriate to the audience’s needs. I am delighted that this ever-expanding annual event has become a fixture in the research calendar for Birmingham”.

What should LARIA members learn from your project?

The research seminar has since its inception enabled the creation of a multidisciplinary forum to help the merger of theory and practice by placing individuals from both paradigms to network and collaborate. It has highlighted the importance of research and intelligence to inform local policy and demonstrate how even non-academic organisations such as local authorities can produce peer reviewed articles that have the potential to have great impact, given their “real world” “living lab” remit of work. The positive comments and encouragement shown by staff of all levels, as well as external partners from all sectors has shown that this enterprise would be beneficial in other local authorities, in order to bridge the chasm between theory and practice.

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