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Improving community health and well-being through innovative research

1 July 2013

Representing Communities

A new research project led by the Cardiff School of Social Sciences will use creative arts practices to help inform health-related policy and service development.

Funded jointly by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the ‘Representing Communities’ project, will use innovative research techniques to promote engagement between communities and policy makers.

The project will take place across five distinct case-study communities in Wales, Scotland and England and connect these to relevant policy-makers, researchers and arts practitioners in each country, and in each locality.  The work is being undertaken with colleagues at the universities of Birmingham, Highlands and Islands, Leeds and South Wales, and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health.

The study will begin by analysing existing representations of local communities – in statistical evidence, policy documents, media, literature and film.  These representations can sometimes be quite negative, often being designed to point out what is missing from or what is wrong with communities.  Each case study will then use creative engagement methods (including life mapping, drama, music, storytelling and photography) to generate new community self-representations, working in partnership with local arts and health organisations.

These new ‘data’ will be presented to relevant local or national policy makers and service development officials through exhibitions, performances and digital media.

Through these innovative data collection methods, the communities involved will also benefit from the creation of lasting legacies in the form of artistic resources, as well as sustainable web-based and training resources.

The Principal Investigator, Gareth Williams, Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences and Director of the Cardiff Institute of Society, Health and Well-Being, said: “By involving community participants in the production of creative self-representations, we can evaluate this process and reflect on the relationship between arts participation and community empowerment; allowing us to examine how community values, participation, self-reliance and resilience are shaped, experienced and articulated, and find new ways for them to become embedded in policy.

“Through detailed analysis and interpretation the research will offer innovative thinking about, and will make a distinctive contribution to, the study and development of community health and well-being.”

The three-year research project will commence in July 2013. For more information about the project, please visit:


Notes to Editors

The Cardiff School of Social Sciences is established as one of the leading interdisciplinary social science centres in the UK. In the 2008 RAE the School was rated first for research power and within the top five centres on most other indicators.  Its reputation lies in world leading research, but also in the quality of its professional training, postgraduate and undergraduate programmes.

The funding for this project is led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) which funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. For further information on the AHRC, please go to:  

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC's total budget for 2012/13 is £205 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.