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A social innovation approach to involving communities in health research

Find out how Vocal and the Greater Manchester Black and Minority Ethnic Network co-designed and co-delivered the Community Sandpit and brought community groups and researchers together


Public involvement in clinical translational research is increasingly recognised as essential for relevant and reliable research. Public involvement must be diverse and inclusive to enable research that has the potential to reach those that stand to benefit from it the most, and thus address issues of health equity. Several recent reports, however, indicate that public involvement is exclusive, including in its interactions with ethnic groups. This paper outlines a novel community-led methodology – a Community Sandpit – to address the inclusion of ethnic groups in public involvement in research, reports on its evaluation, findings, legacy and impact.


Through detailed planning – thinking through and taking into account all stakeholders perspectives in the planning and design of the sandpit, relationship-building, co-design and co-delivery between the Vocal based at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and the Greater Manchester Black and Minority Ethnic Network - the Community Sandpit was held in July 2018.


Fifteen community organisations took part in the two-day event, as well as six researchers, and six creative practitioners. Six community-based partnership projects were seed-funded; four of these received additional funding from other sources also.


Evaluation of the Sandpit showed the format to be well-received by all: it levelled power relationships between community organisations, health researchers and research infrastructure; it developed capacity amongst researchers about the accessibility, role and potential of community organisations. Described as “not another community seed fund” by community partners, the Sandpit offered community partners, equitable avenues for collaboration within Greater Manchester translational research and led to the formation of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Research Advisory Group. The method has the potential to be replicated elsewhere to support inclusive public involvement in research and inclusive research.

(Below is the summary of the research paper, please note this was written when Vocal was called the Public Programmes Team)

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