Morag McDermont: City Fellowship Progress Report January 2021

1.Developing collaborative infrastructures for social justice 

In my first City Fellowship report I referred to the conclusions from the Productive Margins research programme : that to engage communities at the margins generally excluded from structures of power and decision-making we need to support and maintain an ‘experientially sensitive’ infrastructure of community-focused organisations working in collaboration with local universities and local government.  

IN this last period I have completed a paper with colleagues Bronwen Morgan (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia) and Tehseen Noorani (Durham University, UK) ‘Collaborative Infrastructures for Social Justice’ which develops this idea. A copy is available here (or, if this does not work, by contacting me on 

2. Communities in Focus – harnessing the potential of community-generated data 

2.1 Wellspring Settlement Research: community response to Covod-19 pandemic

With the support of UoB research was carried out by Wellspring Settlement to capture the impact of its support during lockdown on those using its services. The research and reports are available here. 

2.2 Exploring the potential of the Wellspring Settlement Focus database

With funding from an Office for Students grant, student researchers are working with Wellspring Settlement to explore innovative ways in which community-generated data can be used to inform new initiatives and policy interventions within the city. The second phase of this project will explore the potential for the database being adopted more broadly across the City in order to build up comprehensive, comparable information about the needs and attributes of the city’s diverse communities. Having explored with staff of WS how they use the database and how they ideally would like to develop data use, the next stage will be for researchers to interview service users of Wellspring Settlement. These interviews will explore the extent to which data already collected can demonstrate the social value of residents coming together in multi-service environments such as WS and other community anchor organisations. With this residents’ perspective we will be able to make recommendations as to how the Focus database can be utilised and developed to support community-driven service delivery.

3.Working with the One City Economy Board

One of the aims of the City Fellowships has been to work with the City Office to bring the experience and expertise of communities at the margins of city decision-making into the One City Plan processes.  

3.1 In Sept 2020 comments were provided to the City Office to the draft Bristol One City Economic Recovery and Renewal Plan, which can be found here. In this it was argued that the draft Plan lacked a sense of the diverse communities that make up the city of Bristol and the differing ways in which the Covid-19 crisis has played out in different neighbourhoods and different communities. The effect is to produce a plan that feels it is for the businesses of Bristol and not the citizens and communities of Bristol.” The knowledge held by community anchor organisations about these diverse communities needs to be engaged in future reworkings of the Plan 

3.2 Following discussions at the October 2020 Social Justice Project, Anya Mulcahy-Bowman and I have been working with Nick Sturge, a member of the One City Economy Board, to develop proposals for ‘Recovering from Coronavirus – tackling unemployment -a joined-up approach’ (see Anya’s report for more detail). Our draft paper is currently being considered by the Chair and Vice-chair of the Economy Board.

4.Locality/Social Justice Project Research Project

Many Neighbourhoods, One City: Co-creating Collaborative Decision-Making

Following on from a paper brought to the December meeting of the Social Justice Project by Locality, funding has been secured from the University of Bristol Strategic Research Fund for a 6 month research project co-designed with Locality. Work will begin on this research in February 2021. 

Project Summary 

Building strategies based on knowledge of Bristol’s diverse communities is key to enabling a socially just pandemic recovery. The overall aim of this project is to work with the One City Approach to bring about a resetting of decision-making processes in the city so that the knowledge, experience and expertise of the city’s communities and neighbourhoods, as embedded in the Community Anchor organisations, becomes a central element. 

The project begins with a mapping or sense-making exercise that would establish what is already happening on the ground. Stage 2 would focus down on three communities/ neighbourhoods to identify the key matters of concern and to explore tangible and concrete examples of how these concerns are being tackled by CAOs and other voluntary organisations in those communities. Stage 3 would explore possible iterations and experimentations of these concrete examples, seeking to understand their potential for translation and mutation across the city, thus creating a framework for future action and research. 

Whilst we do not want to be specific about outputs or impacts as our central methodology is one of co-production, we see the project producing change in two directions: 

  1. Develop principles, processes and practices that can provide a roadmap for future city decision-making based on the experiences and knowledge of co-production and co-creation identified across practice and research;
  2. Provide a framework for a comprehensive UoB research programme that can support this roadmap that is collaboratively co-produced with communities in the city. 

Morag McDermont 

Bristol City Fellow/31st January 2021 

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