International launch of CASIC

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Posted on 20 October 2015
CASIC provides a fantastic example of a highly innovative, original, interdisciplinary university research centre, built on strong engagement with our external community

A new research centre had its international launch at Keele University. The launch of the Community Animation and Social Innovation Centre - CASIC - attracted over 150 participants, both academics and community members from the UK and abroad.  The event opened with an address by Keele’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Trevor McMillan, who, whilst stressing the strategic importance of the relationship between Keele University and its wider community, emphasised the central role CASIC plays in building capacity for community-centered solutions to local and global issues. CASIC’s main ambition is to expand the co-production of knowledge with community members in order to facilitate social innovation and bring about democratic changes in society.

The ground-breaking work undertaken by CASIC was recognised by a number of high profile speakers including AHRC Associate Director Gary Grubb who shared his vision about CASIC’s future prospects for creative, cross-disciplinary, and community co-produced research.  The Connected Communities Leadership Fellow, Professor Keri Facer from Bristol University praised the uniqueness of CASIC in the academic world, inviting the audience to rethink research in the age of collaboration, interdisciplinarity and precarity, while Professor Kate Pahl, from Sheffield University, shared her views on why centres such as CASIC are key to improving the social conditions of individuals and their communities through the application of co-created knowledge.

The Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the New Vic Theatre, Staffordshire, a founding partner of CASIC, gave a compelling talk about the history of the New Vic and its relationships with the local community and the university. The audience then participated in a panel discussion with practitioners from the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), the National Association of Neighbourhood Management and Jericho Road Solutions. The debate focused on the expectations that communities have of academic research and from universities in general. 

The first day closed with two inspiring addresses: the first from Dr Lai Yong Tan, director of outreach and community engagement at the College of Alice and Peter Tan, NUS. He mesmerised the audience with his stories about community engagement in the Yunnan Province, where he spent 15 years, training and educating community doctors in very remote villages.  In the final talk, Dr Aki Koponen, Director of the Finnish Centre for Collaborative Research at the University of Turku stressed the significance of the relationship between his centre and CASIC.

Participants had the opportunity to experience the CASIC exhibition held in Chancellor's Building and curated by Kerry Jones, Keele’s Arts Officer. The exhibition entitled ‘Look and look again’ comprises installations, film, music and photographs that celebrate the creativity and ground-breaking nature of the knowledge co-produced in collaborative research by CASIC academics and community partners.

Day two of the event featured a number of interactive workshops starting with a moving audiovisual and multichannel concert about the lost industries of Stoke-on-Trent and the present hope and creativity of its inhabitants, with compositions by Professor Rajmil Fishman, Dr Diego Garro and Dr Steve Bird.  This was followed by an inspiring talk about the interactive Dorothy Richardson online exhibition by Professor Scott McCracken and Dr Rebecca Bowler, and a jazz-philosophy fusion workshop run by Dr James Tartaglia who played his saxophone and involved the audience in contemplating Schopenhauer’s philosophy while singing along to co-produce a new piece of jazz-philosophy work. The audience also enjoyed some creative writing and homemade ice-cream, courtesy of the literary café run by Dr Ceri Morgan and led by emergency poet, Deborah Alma. The programme ended with a participatory workshop run by Dr Gemma Burford, from Brighton University, the winner of the first CASIC working papers series prize.  Throughout the day, participants were invited to visit the KAVE in the School of pharmacy and experience a ‘health in the community’ immersive workshop. This virtual environment provided an exciting and provocative opportunity for participants to explore the ‘meaning of health’ using a virtual environment designed by Luke Bracegirdle (School of Pharmacy) and incorporating findings from previous research funded by the AHRC and EPRC.  During the day, creative experts and animateurs from the New Vic Borderlines team ran cultural animation workshops in the Chancellor Building, bringing to life the artefacts and the stories of the CASIC exhibition.

Professor Mark Ormerod, Keele’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, said: ‘Interdisciplinary research and engagement with external partners are key strategic priorities for Keele, and CASIC provides a fantastic example of a highly innovative, original, interdisciplinary university research centre, built on strong engagement with our external community’.

For further details about this and future events organized by the Centre, see the website or, to become a member of CASIC, please email Liz Riley on