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(‘Urban participatory research’ & ‘knowledge co-production’)



Local wise is a pilot project on ‘local grand challenges’ – endemic problems which seem near-impossible to solve.   Fly tipping, the cost of living crisis and other examples, each call for a ‘collective local intelligence’ which is so often missing – i.e. the learning and communication and collaboration between organizations, and between public / private / civic / research sectors. 

The Local-wise approach looks for ways to bridge these gaps. It sets up an experimental space, a laboratory for collaboration (i.e. ‘collaboratorium’). The Local-wise platform provides a mapping of complex problems, with different viewpoints from different stakeholders, and with vital links to knowledge, ideas or examples.  This is then a practical resource for all sides –

  • policy & community applications: stakeholders can better see a joined-up picture of the problems, and in a later phase, the practical responses and pathways, for these ‘local grand challenges’.
  • research applications: with the system mapping as a practical navigation tool, we can better locate sources of information or insight, explore questions and differences, and form strategic research agendas. 
  • teaching & learning applications: we can see the strategic context so that student projects on a ‘service learning’ basis can be more effective.


The Local-wise is also a pilot for a next generation civic university, or ‘multi-versity’.  Here the specialized knowledge inside can be put to good use in the community around – and such knowledge is then enhanced by these real-world connections. Likewise, local policy and services should be enhanced by access to state-of-the-art knowledge and insight.

In this pilot phase of the Local-wise, UOM is working with the Manchester City Council Neighbourhoods Team in the adjacent wards of Hulme-Moss-Side-Rusholme (HMSR), some of the most diverse inner-city neighbourhoods in the country.


Method & platform

A pilot platform for ‘knowledge co-production’ is now up – local-wise-fly-tipping-issue – comment & feedback is welcome.

The content so far is based on research-policy discussions so far. The format is a ‘causal mapping’ of a complex system, with layers for the material flow (upstream to downstream): along with social issues (red), economic issues (blue), policy issues (yellow), and the knowledge base (lilac).

Participants are invited to put in new tabs, comments & queries on existing tabs, blogs, slides, papers, links, or other media.  In the workshop room F2F discussion may work better, using post-it notes on a template, to be uploaded online later.  There are questions to be addressed for each case study, both ‘problem mapping’ (phase 1) and ‘pathway mapping’ (phase 2):


  1. Which are the top priority / most controversial problems?
  2. What are the trends & possible futures?
  3. Can we improve the problem mapping, from causes to effects?
  4. What policies / projects / examples should be included?
  5. Where are useful sources of data / knowledge?
  6. Which are priority applications of this (community / policy / research / teaching)?


  1. Which priority opportunities / stakeholder synergies?
  2. What kind of pathway / strategic road-map would work?
  3. How much resources are needed (human, economic, other)?
  4. Which other policies / projects / examples are relevant?
  5. Where are useful sources of knowledge / insight /ideas?
  6. Which are priority applications of this (community / policy / research / teaching)?

Background – local challenges / global significance

The Local-wise starts from collaboration with local stakeholders, via the MCC ‘Team Around the Neighbourhood’ (TAN) for Hulme /  Moss Side / Rusholme (i.e. the adjacent areas to the UOM main campus).  This TAN is one of the furthest advanced of any in the UK, for the integration of disparate services in a diverse and problematic area. We aim to address some very practical and topical ‘local grand challenges’ – bundles of problems, both practical and systemic, beyond simple analysis or solution:  for example-

  • Fly tipping & illegal dumping: a combination of material cultures, fragmented and transient communities;
  • Street safety / security: lack of social cohesion in a city of strangers: under-funded policing: underlying divisions of gender, race and ethnicity.
  • Cost of living crisis: effects of austerity, loss of local livelihoods and community structures, uncoordinated public services, etc

For each of these, the Local-wise approach can be a powerful enabler of strategic thinking and action.  Using the visual thinking / cognitive mapping platform, we can look beyond the normal boundaries of policy departments or research fields:  

  • further – upstream causes & downstream effects of the problem on the table;
  • wider – extended community of stakeholders, with different systems and agendas;
  • deeper layers of value and meaning (social, technical, economic, environmental, policy, cultural etc)

Why do this? Overall we think there is great potential for ‘doing things better’ –

  • each of these ‘local grand challenges’ shows typical barriers, inertias, knowledge gaps, skills and resources gaps etc;
  • to move beyond the gaps, towards potential synergies and collaborative action (‘co-production’), we need better ways of mapping (just as a map helps to plan a journey): and better ways of ‘co-designing’ practical pathways in challenging situations;
  • this project is a small pilot and demonstration of a ‘knowledge co-production’ platform in development. This aims to help build bridges between academic & policy knowledge (a future phase will address ‘citizen and business knowledge’ more directly).



Project Brief

The ‘Local-wise’ program, (funded by the ESRC participatory research program), has two main aims:

  • External – demonstrate a knowledge exchange & co-production platform, to link UOM and policy / service providers, locally and city-region wide;
  • Internal – promote the practice of ‘participatory research’, with the skills and resources needed, within MUI, UOM & partners.

These will be provided via three main actions:

  1. Demonstration of knowledge co-production / participatory research, via short pilot project & platform, which points to further funding;
  2. Training: provide an outline of good practice in participatory co-production, for future research proposals and funding programs;
  3. Evaluation: outline assessments of some example recent projects, with a framework which builds on the above, and validates the agenda for institutional learning.

The expected benefits and outcomes include:

  • for policy-makers / service providers: mobilize & apply research knowledge to address ‘local grand challenges’;
  • for researchers / knowledge managers: explore & learn from the complexity of ‘local grand challenges’, with knowledge co-production & participatory research methods (also with benefits to teaching & learning, as above)