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Integrated Research Groups (IRGs)

The Centre for Social Futures has established several Integrated Research Groups (IRGs) to progress our work across a number of interest areas. Descriptions of these IRGs and contact information follow below.

Prisons 4 Good IRG

IRG lead:
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0115 8230516

IRG overview:

Prisons 4 Good commenced in December 2016. The plan for 2017 is that this network will act as a forum for collaborative research ventures, collegial debate or assistance, dissemination of colleagues’ work, etc. Further, Dr Mel Jordan hopes to launch Bars Bridging Bars under the banner of Prisons 4 Good in 2017. Bars Bridging Bars will concern musical performance, musical citizenship and education, programme note research and writing, event organisation and hosting, etc. – by prisoners and P4G musicians / researchers collaboratively.

The IRG aims to provide inspiration, excitement, academic debate, and opportunities for beneficial prison research work amongst members. This IRG will critically analyse imprisonment. Prison research and reform will be central to this IRG. The IRG currently has 50+ members. Please get in touch with Dr Mel Jordan if you have an interest in membership or any other comments.

Domestic Violence and Abuse IRG

IRG lead:
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0115 8230516

IRG deputy lead:
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01332 724922

IRG overview:

Family violence (which includes inter-generational and intimate partner violence) impacts significantly on the lives and health of those affected. In the UK it has been estimated that approximately 30% of women and 17% of men aged 16-59 years have been assaulted by a current or former partner.

The national picture in relation to family violence is reflected within Nottingham and Nottinghamshire with family abuse forming a priority area with the local Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA). Furthermore, prevention, early intervention and strategic service management of family abuse forms a priority for the 2013-16 Nottingham Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

A number of recent initiatives, including the STELLA project, which has sought to raise awareness of the interconnectedness of domestic and sexual violence, substance misuse and mental health (and which included Nottingham as a project partner) identified the need to develop clearer across-agency understanding of the complexity and impact of abuse within the context of health and wellbeing.

Bringing together the experience and expertise of a range of key stakeholders, our aim is to establish a core research and practice development network across discipline partners with a commitment to improving the lives and health of those affected by family violence. Our group membership reflects the wide ranging nature of family violence and we would welcome active group involvement from anyone with an interest in this field.

Growing Better Lives IRG

IRG lead:
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IRG deputy lead:
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IRG overview:

Growing Better Lives cic (GBL) is a social enterprise initially funded by a Big Lottery 'EcoMinds' grant to provide mental health services to those with personality disorder, as an adjunct to their NHS treatment in Slough.

It runs horticultural therapy groups, to a therapeutic community format, using a yurt in an environmental study centre close to Uxbridge. The aim of GBL cic is to develop clinical practice, training and research that is socially rather than medically based, for people with personality disorder and severe mental health problems.

Our research programme intends to examine and assess the different elements of 'GreenCare' in the treatment and management of people with complex needs. Research is carried out with service users to explore 'what matters' and 'what works' with the objective of expanding our GreenCare services to help more people and to disseminate our findings to expand similar services nationally.

We are keen to explore research ideas with other similar groups and welcome anyone interested in what we do, potential volunteers and researchers to contact us and come and visit our yurt!

Greening the Mind IRG

IRG lead:
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IRG deputy lead:
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IRG overview:

In recent years, growing attention has been paid within the mental health arena to the therapeutic benefits of eco-therapies such as horticulture therapy and care farming, and to the beneficial effects of the natural world upon mental wellbeing. But nature-connectedness research invites us to not only ecologize psychology, but also to psychologize ecology: in other words, to recognise that climate change and other sustainability campaigns are also psychological projects through-and-through.

This research group aims to develop new areas of research which are of relevance to a variety of health client groups and to public health. It will work across communities in Nottinghamshire in particular and academic communities nationally and internationally. We are seeking opportunities to develop small grant work focused on greencare studies and will establish longer-term proposals with a view to seeking larger grant applications.

This IRG also explores mental health aspects of sustainability and climate change as well as psychological understandings of environmental problems. We are keen to foster cross-disciplinary dialogue and impacts. So if you have an idea for a relevant project or work in this area or if you'd like to hear more about 'greening the mind', please do get in touch.

Therapeutic Environments IRG

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IRG overview:

This group will bring SoFu members together to explore therapeutic communities, psychotherapy, enabling environments, compassionate environments, psychologically informed environments and successful caregiving environments. Such therapeutic services occur in numerous settings including mental health, dementia, learning disability, personality disorder, offender/forensic, and dual diagnosis. The IRG will analyse the latest developments in research and evidence in the field and future improvements in both the academic arena and the realm of frontline practice.

Children and Young People IRG

IRG lead:
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01332 623 726

IRG deputy lead:
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0115 748 4211

This group brings SoFu members together to develop a focus on children and young people's mental health in a social context. It aims to engage both locally and nationally with existing groups and new communities to develop novel areas of research which are of relevance to younger people. Our research programme has a strong public and patient involvement ethos and includes youth communities in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in particular.

The group is developing existing interests in clinical and methodological approaches to working with young people, based on the strengths of the core membership but with an aim to follow the leadership of the community participants to develop fully participatory approaches.

This IRG is open to local and smaller initiatives, taking into account these as part of the development of the communities of practice and develop the skills and knowledge of younger participants.

Arts, Performance Arts, Recovery & Well-Being IRG

IRG lead:
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IRG deputy lead:
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0115 748 4211

This IRG aims to developing a nationally recognised hub for social research into the performance arts and mental health. This research cluster will focus on a range of activities which aim to address two primary areas:

  • Using the arts to promote well-being and recovery for those with mental illness
  • Using the arts to stimulate awareness and debate about mental health issues through public engagement activities.

The IRG builds on the success of arts activities with mental health service users within the Institute of Mental Health and a number of key grant successes notably related to visual arts and dementia, and mutual recovery.

The research will also look across a range of performance arts and explore how these might be effective as therapeutic encounters for people with a range of mental health problems. There are a number of research projects already underway in this area.

Open Futures IRG

IRG leads:
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IRG clinical lead:
Steven Coles

  • How do we talk and listen to one another?
  • How do we tell our stories and hear the stories of others?
  • How open are we to the diverse voices of lived experience?
  • How can we inform service development and research?
  • How will this open up futures of well-being?

The Open Futures Network is service user and community led, bringing together local groups and local services, artists, activists, health care professionals and academics within collaborative and dynamic partnerships for well-being. Open Futures creates a precedent in being driven from within by the voices of lived experience.

The Open Futures Network seeks to promote mental health, resilience and wellbeing by exploring an Open Dialogue approach in the field of mental health and also within wider society. The Open Dialogue vision offers huge potential for improvements in service development and delivery and for more humane and compassionate relationships in society at large. Through modelling the principles of Open Dialogue, the Network aims to:

  • Reframe power
  • Orchestrate polyphony
  • Accommodate uncertainty
  • Navigate divergence
  • Liberate dialogue
  • Explore boundaries
  • Celebrate difference

Open Futures membership includes groups from BME communities, animals helping with healing, young people's organisations, faith groups, women's groups and statutory groups such as the police. Open Futures remains open to new members and partnerships with a strong commitment to include the least well heard voices as active informants and collaborators, and by honouring narratives of lived experience, we will discover together a liberating vision of wellbeing and the compassionate spaces that enable it.

Social Theory and Mental Health IRG

IRG lead:
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IRG deputy lead:
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Within the Centre for Social Futures, we have recognised a need to develop ways of thinking conceptually about human experience: how we think about mental health and disorder, how we understand the human condition in happiness and distress, and what we identify as the key drivers of mental health - all have profound implications for how we try to deal with the issues.

The need for conceptual and theoretical thinking is valuable because society is currently reconfiguring itself along novel lines, of which social scientists are beginning to gain contemporary understanding. Changes such as the development of new communication, social media, and information technologies, shifts in economies from manufacturing to service, the establishment of new modes of governance, and the changing nature of work, families and communities - all have implications for how we experience distress as well as how we define and manage what is considered to be normal and abnormal.

Why for example are people so quick to define difficulties in living as a kind of medical problem? And why are we increasingly likely to turn to medication in the quest for a solution? Why are we likely to see conflict in the classroom or unhappiness in the workplace as problems of neurobiology or individual adjustment? How is it that the issue of personal 'wellbeing' has come to such prominence in political debate? Moreover, why is it that individuals are seen as primarily responsible for their wellbeing, with little consideration for societal causes and effects? These kinds of questions demand that we think about how ideas, societies and individuals work. Often, it is theoretical development which makes the difference between research which is of local interest and material which is valued by worldwide communities. The social theory IRG will facilitate the 'thinking' aspect of SoFu's work and establish the Centre as a significant originator of theoretical innovation in the social sciences where mental health and wellbeing are concerned.