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Research – communities

Compassionate Communities UK (ongoing)

The charity has been set up to implement the Compassionate City programme, as well as provide practice expertise in the public health approach to end of life care and embed it in health and social care education programmes. We also provide scientific evidence of effectiveness and a source of evaluation expertise.

Compassionate communities consist of naturally occurring supportive networks combined with the wealth of community resource to be found in neighbourhoods, workplaces, educational institutions or any place where people gather. Enhancing the compassionate activities of these groups and networks is an intentional act that is part of a compassionate community programme. Activating these communities can bring immense benefit to the people involved, both those receiving and giving support. Professional health and social care services can work in union and harmony with compassionate communities. If they do so, they will have an enormous resource which will help the people they serve in ways not possible for professional services alone.

An account of Frome’s successful implementation of the compassionate communities approach ‘Compassion is the best medicine’ provides an overview of the positive impacts of building more compassionate and connected communities. Outcomes include less loneliness, increased sense of wellbeing and a significant decrease in hospital admissions.

Case study: Compassion is the best medicine, March/April 2018, Julian Abel, Lindsay Clarke

Related publications:

A manifesto for compassionate communities

The Compassionate City Charter

An overview of compassionate communities in England

Keywords: networks, community resources, compassionate communities, end-of-life care

Contributed by: Julian Abel, Compassionate Communities UK



Developing a Community development, public health and co-production approach to end of life care (January 2019 – ongoing)

This project originally started in 2012 in collaboration with the Paul Sartori Hospice in Pembrokeshire. It is part of the Compassionate Communities UK initiative and is based on an understanding that compassionate and effective end-of-life care is a community responsibility rather than purely an NHS concern.

The current project began in January 2019. We are researching the potential for communities to support each other with empathy through long term illness, dying, death, loss, caring and grief.

Current outcomes:

  • We are setting up community-owned and community-led Compassionate Neighbour Cafes where people can gather to learn how to support each other through end-of-life care.
  • We are also Initiating Wales’ first NOSDA (No one should die alone) initiative in Pembroke Dock, in collaboration with the local NHS Trust Hywel Dda, Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services (PAVS) and the Paul Sartori Foundation.
  • To help support people at risk of dying alone with no family or friends to support them we are recruiting and training Volunteer Companions, community members who give their time to provide care and companionship for those with terminal illness.

Project overview:

Related projects: Compassionate Communities UK

Keywords: compassion, end-of-life care, death and dying, advance care planning, elderly care, social prescribing

Contributed by: Luke Conlon, Shelley Morris (Community Choice & Inclusion, Compassionate Communities Pembrokeshire); Elaine Lorton (Hywel Dda NHS Trust); Gwyneth Jones (PAVS); Sophie Thomas (Paul Sartori Foundation).



The Role of Community Anchor Organisations in Scotland & the UK. (2014 – ongoing)

This is an ongoing body of action/case-study/research process(es) involving the research team and community sector organisations and membership bodies to explore, support and critically inform the development of the role of community anchor organisations (policy and practice) in Scotland and UK. The initiative built on James Henderson’s PhD case-study research from 2014: ‘Towards a Critical Understanding of Community Anchors and a Community Sector Theory and Practice’.

Further case-study research led to Henderson, Revell & Escobar’s Transforming communities’ paper in 2018. This drew on six exemplar anchor organisations to explore their roles in engaging with, leading and challenging public service reform; how public services and the state can better support community anchors and community sector development; and the potential roles of anchors in building local democracy, community resilience for sustainable development, and wider social change.

A further discussion paper is now planned to support the development of ‘on-going dialogue and action research’.

Keywords: action research, case-study, community anchors, community-led place-making, local democracy, community resilience


2018 Report: Transforming communities? Exploring the roles of community anchor organisations in public service reform, local democracy, community resilience and social change (2018)

Related publications: Towards a Critical Understanding of Community Anchors and a Community Sector Theory and Practice 2014, James Henderson

Contributed by: James Henderson – Edinburgh University, Oliver Escobar – Edinburgh University, Philip Revell – Sustaining Dunbar



Compassionate, Creative, Co-productive Community Hubs: pilot project (2016-2019)

Our aspiration was to create and develop a network of interlinked community hubs in the heart of eight rural communities. These would be:

  • local, weekly, inter-generational, activity-based, social
  • safe, creative and welcoming spaces
  • run by and for members of the local community, providing an opportunity for people to share their skills, knowledge and experience
  • also used by GPs and voluntary organisations to refer people and disseminate or gather information at the grassroots level
  • a place where the community could come together, and where visitors and tourists could visit.

The intention was to harness creativity to improve lives and communities, and promote wellbeing and connectivity. The project activities and outcomes would enable us to research, evaluate and monitor the social impact that the project and training has upon participants and their communities.

The key resource is the A4W Compassionate Community Training & Toolkit delivered through a series of weekly training sessions over a 20-week period. In addition volunteers will be trained in A4W facilitation techniques.

Keywords: rural communities, community hubs, creativity, wellbeing, connectivity

Interim report:

Arts4Wellbeing website:

See also: Community Development post

Contributed by: Mike Hotson, Sara Wentworth – Arts4Wellbeing Innovation CIC



The Impetus for Peace Studies to Make a Collaborative Turn: Towards Community Collaborative Research

January 2018

Our focus in this paper is on the value of a collaborative community research approach within peace research in relation to the work we are undertaking with Indigenous activists and community organizers in North America and in East Africa.

Using original case studies that focus upon moving the rights of Indigenous Peoples forward, and drawn from fieldwork in a range of geographic areas, we outline a praxis arguing that the research process can only document and examine what takes place in communities that are seeking to address conflict by researchers actually being present within those communities, and by them then engaging as much as is possible with those communities as a whole.

Keywords: collaboration, community research, peace research, indigenous communities, North America, East Africa

Contributed by: Ali Watson, Bennett Collins – University of St Andrews



Engage, Empower, Enact – Stories from the Valleys

July 2017-May 2018

Currently planning second iteration.

‘If there was a new family moving to your area, what would you tell them about where you live?’

Using a unique citizen journalist approach, this programme supports people to explore and understand what are the key issues in their community, and to create ways of addressing these issues together.

We used SenseMaker to produce meta data, looking at people, place, purpose and perceived responsibility. Our co-produced place-based narrative and quantitative area profiles were followed by intergenerational cross sector community inquiry and analysis.

These ‘Stories from the Valleys’ enable people to create their own research through conversations and connections. This is more than just collecting data or filling in a survey. People’s involvement helps to decide what is important and what happens next for their communities.

Keywords: place-based narrative, community inquiry, SenseMaker

Project website:


Contributed by: Bethan Smith, Cynefin Centre




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