USE-IT! - Unlocking Social and Economic Innovation Together

BCU researchers supported the USE-IT! project, an initiative aimed at improving urban development and solving social and economic problems in Birmingham.

Community working to improve the environment


  • Dr Jerome Turner
  • Jennie Sandford
  • Dr Peter Lee (University of Birmingham)
  • Dr Sara Hassan (University of Birmingham)

Research background

The current political and financial climate of austerity and neglect raises some important questions for those of us who want to revive communities. How do we deliver real co-production? How can we unlock anchor institutions to realise their local economic and social potential? How do we encourage local entrepreneurship? How do we engage communities in their own future? The USE-IT! project began with the aim of pioneering innovative approaches to inclusive urban development in West Birmingham and Smethwick to combat poverty in areas of persistent deprivation. It was funded by ERDF’s Urban Innovative Actions strand, which supports European urban authorities to experiment with bold and innovative solutions to urban challenges. The project was led by Birmingham City Council, with a wide range of Birmingham organisations and universities working in partnership.

Research methods 

We have focussed on building resilience in communities and linking people with their local assets. At the heart of this approach has been the principle that the physical, financial and human assets of a place can be leveraged for local economic benefit and it is in identifying and developing bridging relationships amongst such assets and anchor institutions that USE-IT! has delivered lasting change. The project was carried out across four distinct strands: Community Research; Skills Matching; Social Enterprise; Community Assets.

Research outcomes

The project resulted in the setting up and support of a number of initiatives and projects, which are documented in more detail on the project website. The website in itself is also one of the key project outputs created by BCU, which documents the projects and also collected 12 case studies and stories with a Learning objective, and a Library of project outputs, documents, posts, and reports.