Now in its fourth year the Challenge Project is a collaboration between Data & Analytics and the University of Essex. Each year Essex County Council sets a research topic, aka ‘the challenge’, to some of the best social science undergraduates at the University. The Challenge Project acts as an alternative to their individual undergraduate module. As a group the students work together to provide the council with evidence which is academically accredited and cutting edge.
This year myself and Thomas Aldworth set the challenge to understand what interventions in the employment market and within the community could help improve the lives of people with learning disabilities in Essex.
There are a number of case studies from around the world which have already improved the lives of those with learning disabilities including John’s crazy socks, a young man with down’s syndrome who started his own business designing and selling socks and ldok radio, an inclusive radio station. We wanted to know more about potential interventions and schemes which could make a difference in Essex.
Understanding the Council
In October, we hosted an insight day for the students to help them understand the role of different functions in aiding people with learning disabilities. The students heard from social workers who work directly with people with learning disabilities, commissioners, as well as a number of strategy, insight and engagement colleagues. This enabled them to see how their research can impact and influence decision making at ECC.
Each student took their own subtopic, producing an initial literature review. The students presented their initial research findings at an end of term presentation in December.
By coming at the work from a fresh perspective the students provided new evidence, but also some radical methods which could be implemented including: virtual reality assistance to help people with autism to become adjusted to social settings and; crowdfunding to fund interventions. Some of these are starting to be considered by the commissioners in the area.
This spring term the students are conducting their own independent field research. If you are interested in hearing about the final results they will be presenting their work on Thursday 2nd May 2019 please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the attendee list.