(Re-)negotiating access: The politics of researching skills and knowledge for 'sustainable communities'

Julie Newton, Alex Franklin, Jennie Middleton, Terry Marsden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The last decade has witnessed a surge of interest in 'sustainable communities' within the UK. This has stimulated a plethora of research aimed at acquiring a better understanding of what 'sustainable communities' might look like and how they can be achieved. However, this has not been accompanied by a reflection and interrogation of the actual processes, challenges and politics of doing 'sustainable communities' research. This paper addresses this gap by highlighting the importance of paying attention to the on-going process of negotiating access when carrying out sustainability research at the community level. We draw on a recent study of skills and knowledge for 'sustainable communities' in Stroud Gloucestershire, UK, to illustrate the importance of sensitivity to social relationships throughout and beyond the research trajectory within sustainability research. Our experience raises important questions about the politics of research practices when doing sustainability research 'with' communities and the challenges associated with participatory approaches as a means to demonstrate research impact. We argue that in developing a fuller understanding of why and how different types of community level initiatives can contribute to the 'sustainable communities' agenda, greater consideration needs to be given to how these community practices can be better supported through the process of doing academic research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)585-594
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Reflexivity
  • Research access
  • Research impact
  • Research methods
  • Sustainable communities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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