Our time for research is up, but don’t worry you haven’t heard the last of us!

Our 5 year programme comes to an end this month, so in this blog we update you on how far we’ve come in that time and where we’d still like to go. And don’t just take our word for it, we’ve been gathering the perspectives of a host of experts too.

GCU Common Health Pic Peter Devlin

On Monday evening we hosted a Forum to mark the end of our research time here at CommonHealth. This included an exhibition of posters showcasing the findings from the 8 CommonHealth projects, reflections from 4 experts from the worlds of social enterprise and public health, and summaries from Prof Rachel Baker and Prof Cam Donaldson.

GCU Common Health Pic Peter Devlin

The distance travelled

Prof Rachel Baker introduced the evening summarising the advances made by the collective findings of the programme:

  • New evidence of the nature of the benefits realised through the activities of social enterprises across a range of geographies, industries, and activities, and working with people who have different needs and vulnerabilities
  • A developing discourse around social enterprise and public health and the interface between those ‘worlds’
  • Potential for new avenues of research in partnerships and lots to talk about for the future.

This was supported by Prof Cam Donaldson’s comments that:

“We have pulled off one the largest ever research programmes on social enterprise and managed to conceptualise and evidence a new idea for public policy; that any social enterprise, even without mentioning health in its mission, can be portrayed as acting on social determinants of health. This is because the various contexts in which social enterprises operate almost always involve addressing some aspect of social vulnerability that will likely be associated with health. As well as completing and publishing the results of our projects, CommonHealth has produced a cadre of talented researchers across Scotland, which is much needed for this important area of social and economic activity in which Scotland leads the way.”

Expert opinions

Pauline Graham (CEO, Social Firms Scotland):

“The project has made new connections within the sector and with policy –it’s been an example of research informing policy and policy informing research.”

Prof Carol Tannahill (Director of GCPH and Chief Social Policy Advisor to Scottish Government):

“CommonHealth has helped understand how social enterprise could be an important aspect of that fifth wave thinking, to develop a public health response that is located in communities, and with potential to impact on key challenges of social isolation and loneliness, and mental health.”

Leona McDermid (Chief Executive, Aberdeen Foyer):

“Social enterprise is a unique vehicle for bringing communities, organisations and the state together.  CommonHealth has highlighted the strengths of academic input and partnerships.”

Aiden Pia (Executive Director, Senscot):

“A strength of CommonHealth has been its commitment to getting out and about and including smaller Social Enterprises; acknowledging some of the under the radar organisations and bringing to the attention of policy the grass roots work at a local level. This is especially important in the context of the current public health review and using it to provide a springboard to localism.”

GCU Common Health
Pic Peter DevlinGCU Common Health
Pic Peter DevlinGCU Common Health
Pic Peter DevlinGCU Common Health
Pic Peter Devlin

Investment in the future

The investment made in CommonHealth by our funders, MRC and ESRC, has not only ensured a range of academic outputs, but built relationships with the Scottish Government, and the social enterprise sector. We hope that our research has provided valuable evidence that the sector can draw upon in years to come. Finally, all our researchers will be carrying on their work in a new range of projects, so watch this space for what comes next.

Thank you to all those who have participated in our research over the last 5 years –we couldn’t have done it without you.

Our researchers have been beavering away on three more briefing papers for you. One from Focus 50+ -our project that studies the impact of social enterprise on the health and wellbeing of older adults- and two from our project on impact management based on collaborative research with Aberdeen Foyer. We’ll launch them properly in the new year, but head to our website for a sneak peek!

Common threads in CommonHealth: weaving a tapestry of research

How do you draw concluding messages from a 5 year, multi-disciplinary research programme that involved 8 individual projects exploring pathways between social enterprise and health?

It’s a big question, right?! In this post we share how we’ve been approaching this task since March this year, and provide details of our upcoming knowledge exchange event where you can find out more…

In March this year the CommonHealth team met to share the emerging findings from each of the individual projects on the CommonHealth programme and to discuss to what extent we could see common themes, patterns and challenges arising from our data. We asked each project to prepare a poster illustrating their strongest, tentative and most surprising findings, allowing 5 mins for each poster presentation. Immediate feedback was given using a colour coded post-it system.


After some discussion, we formed groups and asked each group to produce a ‘picture’ of the findings across the programme –focusing on strongest findings and connections between the projects.

The day itself provoked a lot of discussion and questions around ways of defining social enterprise and our ability to compare outcomes while acknowledging the diversity of interventions. Another set of questions focused on the mechanisms that connect the work of social enterprises to health and wellbeing –can we represent these in a linear model? Are there ‘loops’? What can disrupt and break connections to health and wellbeing?

After working through these questions for the last few months we’d love to share our latest thoughts with you at our next knowledge exchange event that we’ll be running as part of GCU’s research week.

Come along to hear:

  • Researchers presenting the emerging findings from their projects
  • More detail on how we’ve been connecting the findings across the programme
  • Preliminary thoughts on our concluding messages
  • Group discussion and activities
  • Networking and refreshments!

We hope to see you there.

Common threads in CommonHealth, Tuesday 19th June 2018 (9.30am-12.15pm)

TO JOIN: sign up via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/research-week-common-threads-in-commonhealth-tickets-45800106351

CommonHealth Briefing Paper Series: Paper Number 7

Project 3: ‘Growth at the Edge’ exploring health and wellbeing effects of rural social enterprise activity on individuals and communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland


The latest CommonHealth Briefing Paper is written by Danielle Kelly who carried out her research across 7 social enterprises across the Highlands and Islands. In this paper she reflects on the specific role that social enterprises play in addressing a key public health issue- social isolation and loneliness.

The video provides a short introduction to the paper which is available to read in full here.


We’re always keen to hear feedback so please get in touch via email (commonhealth@gcu.ac.uk) or twitter @CommHealth_blog. 

CommonHealth Briefing Paper Series: Paper Number 6

Project 7: ‘Housing through Social Enterprise’ A summary of interim findings

Our latest Briefing Paper is based on a study conducted by Steve Rolfe at the University of Stirling comparing tenancy experiences with three social enterprises: Homes for Good, NG Homes and Y People. Steve is still busy conducting research, but the interim findings are promising so look out for more later in 2018!

The video below provides a short introduction and the paper is available here on our website.


As ever, we’re eager for feedback so please get in touch via email (commonhealth@gcu.ac.uk) or twitter @CommHealth_blog. 

“Nihil Sine Labore” – Craft Café Govan

Nihil Sine Labore” – Nothing without Work: Govan Burgh Arms is self-explanatory the way it reads. However, how does this motto relate to the work of a social enterprise using arts and creativity to contribute to societal change, health and well-being? The case of Craft Café Govan, which is a community-based initiative for people over the age of 60 and run by Impact Arts, can help inspire some reflections around this research question.

I entered Craft Café as a researcher in November 2016, when my PhD on evaluating the health and well-being impacts of social enterprise on individuals and community had just started. Since then, I have visited the café regularly as part of my ethnographic fieldwork. I have been observing and participating in programme’s daily activities, chatting with people attending the Café (members or colleagues as they usually call themselves) and the artists and volunteers delivering the workshops. craft cafe 3

Craft Café Govan is a place where people can meet, work on creative projects and socialise with others from their community and beyond. Large tables are set for practical work, having lunch together, relaxing and chatting with a cup of tea or coffee. Professional artists facilitate the workshops and prompt member’s artistic desires and aims.

What makes the Craft Café successful? Scratching the surface, one can also observe that the Craft Café members are active ingredients themselves, bringing their personal stories and daily life into their art. Many of them share similar life experiences. They were skilled workers and have seen their community, Govan, changing dramatically over the last 50 years. This common background gives room to self-expression, which is professionally channelled by the artists through thematic projects and exhibitions. But one can observe that this common background can also encourage socialisation, which is not limited to Craft Café. From there, Craft Café network can carry over to other places of Govan, where members meet and socialise, but also invite other people to join them at Craft Café.

I have learned all this from my weekly visits to Craft Café. However, it takes time to access this network. It is not easy to be a new member, the new “guy” in the office; it takes time to adapt. During your first days, you mainly work on your own tasks, but you are unsure where the bigger brushes are stored, because you are new. The artist is busy with something else, so you ask someone who looks more experienced. You not only get your brushes, but also some tips on how to better mix the dyes for the brushes you have chosen to use.

This is a simple but ordinary process in every working place, where you rely on colleagues to access first information, but then you get to know them better, you start to spend your coffee breaks with them and share more than working-life stuff. Through its professional approach to creativity in community, Craft Café can trigger this process to significantly contribute to people’s quality of life, especially in contexts where work has always been very central as Govan motto suggests: “Nihil Sine Labore – Nothing without Work”.

Sadly for me and my research, due to funding constraints, Craft Café is facing closure in April 2018. But while this makes it awkward for me, the impact on the ‘colleagues’ using Craft Café is likely to be significantly tougher. To help preserve this vital service within Govan, Impact Arts has reacted launching a crowdfunding campaign. If you want to support Craft Café, please click on the below.


CommonHealth Briefing Paper Series: Paper Number 5

No ‘golden age’, no ‘silver bullet’: what can history tell us about connecting social enterprise, health and wellbeing?

In our first Briefing Paper of 2018 Gill reflects on the emerging findings from Project 1: A historical perspective on social enterprise as a public health initiative.

The video below provides a short introduction and the paper is available here on our website.


As ever, we’re eager for feedback so please get in touch via email (commonhealth@gcu.ac.uk) or twitter @CommHealth_blog. Or if you are going to The Gathering next week stop by our stall for a printed copy! 

CommonHealth Briefing Papers Series: Paper Number 4

Conceptualising the impact of social enterprise in Scotland:

A platform for future research

In the latest of our Briefing Papers researcher Bobby Macaulay reports on some of the findings from project 2 – ‘A contemporary analysis of social enterprise as a public health intervention’- and reflects on the importance of opening up new perspectives on the actions and impacts of social enterprise.

Find out more by watching the short video below. You can access the full paper here