After a successful pilot year of the Community Buddies programme, the British Science Association announces the launch of a new grant to support our Community Buddy pairs to further develop their co-created science engagement projects.

Over a year ago, the British Science Association (BSA) launched our pilot Community Buddy programme with support by funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of our ongoing community engagement work.

The Community Buddy programme matches community organisers from the BSA’s established group of Community Leaders with hand-picked researchers in their local area. The aim is to kickstart relationships that will spark new ideas and drive innovative, community-led science engagement.

In 2020, our cohort of Community Buddies used relational meetings to learn about each other and discover mutual interests. This resulted in established relationships and meaningful science engagement projects, including virtual lab visits and at-home experiments.

To facilitate more successful projects, we have launched a scheme providing grants of up to £4,000 to support Community Leaders and researchers who have been part of the Community Buddy programme. The aim of these grants is for the Community Buddy pairs to develop their existing relationships and co-create projects that are mutually beneficial and respond to local needs. Thus, we are proud to announce that the Community Buddy grants have been awarded to:

Paul Hyde, Whippet Up (Community Leader) with Natalie Butcher, Teesside University (researcher). This Community Buddy pair aim to create public events combining novel scientific research (such as facial recognition) with interactive art activities to link marginalised people into community activity.

Juliette Jackson, Seadream Education (Community Leader) with Julia Latham, (independent conservation consultant) will work together to raise awareness of the dangers of litter to marine conservation in their local area and promote the benefits of preserving the natural environment to the community.

Saoirse Higgins, Papay Development Trust (Community Leader) with Joanne Porter, Heriot-Watt University (researcher). Saoirse and Joanne aim to put their funding towards co-creatively visualising the Marine Protected Area that surrounds Papa Westray and make this tangible to the island community and the wider public.

Yang Zhou, Mandarin Speakers Association Derry (Community Leader) and Kevin Curran, Ulster University (researcher). This Community Buddy pair aim to organise a summer programme, including a combination of online and in-person events, to engage young people in STEM and address concerns from the local community on gaps in STEM knowledge due to COVID-19 related school disruptions.

Gemma Martin, Wheal Martyn (Community Leader) with Katharine Willis, University of Plymouth (researcher). Our next Community Buddy pair will focus on exploring how to best engage with museum visitors that have hidden disabilities, including those with ASD, by creating an interactive 3D map of the Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum.

Mohammed Attaur Rahman, Wardleworth Community Centre / Rochdale Science Initiative (Community Leader) with Claire Garside, University of Leeds (researcher) aim to inspire Muslim people in their local community to feel proud, and learn more about their own STEM heritage through a series of workshops on the relationship between science and Islam.

Claudia McFarlane, African Caribbean Achievement Project (Community Leader) with James Poulter, University of Leeds (researcher). This Community Buddy pair will aim to encourage more children that are from traditionally under-represented backgrounds in science, to pursue a career in STEM by establishing a highly requested regular science club.

The format of the Community Buddy programme and the latest round of awarded grants is a unique one; it uses the community organising practice centred around the core principle of “People before Programme”, encouraging the purposeful discovery of common goals in lieu of an agenda-driven approach. Due to the nature of this approach, projects and aims may grow and develop over time.

If you’d like to stay up to date with these projects and other BSA community engagement work, follow BSA Communities on Twitter.

Read more about the Community Buddy programme and the rest of the British Science Association’s community engagement work. Learn more about relational meetings in this blog post by Froilan Legaspi from Citizen’s UK.