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News article

York St John University leads new research partnerships to enrich and enhance York’s community groups

Published: 11 October 2022

  •   Community
  •    Research
Female dancing infront of purple background
£45,000 from the York St John University's Institute for Social Justice (ISJ) is funding new research, to offer service-enhancing insights into York’s Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises (VCSEs).  

The Community Research Grants scheme aims to support valuable partnerships between community-led organizations and the University.   

As part of the ISJ’s commitment to supporting the local community, VCSEs were invited to submit a proposed piece of research which would improve their processes and increase impact. Groups were then matched with academic leads to develop tailored project plans.   

Six projects are now underway, each addressing a unique area of investigation in a variety of sectors including health, sexual violence, anti-racism, disability and diversity.    

Current funded project titles and their partner organizations include:  

  • Health Inequalities and Rurality, with Healthwatch North Yorkshire  
  • Peer support in Recovery from Drug and Alcohol Misuse, with York in Recovery  
  • Disability Access to Bluespaces, with Open Country  
  • Diversification of visitors and organisation, with York Archaeological Trust  
  • The Dancefloor Project, with Bolshee CIC  
  • Researching anti-racism practices in York, with Inclusive Equal Rights UK  

Full details on each project can be found on the ISJ Community Grants webpage

The ‘Public sexual harm of women and girls: The Dancefloor Project’ sees University academics in psychology, Dr Anna Macklin, Dr Jenn Cassarly and Melanie Douglass, team up with Bolshee, a creative projects community interest company. 

This innovative partnership stems from a shared commitment to provide a voice to those that have experienced sexual harm and in developing preventative strategies to make public spaces safer for all. At various dance floor locations across the city, participants will share their testimonials of sexual harm and strategies for making public spaces safer for all via wall graffiti. Based on the data collected and follow-up focus groups, a range of resources will be created to highlight experiences of sexual harm and how women want to be treated in public spaces. These will be made freely available to community organisations.   

Creative Producer at Bolshee, Megan Bailey, said: “We should all feel safe, whether we are at work, walking alone at night, on the train or on the dance floor. For many people, and especially women and girls, this is just not the case.   

“The opportunity to work with York St John University’s Psychology Department, in association with the Institute for Social Justice, feels incredibly empowering. We have an opportunity here to bring together two very different approaches and areas of expertise, but with absolute determination to reach the same end goal - preventing sexual harm.   

“The Dancefloor Project is a creative but robust research method. It is a space to dance, to share and come together and will hopefully provide the foundation for bigger and better campaigns, co-created policy change and a safer world where everyone can bust a move without fear.”  

The public can view a showcase of The Dancefloor Project as part of York Design Week, Brew York, on 13 October 7pm to 10pm. This will be an opportunity for discussion, and to develop the playlist for future events in November. Book for free via the Bolshee website.

A culminative event is planned for summer 2023, which will involve key community stakeholders coming together to discuss sexual harm in the community, and plan how the resources produced could be utilised.  

York St John University alumni and co-chair (Director) of Inclusive Equality Rights UK Jake Furby is part of the Researching anti-racism practices in York project.  

Jake said: “IER is a research and policy organisation that aims to create equity and social justice across the UK. We are currently undertaking and writing the anti-racist strategy for York after passing a successful council motion about making York an anti-racist city. York St John University is supporting us in this by gathering much needed stories from people of colour living in York.  

“The findings from researchers at the University will add to and inform the anti-racist strategy. This will have lasting impact. We would like to thank the ISJ for supporting us. As a former York St John student, I am proud to see the ongoing commitment of the University to social justice.”   

This partnership includes York St John University lecturers in criminology Dr Steven Hirschler and Anna Waistnage, and Race Equality Charter Officer Cintia Silva Huxter.  

Speaking on the project Health Inequalities and Rurality, Dr Mark Mierzwinski, Senior Lecturer in Sociology of Sport at York St John University said: “We look forward to working with Healthwatch North Yorkshire in 2023 to help them meet their mission of addressing health inequalities through patient-informed transformative policies and practices.”  

All projects will run from now, until July 2023 and funding is already secured for the scheme to be repeated in 2023-24. VCSE organisations should look out for a call for proposals in early 2023.   

Find out more about the work of the Institute for Social Justice.


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