Research Components

Communities in Control study

Communities in Control


The study involves a mixed methods approach, combining the use of in-depth qualitative fieldwork (non-participation observations and interviews) in Big Local areas and with national stakeholders, the construction of routine datasets and longitudinal surveys of actively engaged Big Local residents. 

Phase 1

The first phase of the Communities in Control study began in January 2014 and ended in December 2015. During this period the research team studied the context and early roll out of Big Local. This phase also looked at if it was possible to conduct a longer term study of Big Local’s impacts on health

Phase 2

The second phase of the Communities in Control Study started in October 2015 and ended in March 2017. This phase researched how resident led Big Local partnerships work together to influence improvements in neighbourhoods such as environmental actions, addressing neighbourhood stigma or improving transport routes.  During this stage the research team piloted a survey to understand the early impacts on health and wellbeing for engaged residents.

PhD studentship

Alongside the main research study in phase 1, a linked PhD undertaken by Dr Joanna Reynolds explored enactments of ‘community’ in the Big Local programme, to contribute to approaches for evaluating and interpreting the impacts of such initiatives on health and health inequalities. 

These two phases  were funded by NIHR School for Public Health Research – visit the SPHR project page for further information.

Phase 3 of CiC

Further funding was obtained in 2017 under a commissioned call for research from the NIHR Public Health Research Programme.  This enabled the evaluation to continue and  consider the longer-term outcomes of Big Local.  The latest phase of the study runs between 2018 and 2021 and is investigating the impacts on the health of the residents who are most engaged in Big Local, as well as on local populations of Big Local areas. 

There are four main components to phase 3:

Work Package 1 will extend existing datasets for Big Local areas using data from sources such as the Annual Population Survey. It will analyse routine area level data to measure changes in mental health among the population of Big Local areas over time compared with changes in comparison areas. 

Work Package 2 will analyse three waves of a survey of residents of all 150 Big Local areas, carried out by Local Trust. We will follow a panel of residents actively involved in Big Local to identify what, if any, impacts (e.g self reported levels of control, health, wellbeing) being involved has had on residents who have participated directly in the initiative.

Work Package 3 will conduct in-depth qualitative work with residents and other participants in 15 Big Local areas to understand the processes and pathways leading from greater collective control by residents to positive or negative health effects. The research will gather examples of different ways in which residents act together to improve their neighbourhoods and identify the factors that help or hinder these processes.

Work Package 4 will conduct an economic evaluation of Big Local.

The third phase is funded by the NIHR Public Health Research Programmme – visit the NIHR project page for further information.


Project governance and collaborators

The study is carried out with the agreement and support of Local Trust and participating Big Local partnerships.  The research is an independent evaluation of the programme and does not receive funding from Local Trust or Big Local.

The CiC study is overseen by a national advisory group.  The team works collaboratively with stakeholder groups such as Local Trust, residents and public health practitioners to identify learning for the development of future community programmes and action on health inequalities.