The needs of ethnic minority women in Reading: important research co-produced with women learners

Dr. Sally Lloyd-Evans and Dr. Lorna Zischka from the Participation Lab worked with women connected to Reading Community Learning Centre (RCLC) to co-produce research into the needs of  ethnic minority women in Reading. The report was launched on 19th July 2018 at Reading Community Learning Centre with a welcome and introduction from Sarah del Tufo, Chair of the Board of Trustees of RCLC and from the Right Worshipful Mayor of Reading, followed by a presentation of the research process and findings by Sally Lloyd-Evans, Lorna Zischka, Raya Mohammed and Hadil Tamim, RCLC learners who had conducted interviews with their peers.


The research sought to understand:

  • What do ethnic minority women outside RCLC networks need?
  • How do other stakeholder and service providers perceive RCLC?
  • What do women inside RCLC say they need to grow their skills, confidence, welfare, inclusion, social status and independence?

Following training, RCLC learners conduced questionnaire-based interviews in respondents’ first language with 114 black and ethnic minority women (over 70% from outside of RCLC). The interviews focused on their everyday lives and circumstances, ambitions and hopes, barriers and concerns, social networks, connections and wellbeing. Interviews were also conducted with organisations serving vulnerable communities by Hayley Ryall and Bethany Brown, University of Reading undergraduate placement students.


The research found that RCLC is meeting a genuine need that is not provided by other organisations in Reading. English language learning and developing social ties (especially cross-cultural social ties) were identified as important needs of ethnic minority women. English language and building social relationships were found to be mutually reinforcing, so the fact that RCLC addresses both together is a particular strength of their approach.  Many women lacked alternative opportunities to develop their language skills and cross-cultural connections.


RCLC appears to be targeting those communities most in need of its particular services, with most of its clientele drawn from migrants from the Arab world and South Asia who tended to struggle with language issues and were vulnerable in terms of their distance from the work place and lack of knowledge about mainstream British cultures. Highly educated women and women whose families had money did not necessarily have a higher level of social and workplace integration. Although priority is often given to new arrivals in the UK, an important number of women remain marginalised even after many years living in the UK and should not be automatically excluded from language and skills training provided by community centres such as RCLC.


Strengths identified in RCLC’s approach which increased the accessibility of services to ethnic minority women included: a friendly multi-cultural environment which helped to build confidence; low cost/ free services, which is important to 80% of those interviewed, especially since investments in women’s knowledge and skills is not necessarily a priority for struggling families; women only learning environments, various levels of English and courses other than English; creche to enable women with small children to participate, daytime classes, central location, well networked community centre which can signpost on to other services, volunteering opportunities which help women to take further steps towards social and workplace integration.






The research also highlighted the dilemma that community-based organisations like RCLC may face regarding the length of time learners are able to study with RCLC and facilitating learners to progress on to other study and work opportunities. While continuity of relationships was very much valued, women also identified their ambitions and hopes to gain employment and qualifications through accessible accredited courses. The research therefore recommended that RCLC could do more to help clients to map their personal progression paths from RCLC into other areas of integration appropriate to their circumstances and to improve collaboration with other organisations, for example on issues of funding and on giving women a voice.

To conclude the presentation, Joanne Davis, Comic Relief Impact and Investment Regional Advisor gave her reflections and interesting questions were raised and discussions were held with members of the audience.

To find out more, check out the slide presentation or look out for the report to follow in the coming weeks!

Contact: Sally Lloyd-Evans, Participation Lab Leader


The study was commissioned by Reading Community Learning Centre and funded by Comic Relief and the Participation Lab, University of Reading.


Impact award for Sally Lloyd-Evans, Whitley Researchers, Paul Allen and the Young Researchers

INSPIRE – research that has inspired children and young people

For the second year running, Dr. Sally Lloyd-Evans, Participation Lab leader and the Whitley Researchers have been awarded a University of Reading Research Engagement and Impact Award. This year, Sally Lloyd-Evans, the Whitley Researchers, Paul Allen and the Young Researchers achieved the award under the INSPIRE category – for research that has inspired children and young people.

Since 2014, Dr Sally Lloyd-Evans has worked alongside residents in Whitley and other local partners, to develop a collective now known as the Whitley Researchers. Armed with research tools, the team is identifying needs within the community that will help them to address issues of economic and social exclusion.

This year, the team have worked with young people in local schools to train them as researchers and conduct youth-led research on issues they identified as important to them.  Sally Lloyd-Evans commented, “It’s great to see the work of the Young Researchers and the Whitley Researchers team rewarded and recognised by the University and the wider community in Reading, as well as this approach to youth-led community research more generally. ”


Students build giant lego house to highlight key community issues

Students at the John Madejski Academy (JMA), Reading built a life-size house out of giant Lego blocks with the help of architects, as they constructed a vision of their ideal ‘home’.

The JMA hosted the first Whitley for Real project on Wednesday 10th May 2017, facilitated by the Whitley Researchers and Sally Lloyd-Evans. Students from Years 8 and 12 worked together as a team – named by them as ‘The Royalty’ – using 1,500 ‘bricks’ measuring up to 75 cm long to construct their home.

Whitley for Real is a partnership between Reading Borough Council, JMA, Reading Girls School, the Whitley Researchers and the Whitley Community Development Association (WCDA), Whitley Big Local, the University of Reading’s Participation Lab, Reading UKCIC  and a range  of stakeholders including Bewley Homes, Whitley Excellent Cluster (WEC)  primary schools and the community.  The home-building project, funded by Reading UKCIC and with support from Bewley Homes, the Whitley Researchers and involving academics from the University’s Participation Lab, focused on young people’s attitudes to what makes a ‘welcome home’ in Whitley.

Read the full press release here.

Developing a Science Shop in Reading

We are pleased to let you know about our latest Participation Lab project. Alice Mauchline, Lab Advisory Group member, in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development is exploring how to best go about establishing a Science Shop in Reading and is planning a workshop to learn from existing Science Shops in June 2017. Read more about the project here.

Lab Event in September: “Enthusiasm for Citizen Science”

originalAs part of our Participation Lab commitment to co-producing knowledge for social change, we’re also really interested in the role that volunteers play in the collection and production of knowledge relating to social and environmental issues. One of our events this September is all about citizen science, an activity regularly defined as the participation of volunteers in professional science projects. In addition to probing the definition a little further, we also want to consider recent studies on motivations but also the costs and benefits of citizen science. You’re all warmly invited to attend.


Enthusiasm for Citizen Science: Taking stock of motivations, costs and benefits.

9th September 2016, University of Reading

It is often said that citizen science is growing as a field of practice, and with that comes a growing understanding of how citizen science can and should be used. At this event, we will be sharing best practice and current thinking on recent research surrounding motivations (of citizens, scientists, practitioners and policymakers) and the costs and benefits of citizen science. The event will introduce several research projects, including two recently funded by the UK Environmental Observation Framework (see Bringing together members of the BES Citizen Science SIG with representatives from monitoring agencies, this one-day event on ‘enthusiasm for citizen science’ will enable participants to take stock of recent research, share good practice and identify new directions and issues for citizen science research to consider.


Hilary Geoghegan (Participation Lab, University of Reading), Alison Dyke (Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York), Gitte Kragh (University of Bournemouth), Michael Pocock (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology), other speakers/commentators to be confirmed


University of Reading, Whiteknights Campus, URS Building, S2S21

WHEN: Friday, 9 September 2016 from 10:30 to 15:30 (BST)

Free booking: