Blog: Why us? Glasgow Homelessness Network on collaborating with academics
Claire Frew, Programme Manager, Glasgow Homelessness Network talks about what was involved when collaborating with Heriot-Watt University on a research project
Glasgow Homelessness Network is a third sector membership organisation that evidences and advances solutions to poor housing and homelessness by connecting the knowledge of people who both live and work with the issue.
In practice this involves research, sometimes collaborating with academics, and in 2015 we worked with Heriot-Watt University to support their Joseph Rowntree Foundation funded study into Destitution in the UK.
A few observations …
We have often been asked how we came to form a partnership with academics at Heriot-Watt University; essentially ‘why us’? It’s a hard question to answer but a couple of things come to mind – firstly that we have a very clear organisational focus on evidence which means we are able to have the right level of discussions with academics. We’re not experts but we build experience with every project we do and the learning we gain from collaborating is invaluable. Secondly, we are a membership organisation which means that a big part of our job is knowing who the other key services and people are in the sector and having strong working relationships with them. So when we enter into a collaborative project we bring not just our evidence focused practice, but also our links with a broad range of organisations across the sector, and they can be equally important.
Another question we are often asked is how involved we were as a third sector partner in the wider decisions about the research project; were we involved in developing the bid, agreeing research questions and methodology, setting timescales? In this particular example, the answer to all of these questions is no, but that was in no way a bad thing. This research project was an excellent example of collaboration happening at a number of levels over a number of years and the academic team were able to make clear to us exactly what we would be expected to do and when. Yes, we had to slot ourselves into a pre-determined timescale that had little flexibility, but we knew we had a very specific role to play at a very specific time and that our contribution in Glasgow had to be balanced alongside work being undertaken in many other parts of the UK. So yes, it was all hands on deck for a busy 6 week period but that’s what we signed up for and we learned loads along the way; not just about undertaking complex research projects but, more importantly, about people’s experiences of destitution. And that’s what we were in it for.
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