Skip to content

COLLABORATION IS KEY: The Journey of creating better research to create better futures

A whistlestop overview

At the University of Liverpool (UoL), research is aligned to Institutional Research Themes that help pave the way for valuable change. These Themes are designed to support academics working in certain research areas, but they’re also designed to encourage and support collaborations between different academics working in the variety of research areas within the University.

One of the seven research Themes at UoL is Starting Well, Living Well, Ageing Well (SWLWAW). This Research Theme is very broad and aims to improve the health and well-being of babies and children, right through to their development as adults. Through SWLWAW, the UoL wants to help make a real change that has a direct impact to the future generations of Liverpool.

Because of how broad the Theme was, researchers struggled to find the glue that held together all the important research they were doing, and to create a well-connected output. What they were producing felt isolated, with researchers continuing to work in their own areas; meaning that the intended collaborations that the Theme should produce, were not adding much value.

‘As a Theme, we didn't really have much of a direction, the Theme existed but it didn't exist in any kind of productive way. People were operating under it, but they weren't operating within it.’
Lewis Smith
Research Development Manager, University of Liverpool

What did the SWLWAW researchers want to achieve?

To move forward and help create the positive change they were looking for and shared ambition with clear areas of focus, the SWLWAW researchers at UoL wanted to identify existing areas of strength within the Theme and then identify any potential gaps – not only for the university’s research but for external organisations (such as charitable bodies and stakeholders) that they wanted to work closely with.


How did Capacity fit into all of this?

Our good friends at Liverpool Health Partners suggested Capacity as a helping hand to shape the plan for SWLWAW to move forward.

The aim of this project was to create connectivity within the research Theme at UoL and to help them shape their journey. It was about creating space for collaboration and agreeing on key areas of focus for the Theme. We wanted to help them by looking at key research areas and identifying strengths, weaknesses and those bright opportunities that would develop a programme that works for the future of the Theme.


So, what did we deliver?

  1. Stakeholder Engagement: a consultation with key stakeholders both internal and external to the university to understand their ambitions in the SWLWAW space.

We started by listening closely to researchers across the university and people delivering work across health and social care sectors, asking questions such as;

  • How can your work contribute to the Theme? 
  • What would motivate or enable you to increase your collaboration?
  • How can research from the Theme support health and social care?

    Asking questions like the above helped build a bridge between key stakeholders and the SWLWAW Theme and helped to inform the role the Theme can play across the university and beyond.

 2. Sandpit Event: delivering one large Knowledge Exchange event to explore key lines of enquiry and create a network which will create space for collaboration.

Early insights from engagement with stakeholders helped provide us with some ideas of what we thought a successful sandpit event would look like.

This event saw over 70 attendees, bringing together colleagues from across UoL and beyond to network, share research ideas and to start taking active roles in helping to develop the future direction of SWLWAW

‘This event was highly useful to discuss the pilot project and develop next steps and long-term potential of our research’
Sandpit event attendee

3. Insights report: capturing insights from the above activities to gather a future direction for the Theme

The report brought together the learning gathered from the project and our suggestions for how researchers on SWLWAW can move forward. We provided details behind the insights that would ensure practical action for the Theme’s future.

‘Not only did Capacity help us develop the plan and develop the project, they really hit the ground running from the very first meeting. It felt very much like a two-way dialogue between us and Capacity.’
Lewis Smith
Research Development Manager, University of Liverpool

What's next?  

As SWLWAW is very much a Theme that looks to the future, the researchers at UoL now have their starter for 10 to move forward with a clear focus in mind. Over the next couple of years, they will now develop and grow their Theme, all with the aim to deliver the most impactful research to help create better futures for the people of our communities.

Want the nitty-girtty? Check our the full insights report from the Staring Well, Living Well, Aging Well Knowledge Exchange event here