Kingston Charity Research Network Project


The Kingston Charity Research Network Project is a community of practice that bridges Kingston University with local social enterprises and small businesses with the mutually beneficial aims of developing inter-organisational and interdisciplinary research relationships, of sharing stories about effective funding applications, and of developing skills for writing bids.

About the Kingston Charity Research Network Project

The Kingston Charity Research Network began by generating a toolkit, focused on bid writing, professional communication and communities of practice, whose knowledge could be disseminated both inside and outside the University. Thereafter, following the format of a community of practice, it enabled the creation of university-community partnerships that encourage collaborative, mutually beneficial projects between academics or students at Kingston University and groups in local government, third sector organisations and SMEs.

Such expansions of the research and business culture at Kingston University, particularly in the context of bid writing, enable the development of new routes for research, collaboration and knowledge exchange with local entities in the Kingston Borough and beyond. Moreover, in being centred around core workplace skills-provision and around developing connections with the local community, the project feeds directly into Kingston University's Town House Strategy and Future Skills agenda.

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To find out more about the formation and future of this project, click on the items below.

Identifying a professional writing skills gap

Kate Scott and Meg Jensen launched this project in 2019 as part of the Creative and Professional Writing Academic Excellent project, which aimed to increase the access of Kingston University's diverse student cohort to the Creative Industries by developing unique and sought-after employability skills. Scott and Jensen recruited and worked with an Industry Advisory Board, which included Brian Brivati, to identify skills gaps in Higher Education (HE). Together, they found that professional writing skills, particularly bid writing skills, were rarely taught within HE courses. In response, they created an adaptable, transferable bid writing, professional communication and community of practice ‘toolkit' and began testing it with a small number of students, Kingston School of Art staff, local third-sector organisations and SMEs.

Forming a community of practice

The project was initially built upon nine months of ongoing stakeholder consultation and network building to establish a need for bid writing support, for professional writing training and for answers to various powerful research questions in the third sector. These networking events, which took the form of a series of three networking and training symposiums in May, July and October of 2022 led by Scott, Jensen, Brivati, Peter Ely and Bernett Thornes in collaboration with Kingston Voluntary Action, led to the development of a community of practice that bridges local social enterprises and SMEs with the University.

Such communities of practice, as originally theorised by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, can foster new practices and innovations of many kinds; can capture, discuss and share tacit (informal, situated, embodied) knowledge; and, through mutual respect and intentional listening, can offer an inclusive and egalitarian way to share best practice concerning a group's specific aims (Wenger 1998: 73). These values continue to be shared by those within the Kingston Charity Research Network, with its cross-disciplinary and non-hierarchical exchanges of stewarded knowledge.

Locating the joint challenges

When the community of practice was first established in 2022, it identified a range of overlapping challenges. For local social enterprises and small businesses, these included:

  • the increasingly complex format of grant applications
  • a scarcity of local resources, even within a traditionally wealthier borough, which increases competition among local organisations already struggling to grow
  • the difficulty of finding staff with the professional writing and communication skills to produce effective proposals and tenders
  • the need for more academic research that can speak to the local community's problems

These challenges were also found to overlap with those of the HE sector, which include:

  • students and graduates, particularly in the arts and humanities, increasingly requiring more unique and desirable employability skills and opportunities
  • universities needing to engage with their local communities more effectively, working towards social outreach and social cohesion
  • universities needing to diversify their offering, for instance into more short courses, to increase commercial impacts

Many of these points are articulated in the key values of Kingston University's Town House Strategy, which is seeking to re-invigorate the offerings of the HE sector by generating more links between students' courses and their future experiences in the world outside academia.

Ongoing aims

In 2023 Scott and Jensen successfully applied to the Enhancing Research Culture Funding KS to support the project's further development, which enabled the running of several new events, with the help of Daniel Read. These events have included online clinics, a networking symposium and bid writing workshops.

The Network's ongoing aims are centred around continuing to answer the challenges and concerns shared by the different members of this community of practice. The project's future aims include:

  • continued in-person or online meetings with other local organisations who might benefit from being a member of the network
  • facilitated meetings with new and already-established members of the network alongside academics to help not only build university-community bridges but also disseminate the community's shared resources and knowledge
  • the generation of new community-led research approaches that can improve access to, and participation with, underrepresented or vulnerable groups and thereby generate socially impactful, innovative, collaborative research projects with local third sector and SMEs, funded by UK Government and Research Councils
  • the delivery of more professional communication and writing skills, specifically pertaining to bid writing and funding, within undergraduate courses to ensure students enter employment with these valuable workplace skills
  • the development of such teaching materials into a bespoke short course to allow organisations, both inside and outside the network, to grow by providing their staff with CPD courses to ensure their ability to write effective bids
  • the introduction of consultancy initiatives to create further collaborative work opportunities for academics as well as BA, MA and PhD students within Kingston University
  • mapping the process by which the above activities occur to generate a methodology capable of cascading across disciplines at Kingston University and elsewhere

These aims have tangible benefits for the stakeholders both inside and outside the network. The development of the teaching toolkit into a bespoke SME-focused short course, for example, would not only grow Kingston University's local industry outreach but also diversify its capacity for income generation.

Our partners

The original stakeholder consultations and network building events in 2022 were organised in collaboration with Kingston Voluntary Action (KVA), an umbrella organisation that represents and supports dozens of local charities, CICs and community groups and representatives from the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. KVA offers a comprehensive wrap-around service to charities and community groups that includes advice, guidance, training, networking, representation and brokerage. They aim to support, advise and develop voluntary organisations and community groups through the provision of information, advice and services. They review existing provision, identify unmet need, then initiate new projects and development to meet these needs. They also undertake a co-ordinating function within the voluntary sector and between the voluntary, statutory sectors and other partners. Kingston Voluntary Action includes the projects Superhighways, Connected Kingston, and Kingston Eco-op.

The Kingston Charity Research Network has also contributed to events run by BIG South London, an organisation that enables start-ups and established businesses, as well as charities and third-sector organisations, to grow in South London. They offer a range of free support programs and industry networks as well as funding opportunities. This organisation was originally created by the South London Partnership – a collaboration of five London boroughs including Croydon, Kingston upon Thames, Merton, Richmond upon Thames and Sutton – out of a recognition that business in the region needed a post-pandemic boost to reignite growth.

Within Kingston University, we have also collaborated with the Partnerships and Business Engagement team, particularly with Bernett Thornes. She is one of the members of staff in the Kingston School of Art who helps to run the Creative Industries Network, one of the collaboration, innovation and knowledge-exchange initiatives launched as part of BIG South London.

If you are interested in contacting any of these organisations, follow the links listed in the next section.

Contact information

For further information about the project and how you might contribute to it, contact:

For more information about events organised for local voluntary organisations and local businesses, contact:


Kate Scott

Dr Kate Scott

School Director Research & Enterprise

Meg Jensen

Dr Meg Jensen

Professor in English Literature and Creative Writing

Peter Ely

Dr Peter Ely


Dr Daniel Read

Hourly-paid Lecturer and Part-time Research Assistant

Brian Brivati

Visiting Lecturer