Leeds Social Sciences Institute

IAA funded PGR placements

LSSI is pleased to be supporting post-graduate researcher (PGR) placements through the University-funded Impact Acceleration Account (IAA), which has been developed in association with the ESRC.

The placements will offer the PGRs the opportunity to undertake part-time research projects within local organisations. Working in a research capacity with an external partner, they will have an opportunity to engage with the needs of the organisation and to build the knowledge gained from the placement into their future research plans.

The activities to be undertaken by each of the researchers are outlined by School below.


Inclusive growth in the Leeds City Region: Developing university – local government collaboration

Principal applicant: Ian Marder
School: Law

Project awarded: November 2017

Although the Leeds City Region has experienced substantial growth in recent decades, the benefits of this growth have been much more keenly felt in some of its constituent parts than in others. In response, Leeds City Council (LCC), in partnership with other local Councils and organisations, has developed a new Inclusive Growth Programme (IGP) in order to ensure that the benefits of growth are more widely and fairly distributed.

The purpose of this project is to investigate the work being undertaken by universities and academics in the Leeds City Region, which relates to the concept of inclusive growth. The objectives are twofold: to inform IGP partners about the research, projects and other activities taking place in local universities which may help to develop or achieve inclusive growth: and to enable IGP partners to engage with local academics in relation to this project.

Following the collaborative identification of key themes for the study, the researcher will use university websites and google scholar to investigate academics, research projects and other activities taking place within local universities, creating databases of people, information and resources which can be utilised by IGP partners in the future.


The future of Business Start-ups in Leeds City Region

Principal applicant: Sherif Youssef
School: LUBS
Project awarded: September 2017

The result of the Brexit referendum has cast a long shadow on various regional inequalities within the United Kingdom. As a result, economic policies and the future of globalisation have been the centre of debate for over a year now. Pressing economic and societal challenges face northern cities and, as a response, the government launched the so-called northern powerhouse in 2015, promising to channel the necessary investment in key areas such as infrastructure, healthcare and energy.

However, after two years, these substantial issues remain unresolved. Recently, the UK government published the Industrial Strategy Green Paper to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth in different geographic areas within the UK.

The merits of this project are that it sets out to identify and explain how the UK government can support early stage entrepreneurs who can ultimately become important actors in key strategic areas, such as in the realms of healthcare, education and cyber security within the city region, and seeks ways of achieving sufficient growth and scaling for desirable impact on future economic growth with the aim of creating an evidence-based case to instigate the innovation agenda within the region.

This will be examined via a pioneering empirical analysis using statistical secondary data on start-ups’ growth rates supported by qualitative interviews with key actors such as early stage entrepreneurs working in different sectors, policymakers and private investors.

Identifying business innovation

Principal applicant: Chau Minh Chu
School: LUBS
Project awarded: June 2017

Innovation has been considered to be a main driver of increased productivity for firms and greatly contribute to regional and national economic growth. Identifying innovation active firms and most productive firms is, therefore, of great importance to explore the business environments within which these firms are operating.

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) / Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which is a collaboration between West Yorkshire authorities, businesses and partners, has targeted innovation as one of key priorities in stimulating regional potential productivity and competitive advantages. The organisation plans to deliver a strategic innovation plan.

In collaboration with the WYCA, Chau Minh Chu will provide a critical review on identifying the innovation active and most productive firms from both regional and national views, followed by a quantitative analysis of outcomes and key determinants of these firms. The project will provide challenging aspects of the region as well as some considerations and information for the future strategic innovation plan to be built on.

NHS Foundation Trust pilots new way of working

Principal applicant: Tabish Zaman
School: LUBS
Project awarded: April 2017

Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust provides specialist mental health and learning disability services to the people of Leeds and across the Yorkshire and Humber region.

Observation and engagement is a key clinical activity that provides an opportunity for health care workers to interact in a therapeutic way with the service or an individual basis. The Trust is undertaking a review of the current procedure to explore the potential for improvements in service provision.

A new way of working that encourages better handovers between clinical staff, service user / family involvement and robust documentation that provides a clear understanding of what has been happening with the patient and how time with the patient has been planned / agreed will be piloted during a six-month project.

The pilot will be implemented across five clinical teams and will focus on within eyesight observations. A team has been established to take forward the implementation of the pilot procedure and, as part of this, Tabish Zaman will support the development of the research design and evaluation methodology for the three focus groups with staff in October 2016, January 2017 and March 2017 that are intended to support staff pre, mid and post implementation.


Examining the impact of benefits cuts

Principal applicant: Annie Connolly
School: Geography
Project awarded: February 2017

Annie Connolly will examine the accumulative impact of changes to the benefits system since 2010 via five in-depth case studies of real families’ and individuals’ experiences.

Working with GIPSIL, a third-sector organisation that provides housing-related support and welfare advice throughout Leeds, she will conduct one-to-one interviews with case study participants in order to gather their personal narratives and lived experiences.

Each case study will map how the changes made to the benefits system have impacted on the household income over the period of 2010-17, and will describe how the resulting changes in income have impacted on the families’ daily lives.

Her findings will be presented in a report that will be disseminated as widely as possible, both locally and nationally, in order to both raise awareness of the hardship suffered by families and individuals as a result of welfare reform and lobby for change.

Urban composting in the UK

Principal applicant: Agnieszka Labonarska
School: Geography
Project awarded: February 2016

Agnieszka Labonarska will undertake a placement at Leeds-based community group Back to Front (BtoF).

Since 2010 the group has been successfully working to transform front of houses’ garden spaces, often paved and underutilised, into productive and edible spaces; where access to land for food-growing is limited. BtoF works in deprived but ethnically and culturally diverse neighbourhoods to reduce the health inequality gap using a community development approach that recognizes the local assets.

While the project has already delivered a variety of social and health benefits and could be adapted for neighbourhoods in many parts of the UK, one of the biggest barriers to its long-term viability and expansion is the residents’ reluctance to compost appropriate kitchen and garden waste and the lack of facilities for composting. The reasons include perceptions that composting will inevitably lead to smell or rats, while other methods of waste conversion will be either too complex or expensive, as well as lack of comprehensive urban food policies.

Agnieszka aims to research and document low cost and practical ways to compost kitchen waste in less green urban environments in order to alter negative perceptions; explore successful city-wide schemes in the UK; and exchange knowledge and influence policy development on urban waste conversion and food growing in Leeds and other UK cities.


Public Engagement – Understanding the working relations of the House of Commons

Principal applicant: Nicole Nisbett
School: Politics and International Studies
Project awarded: April 2018

Public engagement is a core area of research and one that has seen increased attention and investment by Parliament in recent years. Several reports have shown that it is becoming a more important focus for the institution and have raised recommendations for future strategies. This project aims to observe several departments within the House of Commons to understand how they work together and with Members to achieve their public engagement strategies and targets. Being such a large and complex organisation, Parliament must remain impartial while represent many different views. This factor makes public engagement a difficult task and understanding how the different teams tackle this separately and together is key.


Reproductive choices for women with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Principal applicant: Jihane Ghorayeb
School: Psychology
Project awarded: February 2017

The societal problem of avoidable inequalities in women’s informed reproductive choice will be addressed by Jihane Ghorayeb.

During a placement with Crohn’s & Colitis UK’s Leeds and District Network, she will focus on women with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). These women are more likely than healthy controls to remain voluntarily childless and often do so merely due to lack of information.

The work will facilitate the organisation’s aim to “work with all those affected by these conditions [IBD] to achieve a better quality of life.”

She will co-produce a resource to inform women, their partners, and healthcare providers about the experience of planning and starting a family, and coping with young children in the context of maternal IBD. This resource will support informed reproductive choice for women with IBD through providing appropriate, user-friendly access to the lived experience of women with the condition who have already made the transition to motherhood.

Sociology and Social Policy

Awareness & Action Questionnaire

Principal applicant: Victoria Pattinson
School: Sociology and Social Policy

Project awarded: December 2018

Awareness & Action is a training that teaches people with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their support persons about how to “recognise, report, and respond” to violence (Disabled Persons Protection Commission). It is facilitated across Massachusetts by regional training teams comprised of persons with and without disabilities. At the end of the training, training participants are asked to complete a questionnaire which tests what they learned in the training.

An evaluation of the Awareness & Action training has identified several limitations to this questionnaire, the purpose of this research is to address these limitations in order to develop a new questionnaire.

The research will:

  • Clarify what specifically programme practitioners think the questionnaire will test programme participants have learned;
  • Plan how the resulting questionnaire data can be used for monitoring purposes of the training;
  • Improve accessibility by addressing the using simpler words and including pictures;
  • Pilot the draft accessible questionnaire with at least five persons who have intellectual/ developmental disabilities, and then revise the questionnaire accordingly

Report findings to the DPPC to: potentially further improve the curriculum and other educational materials; develop follow-on plans to use the questionnaire data for monitoring purposes

Intersectionalities of economic and social inequality

Principal applicant: Sinead Maria D’Silva
School: Sociology and Social Policy

Project awarded: November 2017

The project relates to the intersectional realities of income inequality and disadvantaged groups in society, and will be undertaken with The Equality Trust. The Equality Trust is the national charity that works to improve the quality of life in the UK by reducing economic inequality through national and local campaigns. Income inequality is a pressing concern in the UK which is the 7th most unequal OECD country. Such disadvantage in British society is coupled with additional penalties for each protected characteristic that people embody. There is therefore a need to engage with the intersectional realities of multiply-disadvantaged people, particularly within the context of increased intolerance as seen in the rhetoric of Brexit, and its associated uncertainties. The project outcomes will add an extremely useful additional aspect to The Equality Trust’s campaign on income and social equality to reflect, reach and engage a more diverse range of people.

An evaluation of the first ‘Housing First’ project for sex workers

Principal applicant: Emma Bimpson
School: Sociology and Social Policy
Project awarded: December 2016

Housing First is a housing model that aims to house people with complex needs and histories of entrenched homelessness.

Rather than waiting for people to meeting particular criteria and progress through existing models of housing and support pathway models, it prioritises secure and supported housing at the first instance. The ethos of this model is non-judgemental and based on principles of harm-reduction, which makes this model a radical alternative to current housing and support systems in the UK. It has been successfully adopted in other European countries and in the US and has gained significant attention in the UK, with homelessness and housing sector advocates calling for organisations to pilot the project.

Basis Yorkshire – a Leeds-based charity that focuses on sex work and child exploitation – has successfully secured funding for a year-long Housing First project for sex workers, which will be the first of its kind in the country. Other housing services available do not meet the needs and lifestyles of many of the women working with Basis, resulting in cycles of homelessness and crisis, which require costly interventions from emergency services in the city. By offering stable and supported housing with no strings attached, Housing First projects across the world have significantly reduced the cost of local adult social care, health services, policing and others.

A research team, headed by Emma Bimpson, will evaluate the implementation and outcomes of the project, contributing to a national evidence based and policy development activity around local housing and support provision.

Identity and culture within third sector organisations

Principal applicant: Emma Bimpson
School: Sociology and Social Policy
Project awarded: April 2016

The importance of identity and culture within third sector organisations cannot be overstated, for many accounting for the success of their services. Within the context of increasing financial pressures and commissioning based on partnership or consortia models of services, the ability to consolidate and align services with local strategic aims is of increasing importance to third sector social care services.

Emma Bimpson will explore these issues through the evaluation of a merged housing-related support service for young people, Gipsil and Renew. Research with staff in each service will explore the process of merging services and the management of change for staff and for service users. The value of the new service will also be evaluated through measures identified by staff and service users, and contribution to local strategic objectives.

Empirical data from this study, consisting of surveys and interviews with staff, will contribute to knowledge about the process of merging services within the third sector and potential for aligning cultures and service outcomes. An evaluation report will provide information for future service development, as well as providing evidence and learning points for other third sector care services who face similar pressures and considerations within the current economic and commissioning environment.

Scoping and developing a Netreach service to prevent sexual violence against sex workers

Principal applicant: Mary Robson
School: Sociology and Social Policy
Project awarded: February 2016

Mary Robson will be based at the Leeds third sector organisation Basis Sex Work Project, where she will work specifically with the adult sex workers service.

Basis is the lead service in Yorkshire for sex workers, yet receives limited funding from statutory organisations. The numbers of sex workers accessing the service are in excess of 300 per annum with limited resources.

Mary’s project will respond to the significant move to sex workers operating through the internet. It has been established that nationally sex work projects have been slow to develop their service interventions to match this technological change.

Basis are one of the few projects that have begun to develop this netreach service and is now in a position to give more priority to it. Therefore this project will work along existing outreach staff to scope the development of the service for the future; provide direct support to staff providing netreach; and write an evidence based briefing on ways to develop the service for the future, including capacity building and funding sources.

Singing, Drumming, Dancing: Brazilian female blackness in the UK

Principal applicant: Katucha Bento
School: Sociology and Social Policy
Project awarded: November 2015

Katucha Bento will undertake a placement with Cordão de Ouro Birmingham (Belt of Gold Birmingham).

The project is a way to promote and value Brazilian Female Blackness in the UK through activities where they will show their local knowledge. It is an interaction between academia and social / cultural practices in which workshops, lectures and roundtables will invite the local community (Brazilians and non-Brazilians) to think, practice and debate about the contributions of black Brazilian women in the African Sacred Circle of singing, drumming and dancing.

The African Sacred Circle is represented in Brazil by Candomblé (Afro-Brazilian religion); Capoeira (game that combines acrobatic and dance-fight); and Samba (musical style and dance), respectively. They are musical narratives of African ancestral origins in the Brazilian construction of Blackness. The elements of the circle give value to the freedom of movement, a new understanding of how the enslaved body would not be prisoner of the soul.

The presence of the African women in these narratives is represented by powerful women who founded kingdoms and reoriented the destiny of humanity. In this parallel, the project points black Brazilian women present in the UK in their migratory condition to replace in time and space the representation of their power and agency to establish their own destinies.

The first national study of the nature and extent of violence against sex workers in the UK

Principal applicant: Laura Connelly
School: Sociology and Social Policy
Project awarded: November 2015

The first national study of the nature and extent of violence against sex workers in the UK

Laura Connelly will examine the nature and extent of violence against sex workers in the UK, a group who experience extremely high rates of crime but from which there is a lack of research data.

Her placement will be hosted by National Ugly Mugs (NUM), which is an innovative organisation offering a third party reporting system, which shares information both with the police and with sex workers across the UK, in order to improve their safety.

This research project will be based upon a detailed secondary quantitative analyses of all crime reports submitted by sex workers to NUM between July 2012 and December 2016. It will update and extend a previous LSSI placement in 2013/14. In addition, data will be generated from five practitioner interviews with NUM employees and partner organisations, to examine the work the voluntary sector is engaged in to prevent violence against sex worker and support sex worker.

The aim of this research is to provide the largest, most up-to-date, and the only national picture available in the UK of violence against sex workers. This is intended to be used by NUM, its partner stakeholders, and the police to inform and shape their practices.

Earth and Environment

Evaluating conservation practices

Principal applicant: Ruth Armstrong
School: Earth and Environment / Politics and International Development
Project awarded: June 2016

Ruth Armstrong will undertake a placement at Coaching for Conservation (C4C), which is the primary social development program of the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust (BPCT).

Its unique teaching curriculum uses sport to engage local primary school children, providing environmental educators with a captive audience and providing a sense of purpose, team work and a fun environment so that they are receptive to learning important core values.

Effective monitoring and evaluation of environmental education (EE) programmes is critically important in understanding what outcomes are being achieved and what factors are contributing to the success of the programme. This includes the development of appropriate evaluating techniques and rigorous analysis of the results.

The BPCT’s Monitoring & Evaluation processes and protocols, including survey and data collection techniques, for the C4C programme have not yet been critically evaluated.

For her placement Ruth will provide a critical review and evaluation of current practices enabling recommendations for improved future C4C programme design and ultimately developing the next generation of sustainably minded individuals equipped with the tools they will need to become responsible citizens in a rapidly changing global environment. 

About the IAA

The University-funded IAA was established to encourage and support research with impact across the social sciences.

It will run for three years (from 2015-2018) and will help to support social scientists to engage with external partners and maximise the impact and influence of their research on society and the economy.

The Fund supports three strands of activity:

The Account benefits from membership of the ESRC IAA network and oversight.

Read here for further information about the IAA, including the criteria for funding and timetable of application deadlines.

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