Community-University Partnership Initiative

Supporting community organisations and universities to develop research collaborations.

The Community University Partnership Initiative (CUPI) supported community organisations (including community businesses, charities, social enterprises, and voluntary organisations) and university researchers to create trusting and useful research collaborations which benefitted all the partners involved.

Relevance to me

The project supported community based organisations and businesses who were seeking to make a difference in their community. This took many forms such as providing services, running local facilities, connecting people, encouraging and supporting participation in public life, and much more.

CUPI offered community organisations and universities, a chance to meet to explore if and how they could work together. Potential partnerships, which emerged from these meetings, could then apply for small grants to help cover the cost of exploring their ideas to develop research projects together. Following this phase, there was a second opportunity for partnerships to apply for funding to take their projects forward, with support from the NCCPE to help identify other sources of potential project funding too.

Positive collaborations between university researchers and community partners were an exciting way to share and develop new knowledge that can benefit society, whilst also helping those involved to develop new insights and skills and make new connections to enhance their work.

How did it work?

The project followed a tried and tested formula (based on the Museum-University Partnership Initiative), and included:

  • 4 regional networking events hosted by the NCCPE brought together university researchers and community organisations based in these areas. Individuals from community organisations and universities applied to participate in the event.
  • Each match event hosted a maximum of 20 community business/organisation representatives and 20 researchers/university staff.
  • Each event provided lots of opportunity for delegates to meet one another, share ideas, and consider potential opportunities to work together.
  • At each event small grants of £500 to £1000 were available for ‘thinking time’. Teams of community partners and academics, working together, bid for funding to give them the time and space to finesse their plans and put together follow-up funding bids. 
  • Up to £7000 in total was available for thinking funding at each event with each new partnership able to request up to £1000.
  • Teams could then bid for a second pot of money (up to £5,000) to either develop or deliver their project, with unsuccessful bidders being offered support to find alternative funding routes to support their partnership.
  • NCCPE provided support for all project teams, offering advice, links to others working in similar areas of work, and signposting to opportunities for support for their project.
  • NCCPE brought project teams together to distil learning from the matching and support process to enhance support for community university partnership work in the future.

Benefits of participating

  • Opportunities for individuals and organisations involved to better understand the potential for and experience the benefits of working together.

  • The chance to find potential partners to enhance your work and spend time developing project ideas together.
  • Opportunities to secure seed funding to help kick start and support mutually beneficial partnership working.

Project outcomes

  • A range of successful research partnerships which made a difference to the communities involved (through either creating new useful knowledge, or applying existing research effectively)
  • Rich insight and learning on community-university partnerships, for the projects, funders and the wider sector to inform their work.

Who could get involved?

  • Each CUPI match event was held in a specific geographical region, to enable partnerships to develop within that region. Therefore we invited participation from academics and individuals from community organisations who identify with that region e.g. through being based there, or working alongside people who live there.
  • Community organisations of any size, including community businesses, charities, voluntary organisations, and volunteer-led organisations. Organisations needed to be legally constituted to apply. 
  • University academics or researchers from any discipline, at any stage of their career, who were interested in working in collaboration with those from community organisations, including community businesses
  • Funding was only available for partnerships developed at the event, which included a representative from a community organisation and a representative from a university.

The CUPI approach was based on the successful MUPI programme – which found that a regional focus helped ensure people found relevant people to work with. The 4 pilot match events took place in England, in line with Power to Change's remit.

Funded projects 

CUPI has provided ‘thinking funding’ to 28 partnerships over 4 pilot match events.

Take a look at the funded partnerships 


The Community University Partnership Initiative was jointly funded by Power to Change, an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses in England, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the AHRC-led Connected Communities Programme and as a part of the follow-up to the Programme’s Creating Living Knowledge Report.

Find out more

This programme ran from 2018-19 and is now completed. To find out more information, please contact