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- Author or Editor: Sue Cohen x
This chapter begins with the story of the Single Parent Action Network (SPAN) and its involvement in an ambitious urban regeneration project in the early 2000’s, a venture that then fell apart under the pressures of ‘austerity’. This ‘post-regeneration’ story demonstrates the ways in which changes in urban policy shape and interact with the lived reality of the organisations, people and social structures that the policy is focused upon. The second part of the chapter uses this story to reflect on the rationale and research focus of ‘Productive Margins: Regulating for Engagement’, a Connected Communities research programme involving SPAN and other community organisations in Bristol and South Wales. Productive Margins draws upon the experience and expertise of SPAN and the partner organisations to co-produce research which examines the regulatory mechanisms that enmesh the everyday activities of communities, and to experiment with ways of regulating for engagement.
This chapter considers the role of community anchor organisations in the ‘flagship’ regeneration programme of the National Assembly for Wales, ‘Communities First’, launched in 2001 and later terminated in March 2018. It unpicks the story of the programme’s evolution and demise from the perspectives of community development advisors and community development practitioners, the latter based in two community organisations in South Wales: South Riverside Community Development Centre (SRCDC) in Cardiff and 3Gs Community Development Trust in Merthyr Tydfil. Both organisations were involved in the Productive Margins programme and in the design and analysis of this research. Both pre-existed the Communities First programme and were charged with its delivery to local people. The chapter thus looks at the regulatory context in which these organisations found themselves and how they negotiated the demands of the state-funded programme, on the one hand, and their accountabilities to the communities that they believed they represented, on the other. A key question remains as to whether the involvement of community organisations in state-funded programmes can facilitate regulation for engagement for social change or whether their power to improve the well-being of the communities they represent might better be served in providing alternative modes of living.
This chapter discusses experiments in shifting understandings of expertise and in co-producing research that formed the basis of the Productive Margins (PM) programme. Those experiments were structured as the Productive Communities Research Forum, a series of gatherings that included all active co-researchers and occurred every three to six months over the lifetime of the Productive Margins programme. Before discussing this experimental method, the chapter turns to co-production as a specific set of approaches to collaborative research which involves diverse voices. It brings together the Productive Margins principal investigator, community lead, arts and humanities lead, and one of the co-investigators who worked as a link between two projects and the core management group. These individuals have different research interests, forms of expertise, values, and standpoints on collaborative working in communities.
This chapter talks about how to engage with co-produced research and participatory practices from a community perspective. It discusses how co-produced interdisciplinary research experiences and knowledge exchanges facilitate interaction with members of the community, with academics and with artists as a part of the Productive Margins project. The programme is seeking to remap the terrain of regulation, by involving the knowledge, passions, and creativity of citizens often considered on the margins of politics and policymaking. However, rather than examining the progress and outcomes of the research project itself, the chapter analyses the settings and process leading up to the establishment of the research project: the formation of the working group where they explored the theme of poverty; and the Research Forum where academics and community partners came together to share knowledge and interdisciplinary ways forward.
This chapter focuses on the forms of regulation that shape food habits in ways that we are often unaware of. Here, the chapter presents some of the results of a co-produced research project that explored how people experience the regulation of food habits in their communities. It explores the notion of food justice, which seeks to embed discussion of food regulation in attention to the spatial dimensions of food access. The chapter points to the ways in which the project sought to make visible invisible rules and to develop processes of ‘commoning’ in order to address the spatial inequalities of urban food spaces. It then challenges notions of ‘cheapness’ and instead present ideas of food affordability. Finally, this chapter establishes the building blocks for a ‘more-than-food policy’ by demonstrating the importance of working with assets rather than deficits.
This chapter explores how contemporary social practice art materialises interactions between regulatory regimes and low-income families with children and enables disruptions of regulatory regimes in ways not possible using traditional social science approaches. It focuses on a research team that included artists Close and Remote. Here, the chapter explains how the team co-produced, with community members and academics, a socially engaged artwork — Life Chances — that aimed to generate new knowledges about the regulatory regimes that low-income families with children experience. Aiming towards a form of improvisational empathy, Life Chances worked with Thomas More’s (1516) Utopia and Ruth Levitas’s (2013) Utopia as Method as ‘a form of speculative sociology of the future’. By staging and troubling contradictory notions of ‘life chances’ through art, the chapter specifically asks how the regulatory services that families encounter in two urban settings — the Easton area of Bristol and Butetown, Riverside and Grangetown in Cardiff — shape, constrain, and enable the life chances of individual families and communities.