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Southampton Covid Participatory Action Research and Champions initiative Evaluation (CoPACT)

Evaluation completed in April 2023

Academic Outputs

Available soon

Seminars, Presentations, and Creative Outputs

Available soon

What does the research mean for Local Authorities?

The evaluation will provide value to a range of people and organisations. For the public health team and charitable organisations involved it will provide detailed findings about how these programmes worked, who benefitted most, and the best way to run them going forward. For public health leaders who might fund future programmes it will tell them how much each approach costs and how they might best organise the services to maximise benefit. From a research perspective, using the ‘realist evaluation’ approach is quite a new way of evaluating these programmes. The findings will be of interest to researchers and evaluators of public health services because it can be difficult to explore the benefits and challenges of these programmes, as they are complicated with many people involved and many moving parts.

What does the evaluation research mean for the Public?

The findings from this evaluation will help to improve local stakeholders’ knowledge about how to improve COVID-19 awareness and encourage vaccination. Understanding how to best manage a peer researcher programme allows councils to hear community voices and forge future partnerships that can create positive change.

How are the public involved in the evaluation?

Local stakeholders and those involved in peer researcher or Champion programmes will be involved throughout the design and delivery of this project, adding their insight to help the researchers answer questions that are important to them. They will also help with understanding the results of this evaluation and with sharing them.

Lay summary of research

Southampton City Council has been trying a number of ways to help spread accurate health information during the COVID-19 pandemic and to communicate better with residents about what they need from public health services. In September 2020, a COVID-19 Champions programme was set up, which involved members of the public volunteering to help share accurate information about how to keep themselves and their families and communities safe during the pandemic. More recently, a Vaccine Champion programme has been running which aims to increase knowledge and uptake of the covid vaccine among groups where rates have been lowest. Vaccine champions can be an individual or an organisation such as primary schools. The champions are volunteers, and the idea is to get a broad range of people to have conversations with and spread key information to their families, friends, social groups, and wider communities. Alongside the champion programmes, a community participatory action research programme has been running. This programme involved a smaller group of paid individuals becoming peer researchers.

The Southampton Covid Participatory Action Research and Champions Initiative Evaluation (CoPACT) findings will provide lessons for future champion or community participation programmes. This will help with continued support for COVID-19, but also for wider health and wellbeing programmes that might involve community members. This project is using a ‘realist evaluation’, which involves speaking to a range of people involved in organising and running these programmes to get their ideas of how the programmes worked and the benefits that people in the community might have had as a result. By speaking to a range of people and looking at a range of materials, the evaluation aims to get a full picture of the ways in which the programmes work, the good (or not) things that happened as a result, and how the community and organisations involved played a role.

Research design

  1. Phase 1: This phase aims to identify how the Champions and peer researcher programmes work (or not) to produce outcomes (participation/lack of participation from individuals in the community). Initial programme theories are developed.
  2. Phase 2: These theories or ideas are then tested through interviews with key people and by reviewing documents from each programme. This phase will also involve asking members of the public to submit photos that represent their experiences or any benefits from the programmes.
  3. Phase 3: Findings are then combined to see if any changes need to be made to the initial ideas about how the programmes work. Patterns from the interviews and documents are identified and will be used to produce a broader explanation that can apply to other programmes.

Evaluation of Southampton's community involvement approaches to COVID-19 (COVID-19 Community Champions and Community Participatory Action Research) (PHIRST Connect) - NIHR Funding and Awards


Local Authority / Partner(s)

Southampton City Council

PHIRST Connect Research Team

Professor Katherine Brown, Dr Neil Howlet, Charis Bontoft, Dr Olujoke Fakoya

*All PHIRST Connect members input into every project