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Home » News » Blog: Let's collaborate

Blog: Let's collaborate

In this blog Jane Marryat, Research and Communications Officer at ESS writes about her impressions of  'Let's collaborate' - the Third Sector Research Forum's second event.

57 people attended the event but if you were not among them read on to find out what happened!

Inspiring is the word that comes to mind when I look back on my experience of attending The Third Sectors Research Forum’s (TSRF) second event ‘Let’s collaborate’ on 11 September 2015 at Victoria Quay, Edinburgh. Having been at the first event last year ‘Meeting with academics’ I could see how discussions on that occasion have moved on for the Forum and also for third sector organisations and academics.

Starting with a speed dating session to get to know others in the room and their ideas for collaboration created a real buzz of conversation and expectation. This was followed by presentations by Patty Lozano-Casal (Evaluation Support Scotland) who talked about the TSRF’s latest publication ‘Collaborating with academics’ which she was asking people to respond to a consultation by 2nd October, and Tara Murphy (Carnegie UK Trust) talking about InterAction, a piece of research currently being conducted in collaboration with the University of Newcastle about how the third sector and academia work together to influence policy and practice. Tara flagged up that this research will be reporting soon - so keep an eye out for it.

Then it was time for coffee and chatting to others. There was a real mix of people from all sorts of third sector organisations, and academics. I chatted to people who were already collaborating with academics but also with those who this event was aptly timed as they were just setting up a collaboration.

I really enjoyed the roundtable sessions* where we got to hear about real third sector and academic collaborations. At my table were Dr. Ada Garcia (University of Glasgow) and Ian Shankland (Lanarkshire Community Food and Health Partnership) (pictured above) who spoke with honesty and enthusiasm about their collaboration involving Masters nutrition students working in nurseries across Lanarkshire and conducting a variety of evaluation and research projects in collaboration with Lanarkshire Food and Health Partnership. Their collaboration has lasted 9 years and had benefitted both parties hugely. When asked what does collaboration bring? They answered: “skills, capacity and innovation”. Ian thought that the evidence gained was more highly valued by others (in his opinion) and that the University ‘badge’ gave credibility. Ada thought this was two way as for the university it gave their research grounding in the real world and their students the chance to work in real situations, putting theory into practice.  They had not experienced many barriers and had easily overcome them but Ada was adamant that you shouldn’t let barriers get in the way, “You should just do it [collaborate]”.


The next presentation was from What Works Scotland and University of Edinburgh. Dr. Sarah Morton introduced a great infographic: ‘Manifesto for partnership research between academic and other organisations’, hot of the press from Centre for Research for Families and Relationships. Sarah’s colleague Dr. Hayley Bennett, Research Associate for What Works Scotland (pictured right), talked about Collaborative Action Research, a model of research that is being tried in 4 community planning areas: Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire, Fife and Aberdeenshire. This work is still in phase 1 – the exploration phase. It will be interesting to hear, in the future, the results from the practitioners’ research and see the evidence to what works and why?

A tasty lunch and more chatting was followed by splitting up into one of three breakout sessions:

I went along to the big data session and, if I am honest, I was a bit bamboozled by some of the technical talk about open surveys. However, there were some very knowledgeable people in the room who shared their experiences and knowledge. It’s great to have made some connections to follow up.

To sum up I had a really productive day, met lots of people, heard lots of examples of collaboration and got many tips for effective collaboration. I can’t wait to the next Research Forum meeting… I’m ready for ‘round 3’!

"Collaborating with a university has not only allowed us access to skills and expertise, but it has provided us with in-depth analysis and valuable insight from an academic perspective which will help further our understanding and inform policy making in a practical regulatory environment." Louise Meikleham, Engagement Manager: Policy and Research, Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) 

Feedback from others who were asked if they had learned what they wanted to learn from the event:

“It was great to know the barriers that 3rd sector organisations face when collaborating with academics.”

“Yes, a good opportunity to firm out more on what collaborative work is happening in Scotland.”

“Very much and breakout session on volunteering and complex needs was vastly thought provoking.”

“A very useful event to meet a range of people looking for collaborations.”

*Roundtables: