Community Engagement

Find out how the Breaking Barriers team uses community engagement to ensure that local people and service users are empowered and supported to actively participate in service design and evaluation.

The BBI team have extensive experience of innovative approaches to engaging communities and service users, in ways that promote and develop active participation in helping to improve services and ensure that lived experiences of local people are at the heart of strategy and policy. Our ethos is to ensure that the voices of those who are the beneficiaries of services are not only heard but their aspirations and hopes are met; too often engagement is not adequately supported and can be used as a proxy for consultation, which does not do enough to create real change, for example drawing on a ‘vocal minority’ or the ‘usual suspects’ with the result that services continue to reflect the views of a limited number of people rather than reaching a much broader community whose needs are often greater and more complex.

Real community engagement means going beyond traditional methods of consultation and can often lead to surprising results, as some of the case studies BBI staff have been involved in demonstrate:

NHS England Lived Experience Framework

In recognition of our expertise BBI was in February 2021 awarded a place on NHS England’s Lived Experience Framework, granting us the opportunity to work with NHSE in providing community engagement services in a range of settings, including Health & Justice, Armed Forces, Sexual Assault services and Children & Young People’s services.

The framework runs from April 2021 through to October 2024 and will be an opportunity for BBI to demonstrate our innovative community engagement methodology in projects up and down the country.

Department of Health’s Black and Minority Ethnic Drugs Needs Assessment and Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health Programmes

Members of the BBI team have extensive experience in delivering large scale research and community engagement programmes including the Department of Health’s Drugs Misuse among BAME Communities programme. The contract value of these programmes was £7 million, invested in more than 450 community projects across England and Wales. This involved a range of community groups representing 30 different national and ethnic populations undertaking needs assessments on drugs, mental health, policing, education, and health and social care within their own communities.

The projects included training for more than 3,500 individuals who were ordinary members of their communities. Collectively they contacted more than 60,000 other people in their communities including significant numbers of black and minority ethnic drug users, mental health service users, and offenders.

Strategic Partnership with GypsyLife

BBI staff have been working in partnership with Gypsylife since 2011 when they jointly reviewed the implementation of the Equality Delivery System for Nottinghamshire PCT. We have continued to work with and support Gypsylife on a variety of projects related to health, education and offending amongst Gypsy, Romany and Traveller (GRT) communities. Most recently BBI staff have been supporting GypsyLife to assess and respond to the impact of Covid-19 in GRT communities as part of a NHS England and NHS Improvement programme on lived experience.


Professor the Lord Patel of Bradford


Dr Jonathan Bashford

Research Programme Director

Dominic Corfield

Partnerships and Programme Manager

George Evans-Jones

Senior Programme Manager