Men in Sheds – project evaluation for Age UK Cheshire

Jenny Fisher and Rebecca Lawthom from this research group have recently won a tender to evaluate the Men in Sheds project for Age UK Cheshire. They will be working with Gill Yeowell, Sandra Hartley and Emma-Reeta Koivunen to look at the impact of the Men in Sheds project on the health and wellbeing of the men who attend, their families and the impact on the wider community. Generally, the evaluation focuses on what works, for whom, why and when.

The team is interdisciplinary and from across the Faculty of Health, Psychology and Social Care, and will be using a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods including go-along interviews.

Age UK Cheshire has four Sheds across Cheshire: Hartford, Ellesmere Port, Chester and Crewe. They have recently launched a Women in Sheds project.

As an avid user of her own shed (shoffice) in her garden, Jenny is delighted to work on this project. You can find out more about Men in Sheds and Age UK Cheshire here

We will be posting updates over the next few months.

Rebecca and Jenny collaborate on an ESRC-Newton 3-year project…

Professor Rebecca Lawthom and Dr Jenny Fisher are part of a team from 5 UK Higher Education Institutes and academic partners in Brazil who have been awarded nearly £800,000 funding from the ESRC-Newton funds. The call for funding was ESRC Healthy Urban Living. The 3 year project (2016-2019) is being led by Dr Ryan Woolrych from the School of the Built Environment at Heriot-Watt University.  Other UK universities involved are the University of Edinburgh, the University of Northampton and Keele University.

The project is a cross-comparative study across six case study cities  in Brazil (Pelotas, Porto Alegre, Brasilia) and the UK (Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh).

There are three core aims: (i) to investigate how sense of place is experienced by older people from different social settings living in diverse neighbourhoods in Brazil and the UK; (ii) to translate these experiences into designs for age friendly communities that support sense of place; and (iii) to better articulate the role of older adults as active placemakers in the design process by involving the community at all stages of the research.

Jenny and Rebecca will lead Work Package 2 that will include participatory mapping workshops with the community to facilitate knowledge production from the ground-up.

Ageing populations in Brazil and the UK have generated new challenges in how to best design living environments that support and promote everyday social engagement for older people. The ageing-in-place agenda posits that the preferred environment to age is the community, enabling older people to retain a sense of independence, safety and belonging.Encouraging older adults to remain in their communities has contributed to planning and design concepts such as Age-Friendly Cities and Communities, Lifelong Homes and Liveable Neighbourhoods. However, current urban planning and
development models have overlooked the notion of sense of place, articulated through supports for active living, social participation and meaningful involvement in the community. Integrating sense of place into the built environment is essential for supporting active ageing, ensuring that older adults can continue to make a positive contribution in their communities and potentially reducing health and social care costs.


Developing Age-Friendly cities by supporting social eating: a pilot case-study

Dr Jenny Fisher in collaboration with Dr Laura Brown (University of Manchester) has been awarded £6,300 from MICRA to explore some of the barriers and facilitators for social eating for older people in urban and rural environments.

Manchester has played a leading role in the age-friendly city initiative and is now a pilot for the integration of health and social care budgets known as Devolution Manchester. Numerous age-friendly projects have happened within and around Manchester, including housing, employment and learning. Social eating has not been explored in depth in urban or rural areas, and this is the focus of our project. We aim to explore the reasons why older people eat socially, and why they may not.

Social eating, or commensality, is defined as eating with other people and sharing meals, and can have a positive impact on a person’s health, including improved nutrition, a reduction in depression and loneliness, and increased well-being. Making connections with people through social eating can increase an older person’s social networks.

The project will use qualitative focus groups, and we are focusing initially on two areas in Manchester (urban) and Cheshire (rural). We will undertake focus groups with older people who eat socially and those who don’t, as well as with staff and volunteers who work with older people. The project aims will enable us to work with older people to:

  • Identify barriers and facilitators to age-friendly social eating spaces within a case-study urban and rural environment
  • Refine our methodology to demonstrate feasibility for a larger study covering a wider geographical area.
  • Develop and disseminate an action plan for supporting social eating spaces within the case-study urban / rural environment to demonstrate potential impact of larger research project.


The meaning(s) of value: Measuring the Impact of Creative Activities upon children and young people with learning disabilities


Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole is collaborating with Purple Patch Arts on a project that will explore the impact of arts-based practice on the learning of children with learning disabilities funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust.

Traditional impact measures have focused on ‘typically’ developing children and excluded children whose communication and learning styles are different from the ‘norm’. This proposal project seeks to address the indirect discrimination in ‘arts in education literature’ and to begin to fill the gap in existing knowledge and practice.

The project run from April, 2016  – May 2017.

Contact for more information.

Street Connected Young People in Guatemala

Dr Andrew Stevenson and Dr Jeremy Oldfield have been awarded a BA/Leverhulme grant to explore the experiences of street connected young people in Guatemala.   The project begins in April, 2016 for 18 months.

The study will apply psychological knowledge and understanding to Street Connected Young People (SCYP) in Guatemala City, a population largely neglected in the literature. The aim is to investigate the ability of SCYP to demonstrate resilience in relation to three specific psychological constructs; mental wellbeing, social support and everyday cognitive skills. There is little research relating to these constructs in the developing world, and few studies with SCYP have focused on positive outcomes such as displaying resilience. The study adopts a mixed-method approach incorporating psychometric tests, survey data, ethnographic film, interviews and participatory photography. Participants will comprise SCYP recruited from two informal schooling projects, and a comparison group of young people with no experience of street life, drawn from a state school. 

Project: Boys don’t cry

Jenny Fisher from the Critical and Community Psychology Research group is involved in a new project to give a voice to young men suffering in silence via video booths.

Boys Don’t Cry aims to explore the gap between growing mental health issues and risks for young males and their access to support services in the Everton area of Liverpool.

Researchers will travel the city, visiting community locations with a video booth to engage young men in conversations about their mental health, their experiences and if they know what mental health services are available to them.

Men are experiencing a mental health crisis. Suicide is the single biggest cause of death among men under 45 in the UK and in 2014, male suicide accounted for 75% of all suicides. According to the charity Campaign Against Living Miserably or CALM, there is a cultural barrier preventing men from seeking help when they need it as it equates to weakness and a loss of masculinity. Talking about mental health and access to services could prevent hundreds of male suicides.

Impact and importance 

The project will be led by Dr Jenny Fisher, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Care and Social Work at Manchester Met and Professor Mark Anderson from Edge Hill University.

Dr Jenny Fisher said: “Young people, especially men, can be disconnected from mental health services. The Boys Don’t Cry project will give us an opportunity to explore a socially innovative way of engaging with young men and at the same time providing a space for them to talk.”

Boys Don’t Cry was awarded funding through a HEFCE Social Innovation Sandpit which brought together participants to develop innovative ideas in interdisciplinary cross-organisation teams. David Sweeney, Director for Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange at HEFCE, said: “I am delighted with the quality of projects developed at the social innovation sandpit which we co-designed in association with the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement. The projects will apply existing research and knowledge in order to focus on a range of pressing social issues.”

This research will allow the real experiences of struggling men to be recorded and shared with policy makers, commissioners and service providers in order to identify the barriers, offer solutions and improve accessibility to services. The accounts would also be used as training and teaching resources for paramedics, police forces, social care practitioners and youth workers.

Boys Don’t Cry is a five-month project that will begin this month.