The Action Research Cooperative is an exciting urban governance innovation that forms the heart of the Urban Institute’s ESRC Urban Transformations grant, Jam and Justice. The Action Research Cooperative (ARC) brings together academics, public and voluntary sector workers, community activists and citizens in Greater Manchester to co-produce action research projects to test cutting edge ideas about participatory and inclusive governance. Over the past nine months, the Jam and Justice team have designed and delivered a process for engaging with possible participants in the Greater Manchester city-region, hosting a launch at the People’s History Museum in May, three interactive workshops and undertaking over 100 one-to-one chats to spread the word. At the same time, Dr Bert Russell sought inspiration for what could be done in Greater Manchester to give citizens more voice and say over decisions that affect them, including participating in a summer camp of European Alternatives in Berlin.

Over 50 people finally applied to join the ARC, representing a multitude of skills, talent and commitment across the city-region. After a difficult decision-making process 15 people were finally selected to join the Jam and Justice team in forming the ARC.

The first meeting of the ARC took place on 2nd November, hosted by partners at the University of Manchester. After a warm welcome from Alex Whinnom, co-investigator from the Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation, Bert Russell led a quick fire Speed Dating session, designed to test the wits – and ability of participants to move one place to the left in rapid succession (much harder than it might seem!). This was followed by a Show and Tell session, facilitated by Liz Richardson (University of Manchester) and Catherine Durose (University of Birmingham) in which people brought one item to illustrate an inspirational case or example of participatory governance. These activities were interspersed by presentations from the Principal Investigator, Beth Perry, as part of an induction process designed to enable decision-making over action research projects to be delegated to the ARC.