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PhD Studentship - Setting the assets-based agenda: a critical realist exploration

  • Delivery:
    Full time according to Funding Council definitions

PhD Studentship - Setting the assets-based agenda: a critical realist exploration

This is an exciting opportunity to make an important contribution to the understanding of community development. Its focus will on assets-based approaches to health and well-being. This approach involves building on the assets found in communities and mobilising individuals and community-led organisations to develop their strengths and their capacity to improve the health and well-being of community members.  
 
The PhD will be part of a wider programme of research that is being funded by the National Institute for Health Research, called ‘Common Health Assets: a mixed-methods, realist evaluation and economic appraisal of how community-led organisations (CLOs) impact on the health and wellbeing of people living in deprived areas’. The student will have the opportunity to be part of a strong interdisciplinary team that includes academics from universities in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 
 
This PhD will take a step back from the immediate analysis of how effective community led organisations have been in mobilising community assets to look at how community assets approaches have developed and what has influenced their development.   
 
The basic premise of the PhD is that community assets approaches mean different things to different constituencies. While practitioners are an important constituency in the provision of assets-based initiatives, they are only one of a number of stakeholder groups, which also include policy makers and administrators in central government, local government and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, and community members that engage with the initiatives. 
 
This PhD project will examine how these various social groups have influenced the direction of asset-based interventions, and in turn how (if at all) those interventions have influenced social relations. It will seek to: 

  • differentiate between different stakeholders’ conceptualisations of, and influence over the development of asset-based approaches; 
  • identify the nature and extent of different stakeholders’ influence; 
  • establish how the combined influence of different agendas have contributed to the form and function that asset-based interventions have taken; and 
  • explore the extent to which these interventions have influenced wider social relations. 

 
Data gathered by the PhD student will be supplemented by data gathered by other researchers in the Common Health Assets project.  

This is a fully-funded PhD studentship which includes a stipend of £15,450 each year to support your living costs.

This project is conditional upon the funding being secured.

The closing date for applications is 31st October 2021. 

Key information

Next start date:

24 January 2022

Location:

Bournemouth University, Lansdowne Campus

Duration:

36 months

Entry requirements:

Outstanding academic potential as measured normally by either a 1st class honours degree or equivalent Grade Point Average (GPA), or a Master’s degree with distinction or equivalent. If English is not your first language you'll need IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 6.0 in each component, or equivalent). For more information check out our full entry requirements

Project details

PhD Studentship - Setting the assets-based agenda: a critical realist exploration

The assets-based approach to health and well-being involves building on the assets found in communities and mobilising individuals and community-led organisations to develop their strengths and their capacity to improve the health and well-being of community members. However, it is marked by a variety of interpretations concerning its effect and function. Competing interpretations include regarding it as an innovative approach to community empowerment; a Trojan horse for neo-liberalism; and a return to traditional public health concerns. Roy (2016) has observed that the latter interpretation is dominant amongst social enterprise practitioners.

While an important constituency in the provision of assets-based initiatives, practitioners are only one of a number of stakeholder groups, which also include policy makers and administrators in central government, local government and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, and community members that engage with the initiatives.

Taking a morphogenetic approach (Archer, 1995) to address the processes by which structured social relations are maintained or transformed by social agency, this PhD project will examine how these various social groups have influenced the direction of asset-based interventions, and in turn how (if at all) those interventions have influenced social relations.

Reflecting Archer’s observation that the morphogenetic processes involved in altering structured relations are rarely, if ever, straightforward or unilinear, but are the result of competition and/or collaboration between different stake holding constituencies (and between social agents within those constituencies), this research will seek to:

  • Differentiate between different stakeholders’ conceptualisations of, and influence over the development of asset-based approaches
  • Identify the nature and extent of different stakeholders’ influence
  • Establish how the combined influence of different agendas have contributed to the form and function that asset-based interventions have taken
  • Explore the extent to which these interventions have influenced wider social relations.

Academic Impact 

This PhD, which is part of the prestigious funders scheme, will add an important theoretical dimension to the main
NIHR project entitled ‘Common Health Assets: a mixed-methods, realist evaluation and economic appraisal of how
community-led organisations (CLOs) impact on the health and wellbeing of people living in deprived areas’. It will
result in a number of publications and will add to the important methodological conversation about the realist
evaluation in open systems.

Societal Impact 

This project’s societal impact will result from adding to the emphasis of evaluations on the direct mechanisms for
change that organisations possess by looking at the relationships of those organisations with wider society, and the
effects of that relationship on both organisations and society.

Development Opportunities 

The student will have the opportunity to work with a strong interdisciplinary team that stretches beyond their
immediate supervisors to the wider Common Health Assets research group. They will gain experience in the critical
realist research approach. Opportunities also include training and experience in both quantitative and qualitative
research methods.

View the full project description (pdf 379KB)

The closing date for applications is 31st October 2021. 

Supervisors

Professor Sam Porter

Sam Porter is a sociologist by academic training and a nurse by profession. His wide research interests reflect this combination. His main areas of interest are palliative and end-of-life care; supportive care for cancer survivors and carers; maternal and child health; the sociology of health professionals; and the use of arts-based therapies. Recently, he has combined his interests through leadership of a randomised controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of music therapy in improving the well-being of children with behavioural problems, and a current pilot trial examining whether music therapy can reduce the anxiety of people reaching the end of their lives. In line with existing research strengths in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences relating to the experiences of older people, he is taking an increasing interest in issues around palliative care for the elderly.

Sam has adopted a wide range of methods in his research, ranging from the above-mentioned randomised controlled trials to the use of qualitative approaches such as ethnography. He is a strong advocate of realist approaches to knowledge, which provide a robust rationale for the use of mixed methods. In his advocacy of a realist philosophy of science, he has enjoyed a number of contentious debates.

Sam teaches on social theory, research methods and the sociology of health.

Please contact Professor Sam Porter for informal enquiries: porters@bournemouth.ac.uk

Additional supervisors

Dr Louise Baxter Professor

Michael Roy (Glasgow Caledonian University)

Funding

A fully-funded Studentship includes a maintenance grant of £15,450 per year to contribute towards living expenses during the course of your research, as well as a fee waiver for 36 months. 

Associated costs, such as for fieldwork and conference attendance, will also be met under the Studentship.

Academic support

The Research Development Programme, developed by the Doctoral College in line with the Researcher Development Framework (Vitae).

An added benefit is the opportunity to meet researchers from other academic schools at BU through the activities of the Doctoral College and benefit from their experiences, skills, and perspectives.

Full entry requirements

The BU PhD and MRes Studentships are open to UK, EU and International students.

Candidates for a PhD Studentship should demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 4 years and must demonstrate:

  • Outstanding academic potential as measured normally by either a 1st class honours degree (or equivalent Grade Point Average (GPA) or a Master’s degree with distinction or equivalent
  • An IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 6.0 in each component, or equivalent) for candidates for whom English is not their first language and this must be evidenced at point of application.

In addition to satisfying minimum entry criteria, BU will look closely at the qualities, skills and background of each candidate and what they can bring to their chosen research project in order to ensure successful completion.

Applicants will be asked to submit an online application form and a proposal (approximately 1500 words) outlining their understanding of the project for which they are applying, the approach they would envisage taking and what qualities they will bring to the research community.

Please note:

  • current BU Doctoral students are not eligible to apply for a Studentship
  • current MRes/MPhil students can apply, subject to satisfactory completion of their Research Degree prior to being able to take up the award
  • PhD Studentships cannot be used to support BU staff to complete doctoral programmes.

International entry requirements

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide evidence that you can understand English to a satisfactory level. English language requirements for this course are normally: 

IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 (with a minimum 6.0 in each component) or equivalent.

View further information about our English language requirements.

A number of pre-sessional English and preparatory programmes are offered through our partner institution, Bournemouth University International College, and will get you ready for study at BU at the appropriate level.

You can also find further details of the international qualifications we accept, and what level of study they apply to, on our postgraduate entry requirements page.

How to apply

Click the green ‘Apply now’ button at the top of the page and complete the online application form. You can find further guidance about applying for a postgraduate research degree in our Postgraduate Research section.

The closing date for applications 31st October 2021

Careers

A research degree can open new career opportunities in commercial research and development, consultancy, or could lead you to starting your own business. You may alternatively consider a career in academia. You may wish to undertake research to contribute to your knowledge of a specialist subject, or develop your employability by enhancing your skills in project management and analysis.

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The Doctoral College

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Fees and funding

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