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New Project: Research Engagement Networks (RENs) 

NHSE made around £100k per ICS available for developing Research Engagement Networks (RENs) and mandated that VCSE organisations must be active paid partners. In our case, Reading Voluntary Action (RVA) offered to manage the BOB REN project which was a valued offer by the ICB and research partners. BOB ICS is thus now in Cohort 2 2023/24 of NHSE’s REN programme so this has some similarity with how the VCSE Alliance were seeded.

The partners in this are (with apologies for the acronyms): 

  • BOB VCSE Health Alliance: overall programme management and Action Plan writing, VCSE/communities activities mapping, access to focused community networks  
  • ARC/CRN: mapping current and planned research, understanding of demographics of current research participation 
  • ICB: provision of demographic and health inequalities data, ICS priorities, comms and event management  
  • AHSN:  coordination and oversight of mapping approach and methodologies,  system activities mapping, mapping report writing. Generating synergies and learning across BOB and Frimley ICS REN work. 
  • NHS R&D: in practice insights and provider priorities. 


Integrated Care Systems (ICS) need to facilitate and promote research, use research evidence, and involve diverse communities in the development of health care provision.  Without diverse participants in research, there is a risk that research outcomes will not be as effective across diverse population groups and that research trials will not be designed to meet the needs of a diverse population. Therefore, there is a pressing need to involve people from diverse backgrounds in research. 

Across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West we have been given money to develop a research engagement network. The idea of the network is to help make sure that the views of all communities are included in health and care research and planning. We want to make sure research and planning becomes more equitable.  

We know that great work is already happening, but may not always be shared with everyone that could act on it. We also know that the views of all communities are not included, and that, at times, communities can feel overburdened by requests, particularly if they don’t receive any feedback.  We want to understand better what is happening already so that we can improve things for everybody.  

We hope that you will be able to help us. Please would you consider having an initial discussion with us so that we can better understand what community engagement work you/your organisation is doing, or that you know about. By community engagement work we mean finding out about what people think and feel and using this to make a difference. 

Programme Aim  

To develop and sustain local research engagement networks (RENs) which are integrated and coordinated with broader engagement networks and feed into the ICS priorities for research and delivery. We want research to be more equitable, incorporating the views of all of our communities, including those currently underserved, in our planning and research. 

Programme Objectives  

To achieve the programmes aim we will:  

1: Map existing research and engagement activities and networks and generate an engagement gap analysis to show which communities are engaged, and which are not.  

2: Map existing, relevant, community and staff training and development activities and determine what is needed to increase capacity and capability in light of the engagement gap analysis.  

3: Agree processes to support sharing of, and action on, community insights and formally embed these in ICS and research governance structures.” 

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