Accessibility links

A couple of months ago now, Matthew Taylor offered up an idea in his blog about how we might kill two birds with one stone. The basic gist of this idea was to match postgraduate students searching for thesis ideas with the many organisations and individuals up and down the country that might like to tap into some of that spare research capacity, particularly those who are engaged in work with a social impact. An online matchmaking tool with a set-up similar to sites such as Kiva, Wowsociety and Simpl could effectively act as a broker linking the two parties together.

A couple of months ago now, Matthew Taylor offered up an idea in his blog about how we might kill two birds with one stone. The basic gist of this idea was to match postgraduate students searching for thesis ideas with the many organisations and individuals up and down the country that might like to tap into some of that spare research capacity, particularly those who are engaged in work with a social impact. An online matchmaking tool with a set-up similar to sites such as Kiva, Wowsociety and Simpl could effectively act as a broker linking the two parties together.

After some positive comments on the blog, we undertook some initial research to find out what was already existing in this field and to see how the idea might be best placed to add some value. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, for instance, are well known for linking universities with particular businesses and industries in their surrounding areas. But we found a number of schemes which extended those research partnerships beyond business to include the third sector and smaller community groups. Brighton University’s CUPP initiative and Liverpool’s Interchange programme, for example, are both attempting to engage postgraduate students in helping to research for local community, voluntary and faith groups. Likewise, the Third Sector Research Centre’s Capacity Building programme seeks to develop links between students who are undertaking PhDs and third sector organisations who really benefit from some research assistance. Included among their programme of work is a vouchers scheme whereby organisations are able to ‘cash-in’ research IOUs and commission projects by academics which they otherwise wouldn’t have had access to.

In attempting to build upon the great work already undertaken throughout these schemes we’d like to see if an online matchmaking tool could provide an effective means of increasing the numbers and breadth of these kinds of research partnerships. Technically, such a site should be able to provide improved accessibility, a speedier brokering system and better awareness for organisations thinking about research, all the while offering up a greater array of nationwide project opportunities for researchers themselves. Moreover, it could act as a research hub offering ‘how-to’ materials, best-practice project examples or even guidance on how researchers might apply for funding.

Having said that, we’re not yet at the stage where we know exactly what such a tool would look like. Should it be limited to postgraduate students or can anyone with a research capacity or skill set be able to offer their services? How might the site be funded? What kind of contractual agreements might need to be in place for the partnerships? Who has control over the research once it’s been undertaken? Would such a tool even appeal to both researchers and third sector organisations?

Most of these we’re in the midst of trying to answer now, but it would be great to have any feedback on the above questions, particularly the last one. If you’re involved with a third sector organisation, are or ever have been a postgraduate, or are just interested in the field of social research, we would really appreciate it if you would be willing to take a few moments to fill in this short (and hastily prepared) Survey Monkey survey about the idea.

You can find that here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZFDPWL2

And, if anyone happens to have a few hours spare next Monday morning and are in and around central London, we have a couple of places left on a RSA/NatCen workshop to discuss all of this a bit further.  If any of that sounds of interest, please contact me at benedict.dellot@rsa.org.uk

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