On a chilly autumn afternoon in East London...

our Community Research Network grassroots organisations and UCL PhD students gathered to cultivate research ideas to take the voluntary sector to new heights.

First year PhD student in Psychology and Human Development, Susie Peter, went into the annual Research Consultancy Training with a clean slate, no preconceived notions about research consultancy or brief settings. She was, however, excited to broaden her horizons and connect with the individuals who were actively shaping the future of East London.

The morning began with a comprehensive training session on brief setting, conducted by Molly McCabe, the Community Research Initiative manager. Under Molly's guidance, Susie and her fellow attendees were provided with a brief overview of what research consultancy is and learned how to craft research idea briefs that would soon take up residency on our Community Noticeboard.

I was initially worried that I am not qualified or have not got enough knowledge or experience to help and organisation in terms of developing a research brief for master student projects but with the Community Research Initiative's help and reassurance I felt more confident.

 In the afternoon our Research Consultation Clinic for small and grassroots organisations commenced. Nine diverse organisations, each with their unique vision of how research could support their missions, filled the space. Soon the room was buzzing with conversations from Susie and the other attendees. These initial conversations were more than just an opportunity for attendees demonstrate her newfound knowledge; they were a chance to build genuine connections with the organisation leaders. As the conversation flowed, attendees teased out the organisations goals and needs by using their active listing and problem-solving skills and asking targeted questions.

Susie flexed her active listening, problem-solving, and relationship building skills throughout various conversations with organisations during our afternoon Research Consultancy Clinic.

This ultimately resulted in Susie, and our 10 other PhD Research Consultants in training, producing intriguing research briefs that were a culmination of the day's learning, representing not only a newfound skill but a deepened connection to the community.

Susie’s journey from a novice to creating a research brief is a testament to the power of seizing opportunities and embracing new challenges. She and her fellow attendees showcased the importance of not just acquiring knowledge but applying it to real-life scenarios, ultimately helping our small and grassroots organisations move one step closer to achieving their research goals.

What's next for our PhD students working to develop their research consultancy skills?

In January 2024 we will host a second iteration of our Research Consultancy Training Series. Students will get In January 2024 we will host a second iteration of our Research Consultancy Training Series. Students will get the chance to further hone their research consultancy skills. We hope to host a large group of 50+ students. Beyond this training students will have the opportunity to apply for our new Pro-Bono Trainee Research Consultant Group. This group will allow a select group of PhD students to further deepen their practice and understanding of how to use their research expertise to support and connect with the voluntary and community sector. More details of this exciting new programme to come in 2024!

What's next for our small and grassroots organisations?

Our organisations, many of which are supported through our Community Research Network, will continue to work Our organisations, many of which are supported through our Community Research Network, will continue to work with our in-team Research Consultants to launch their ideas for research on our Community Noticeboard this winter. These organisations will be supported by the CRIS team to engage in knowledge exchange conversations, to further develop their initial project ideas through the lens of interested master’s students. Stay tuned for the spring when our first collaborations will be explored and their ideas will come to life.