Knowledge That Matters: Realising the Potential of Co-Production – Launch of Final Report


4th May in Sheffield: The final report of the N8 / ESRC research programme entitled: Knowledge That Matters: Realising The Potential of Co-production has recently been completed and the official launch of the findings is imminent.

Article by Heather Campbell – N8 Lead for Co-production

The Co-production research programme was designed to take a fresh look at the way research is generated. More particularly, to examine how far better collaboration between academics and non-academics – co-production – can generate knowledge which is both academically excellent and has public benefit. The programme was coordinated by Heather Campbell (University of Sheffield) and consisted of a series of activities including a review of relevant literature, interviews with prominent opinion shapers close to research as well as learning from five pilot projects run by N8 colleagues and their partners as follows:

• Aligning local economic development and skill formation: a co-production approach to knowledge and knowledge exchange in the context of devolution (Lead: Ruth Lupton, University of Manchester).
• Co-design, co-evaluation and co-learning: street triage, mental health and policing in North Yorkshire (Lead: Martin Webber, University of York).
• Lost and Found in translation: the role of intermediaries in the translation of research (Lead: Sam Slatcher, University of Durham).
• Building capacity and reflexive learning for urban co-production: a scoping study for a ‘Leeds co-production lab’ (Lead: Paul Chatterton, University of Leeds).
• Modelling alternative ‘impact’: lessons from a community theatre research project (Lead: Rachel Pain, University of Durham).

The findings of the programme provide one of the first fully evidenced accounts of the benefits and opportunities as well as challenges of the adoption of co-production methodologies. The report also considers the implications for higher education, and therefore includes a series of recommendations for research funders, universities, non-academic organisations, researchers and the N8 Research Partnership. The concerns examined also connect to evolving agendas in the North of England, including the knowledge base required for the Northern Powerhouse. As Sir Alan Langlands, the former Chair of the N8 Research Partnership and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, suggests in his foreword: “The recommendations challenge conventional thinking in universities, but the N8 Research Partnership recognises that innovation and change will be necessary if the latent energy and creativity of the research community is to be harnessed to best effect.”

The programme found that co-production challenges the boundaries and nature of what is considered research. It is argued that by thinking of research as part of a broader knowledge ecosystem the depth and extent of intellectual and practical insight is significantly enriched. This in turn has considerable implications for understandings of the nature of research impact.

The official launch of the report will take place on 4th May at the University of Sheffield, introduced by Professor Sir Keith Burnett (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield) and will include a question time style panel discussion with Professor Ira Harkavy (Chair of the Anchor Institutions Task Force and Head of the Netter Centre at the University of Pennsylvania), The Right Honourable The Lord Blunkett (former Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Education), and Vanessa Cuthill (Deputy Director for Evidence, Impact and Strategic Partnerships at the ESRC).


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