C2 Research in partnership with the University of Exeter (UoE)

This began in 2001 when GP Dr Jonathan Stead heard a keynote presentation by Hazel Stuteley OBE on ‘The Beacon Project’ at an international conference in Edinburgh.

Hazel said she believed that the approach used could work for many other challenged communities but that the challenge was capturing transferable knowledge, key principles and theory of change.

Jonathan thought that insights from complexity theory could be used to explain the dramatic changes. He had held an academic post as a Senior Clinical Research Fellow with UoE Medical School since 1980 and he introduced Hazel to Drs Katrina Wyatt, Robin Durie, Susanne Hughes and the late Prof. Kieran Sweeney, who all agreed with him.

Hazel was awarded Honourary Research Fellowship and together they formed the Health Complexity Group (HCG) conducting 2 years retrospective research with the Beacon Cornish community to understand how conditions for transformative community-led change were created there. This successfully captured 7 transferable principles and the C2 7 Step Pathway was launched in 2004

Two Community Regeneration Evaluating Sustaining and Transferring (CREST) reports published the findings of this research.

Read Report from the Health Complexity Group on the Falmouth Beacon Partnership and the Final Summary Report by the Health Complexity Group.

Into the future

Consistent and lasting success of the 7-Step Pathway, in diverse community settings over the following decade, led to collective thinking that this relational way of working with communities may hold solutions to some of the ‘wicked’ problems of Health Inequalities, which have evaded the NHS for decades.

This led to the opening in 2017 of the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health, at UoE where C2 principles are used to guide the Beacons Transforming Engagement programme seeking to understand how transformative community engagement creates the conditions for health across the life course.

Although governance is separate and funding independently procured, the ‘quid pro quo’ has always been that C2 provides a receptive community research setting with residents as partner co-researchers, while UoE, led by Prof. Katrina Wyatt and Dr Robin Durie provide pro bono academic input on C2 Experiential Learning Programmes. Intellectual Property Rights are shared.

Excitingly, on-going research is working with C2 National Network to map connectivity in two new neighbourhoods Stoke and Dartmouth. This project will explore whether and how relational approaches can lead to better health in very low-income neighbourhoods. Working with our partnerships this research will also respond to C2’s own aim to explore ways of developing regional delivery mechanisms and develop an evidence base for this new approach.

The recently completed DeStress project is a perfect example of how ‘engaged research’ within C2 community settings has enriched outcomes.

DeStress sought to understand issues around the medicalisation of poverty related distress resulting in over use of anti-depressants. Residents became highly effective community partners to the academic team, and amongst many other outcomes produced new training resources for GP’s, adopted by RCGP, including films and waiting room posters.

Hear their voices at the concluding and powerful DeStress London conference where they made huge impact as keynote speakers alongside strategic mental health providers.