There is a wide variety of stakeholders whose engagement should be considered when developing a project. Given the breadth of potential contacts, charities often provide an effective starting point.
Charities are a hugely diverse group with everything from very large organisations such as Wellcome, with a broad portfolio of interests and activity through to much smaller charities with a focus on a specific disease or health issue.
Charities use a wide variety of approaches and mechanisms to achieve their goals. Unlike some stakeholders who provide a specific benefit to a project, charities can provide support on multiple fronts.
During project development, an appropriate charity could provide detailed information around key challenges faced by patients to the research team making the proposal more relevant.
When projects are underway, charities can provide an external advice stream, access to patient groups or a means for public engagement. Members of the public who are engaged with a charity often have a personal reason for engagement and therefore tend to be much more interested and active with research being carried out. So opportunities to go beyond just dissemination should be explored, for example dialogue around responsible research and innovation.
As research projects generate results suitable for wider dissemination, charities could provide a larger more active voice for dissemination. They may also have contacts with key decision and policy makers in government departments that could be engaged early to maximise the potential of uptake of advances.
Larger charities often have resources to support research and development directly and may be a source of future funding. You may want to consider what results are needed to make the strongest case for funding to the appropriate charity and how you might build these activities into your proposal to reduce gaps in your funding pipeline.
Finally, remember that relationships are two-way, and although charities can offer you different types of support, your research has the potential to help the charity achieve its own goals to improve the lives of the people they represent, and you can advocate on their behalf too.
What to consider when involving charities
You should consider:
- if there is a suitable charity within the area of focus of your proposal
- how big the charity is and the capacity they have to engage with research
- what support is sensible to explore with them
- how and when will you engage with the charity – remember the relationship may evolve during the course of a project
- if the charity funds research, if there are experiments you can include in your work plan now to increase the likelihood of funding later
- what routes towards dissemination could you involve the charity with
- if there are routes to influence decision and policymakers through the charity
- if you can help advocate on the charity’s behalf.
Resources to request
As part of your proposal you should consider requesting resources to:
- host meetings with charity representatives to share information and explore opportunities
- present your research to the charity or their patrons
- produce materials to disseminate through routes within the charity
- host patient group activities in partnership with the charity
- carry out experiments that will increase the chances of gaining future funding from charities
- host dissemination meetings with relevant policy and decision makers in collaboration with the charity.
Due to the large number of charities the following links are to those EPSRC currently have a relationship with. You should explore other information sources to identify charities relevant to your research area.
Association of Medical Research Charities – the national association of leading medical and health research charities helping their members influence the regulatory, policy and research environments, and connecting members to encourage collaboration and the sharing of learning. The member directory resource for identifying research active charities.
Wellcome – a global charity foundation supporting scientists and researchers to explore ideas in science, population health, medical innovation, the humanities and social sciences and public engagement.
Cancer Research UK – the largest cancer charity in the UK with worldwide links and perspective.
British Heart Foundation – heart charity and the largest independent funder of cardiovascular research.
Arthritis Research UK – charity that invests in breakthrough treatments, information and support for people affected by arthritis.