Investigating Resilience in Street Connected Young People in Guatemala City,  April 2016 (18 Month Project), British Academy/Leverhulme Funded.
Project leads Andrew Stevenson & Jeremy Oldfield
Street Connected Young People (SCYP) (or ‘street children’) are a heterogeneous group who may be abandoned, living with their homeless family, or working on the street to support themselves. They are often found in urban centres in Central/South America, where there is a large disparity between rich and poor and a lack of social support (Pluck, 2014).
SCYP are at increased risk of encountering negative life experiences, such as abuse, violence and exploitation (McAdam-Crisp et al, 2005), yet they can show high levels of resilience (defined here as health, despite adversity, Ungar, 2012). Prior research shows that SCYP can display relatively good levels of psychological wellbeing (Aptekar, 2004) and maintain the ability to manage complex relationships with their families whilst living on the street (Benitez, 2011). SCYP have also displayed positive levels of everyday cognitive skills, such as creativity, executive functions and non-verbal intelligence (Clark et al, 2011, Dalhman et al, 2013). 
This 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. 

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.


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  and more details will appear here soon.

In the meantime, contact for more information.


Intimate Citizenship in the lives of people with learning disabilities.

Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole is collaborating with colleagues at the University of Sheffield, UK, Ryerson University, Canada and McMaster University Toronto exploring the intimate citizenship in the lives of people with learning disabilities.

You can find out about their Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Canada,funded workshop here:

You can read a recent paper on intimate citizenship here:


Home Focus evaluation

Dr Jenny Fisher is working as part of a team with Professor Josie Tetley, Dr Emma Reeta-Koivunen, and colleagues from the Open University (Dr Chris Kubiak and Dr Caroline Holland) on an evaluation of 2 pilot Home Focus projects. We were commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Society to undertake the research. Home Focus is a volunteer scheme in which volunteers work with clients with low care needs who do not need home care. They are either new to using the services of the Alzheimer’s Society or have stopped receiving home care, and opted to have support from a volunteer. The activities vary across the two pilot sites (Swansea and Neath, and Lancashire). In Swansea, the scheme is focused on the original Home Focus plans of gardening and DIY, while in Lancashire the focus is on befriending and social support. We are using qualitative research methods including field visits, diaries and interviews. Our evaluation work began in early 2015 and is due to complete in the autumn 2016.

MMU Place

Jenny Fisher, Rebecca Lawthom and Neil Carey are working as part of a cross-university team to develop a post-graduate university wide unit that seeks to engage students in civic activity and provide accreditation for this. Meeting the desire for real world experience coming from employers and community-based organisations whilst positioning MMU as civically motivated, for and of communities (internal and external), this unit will allow students to have their civic engagement activities accredited as part of their formal curriculum. We are working with a Manchester Metropolitan University intern, Liam Challenger, who recently graduated with a degree in sociology. You can find out more by visiting the blog and following the project on Twitter @MMUPlace


COMMON PULSE Gamelan Project

A participatory music project for children and young people with complex and severe learning and communication difficulties at Seashell Trust


Common Pulse is a knowledge exchange project devised and led by the Seashell Trust in collaboration with the Research Institute for Health & Social Change (RIHSC), Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), and RosFish Music. Funded by Youth Music, the aim is to develop Seashell Trust’s in house gamelan as a resource for students, staff and families but also the wider community. To achieve this, the project comprises multiple strands including family and holiday workshops, staff training sessions and practitioner development and public engagement events. At the heart of the scheme is a series of weekly participatory gamelan sessions for students with complex learning difficulties, intended to develop communication and musical skills and enhance wellbeing. An evaluation led by MMU is exploring the approach taken to practice as well as participant outcomes. To date the project has delivered:

  • 51 student workshops
  • 6 holiday projects
  • 4 family projects
  • 3 staff training sessions
  • Public engagement event

The Seashell Gamelan

A gamelan is a type of percussion based ensemble originating from the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali. It is increasingly used in education and arts outreach programmes outside of Indonesia because the instruments are accessible, engaging and lend themselves to mixed ability group work. Gamelan is also highly egalitarian with collective musical expression valued over individual ability. The Seashell Gamelan was made in the Javanese city of Yogyakarta in the mid-1990s by the acclaimed gamelan maker Suhirdjan.

For further information please contact Dr Rachel Swindells:

Also see: (click gamelan project link)


Making Education a Priority (MEaP): A Manchester Metropolitan University collaboration with local supplementary schools

We are interested in the potential to increase outreach and research opportunities for local schools and communities and to deliver a programme of education and community engagement provision, with access to higher skills and education for local people. Thus far, MMU staff members and representatives of local Hulme-based organisations have formed action groups in areas around Education, Public Health, Employment and Skills and the Environment agenda. This has already led to mentoring projects involving local schools and colleges, studies exploring the health and educational impacts of the campus, community-based archaeological digs, community education activities, award-winning art and community history projects – the list is growing every day.

Working with predominantly BAME supplementary schools we have developed a PG Cert in Teaching and Learning for supplementary school teachers. We are also researching the essential qualities comprising black-led pedagogy and its contribution to tackling social inequalities in BAME communities (publications to follow, shortly).


How the scholarship of C.L.R. James has mobilised a local community to use Education as a driver for Urban Renewal

Dr Ornette Clennon (Manchester Metropolitan University) is working to capture and to explore the ‘process mechanisms’ of the community activism of the Save the Nello James Centre campaign in South Manchester. The campaign aims to galvanise local community support to buy the now derelict Nello James Centre that was bequeathed to the residents of Manchester by Vanessa Redgrave in honour of the black scholar and activist, C.L.R. James (who worked in Manchester for a brief period in the 1930s). The campaign group is working  to restore it back into a heritage and education centre at the heart of local community’s enterprise activities. Clennon and Dunn will use interviews of the local campaigners and members of the wider community as a background context to explore the intellectual critical race legacy of C.L.R. James (his belief in historically situated analyses of oppression, his enthusiasm for local grassroots activism and his interdisciplinary cultural critiques combining analyses of “high” and “low” cultures with autoethnographic enquiry) and its contemporary impact on the urban renewal of the Whalley Range, Moss Side and Hulme areas of South Manchester. The research will be published as a book by Palgrave Macmillan, early next year


Disability & Austerity: the impact of the cuts, 5th November, 2015, Economic and Social Research Council Festival of Social Science

This event offered a timely opportunity for debate about the impact of the cuts on the lives of people labeled with a learning disability. Our partners SpeakUP Self-Adovcacy and the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities and Independent Living Advisors spoke about: circles of support; real employment and self-advocacy and the importance of each in the lives of people with learning disabilities.  For more details visit our news pages.


Big Society? Disabled People with Learning Disabilities and Civil Society (June 2013 – June 2015)

 The aim of this timely and exciting project is to explore the opportunities for disabled people with learning disabilities (LD) to contribute to and benefit from Big Society.The research team, from The University of Sheffield, Manchester Metropolitan University, Northumbria University and The University of Bristol, will be working with organisations of/for disabled people, activists and allies to discover how disabled people with LD are participating in their communities, in public services and in social action. The team will explore disabled people with LD’s access to social capital and networks of interdependence as well as their social emotional well-being in a context of austerity.  For more information please contact Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole:


Evaluation of adoption activity days for British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) (October, 2011 – November, 2012)

Working with BAAF, we carried out an evaluation of a pilot project exploring the use of adoption activity days in the family finding process.  A seminar funded as part of the Economic and Social Research Council Festival of Social Science was held on 3rdNovember, 2012, to share the research findings with a general audience.

For more information please contact Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole:

Resilience in the lives of disabled people across the life course (October, 2011 – February, 2013)

Working with the UK disability charity, Scope, we asked:

Ø what resilience means to disabled people at different stages across the life course;

Ø how resilience, or a lack of it, has affected disabled people’s ability to negotiate challenges and make the most of opportunities in their lives;

Ø what works in building resilience amongst different groups of disabled people;

And we:

Ø developed a toolkit for use by Scope’s policy and services functions that outlines what Scope means by resilience, what does or doesn’t work in supporting people to become resilient, and what we can do to build resilience in disabled people throughout the life course.

For more information please contact Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole:

Does Every Child Matter, post-Blair?  The interconnections of disabled childhoods (September, 2008 – May, 2011)

How did disabled children, between the ages of 4 and 16 years old and their families, fared under the Blair government?  This project explored the extent to which policies, legislation and practices have tackled matters of exclusion and regeneration for disabled children. We engaged with parents, children and professionals to help us to explore the impact of the Every Child Matters agenda; the adequacy of existing theories about disabled children, parents and professionals; how the concepts of ‘good parent’, ‘enabling professional’ and ‘disabled children’ are promoted; the ways in which forms of ‘enabling healthcare’, ‘inclusive education’ and ‘accessible leisure’ can work together. Our study employed a critical review of policy, interviews with 10 disabled children and 10 parents, focus groups with a mix of professionals and 18 months observation of families as they participate in the arenas of health, education and leisure. Our work was informed by critical disability studies, critical and community psychologies and sociologies of childhood and families. It will be of interest to parent organisations, practitioners, policy makers and organisations of disabled people. This project built, in part, on a previous ESRC funded project (RES-000-23-0129).

For more information please contact Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole:

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