Dr Michael Leyshon
Senior Lecturer in Human Geography


Research interests

My current research focuses on social innovation and the current Challenges for the Voluntary Sector. The growth in Britain’s ageing population coupled with the significant financial pressures on the NHS mean that innovative approaches are needed to deliver public services. The voluntary care sector is playing an increasingly important role in delivering these services. As the UK Governments White Paper on volunteering explained, “the voluntary and community sector is uniquely placed to reach socially isolated people and connect them to befriending services and other networks of friendship and support” (HMSO, 2012: 22). Because as we know, people are happiest and healthiest when they are active, independent, valued members of their communities, and supported by a network of family and friends. Despite potential the voluntary care sector still faces great challenges; especially around training, organising and retaining volunteers in communities.

Research projects

Social Innovation Group

Recently Completed:

2018 £10k Eden project: Social Prescibing for Health and Wellbeing 

2017 £20K Public Participation and the Transformation Programme (NHS)

Ongoing Projects:

2017 $30k The Wildlife Trust - Your Shore Beach Project

The project looks at how to promote social innovation and local engagement in the protection of marine environments through sharing knowledge with young people. Additionally, the Your Shore Beach Ranger project looks to enhance community knowledge and action through a range of activities that help people with long term health conditions improve their employability. The primary aim of the role is to carry out data collection using established tools, input and analyse the data, and to produce an annotated report for the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. The intern will contribute to the development of an analytical toolkit that can be used to help the Cornwall Wildlife Trust to refine their Your Shore Beach Rangers project. 

2017 £64k ESIF Widening Participation through Skills – Citizen Journalists

If we live in a ‘post-truth’ then where does this leave the national/international news gathering organisations who’s cultural capital is built upon the foundations of harvesting objective truths. Time and time again throughout UK audiences have witnessed the abject failure of national/international news outlets to report and accurately predict the mood of the nation on a number of key national issues such as the UK referendum to remain or leave in the EU held on 23rd June 2016. This research asks the question, are communities within and surrounding hyper-local community media organisations able to reclaim some of the lost national news agenda for their own regions? This research will deploy iterative network design methodologies to ensure that community media organisations are informed by, maintain and in some instances improve upon their inclusive approaches towards participation and representation. This research will also supply ongoing access to technology and training for a range of rurally marginalised costal communities within Cornwall who score very highly on the indices of multiple deprivations.

2017 £5.1million ERDF SMARTline – University of Exeter collaborative project with the Medical School (Tim Taylor), Geography (Catherine and Michael Leyshon), EMPS (Stuart Townley), Business School (Gareth Shaw), Volunteer Cornwall, Cornwall Council and Coastline Housing 

SMARTLINE is a research and innovation project aimed at supporting the growth of eHealth and eWellbeing of the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector in Cornwall through the identification and support for products, processes and services that will improved the health and wellbeing of social housing tenants and build the cohesion of their communities.  This is a partnership project involving the University of Exeter, Coastline Housing, Volunteer Cornwall and Cornwall Council. 

2017 £1.98million ESIF SMARTtenant – University of Exeter (Catherine and Michael Leyshon), The Learning Partnership, Volunteer Cornwall, Cornwall Council and Coastline Housing 

Smart Tennant focuses on vulnerable social tenants to deliver new training programmes to stabilise households and give them the confidence and skills to move towards employment and the opportunity to volunteer to support their peers in the community thus adding to the social capital of the area. 

2017 £1.2million ESIF Living Well to Work – University of Exeter (Catherine and Michael Leyshon), The Learning Partnership, Cornwall Council, Volunteer Cornwall and Pentreath 

Living Well for Work will deliver 12 pilots to test and evaluate innovative ways of engaging older individuals and those with mental ill health, LDD, autism, diabetes to re-engage in training and employment.   

2016 £25K ESRC IAA – iTapMapping www.volunteersincommunities.org/film/ 

This is a collaboration between the University of Exeter (with Michael Leyshon) and Age UK and is called the TAP-MAPPING project. TAP (Transport Access People)-MAPPING offers an opportunity to accelerate innovation and realise the wider impacts of the Volunteers in Communities project run by Dr Michael Leyshon and Prof Catherine Leyshon. At an operational level TAP-MAPPING will improve existing transport management systems for volunteers through social innovation in Cornwall's community transport sector. At the sectoral level the project will establish a network of partners to produce and deliver digital solutions into the future. This will include bringing in new partners from the digital economy. TAP-MAPPPING in this sense will produce a new triangle of innovation; with the public, private and third sectors collaborating on the real world problem of community transport management 

 2016 £20k The Reading Agency Bibliotherapy 

With Professor Paul Farrand, Dr Joanne Woodford (Clinical Education, Development and Research, Psychology) with Dr Michael Leyshon (Centre for Geography, Environment and Society). The research is a small qualitative study evaluating the attitudes and perceptions held by users of the Adult Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme available through public libraries across England.  Reading Well Books on Prescription helps people to understand and manage common mental health difficulties though reading self-help book titles (https://readingagency.org.uk/adults/quick-guides/reading-well/). The scheme is endorsed by health professionals and supported by public libraries.  The research will also examine the potential to involve community based volunteers in supporting people to engage and use books on the scheme and activate wider community support 

2016 £15k NHS RCHT Sustainability and Transformation Plan 

Research around engagement activities on the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Sustainability and Transformation Plan with Michael Leyshon (Centre for Geography, Environment and Society). This project for the NHS develops a research approach for engagement activities with a variety of different publics to help gauge their opinions on the changing structure of health care. The study is focuses on the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Sustainability and Transformation Plan. 

 2016 £1k Cornwall Community Fund – LifeCycleFal 

Social intervention with BikeWorks Falmouth and the University of Exeter (with Michael Leyshon). This is a pilot research and practice project on the delivering of a bike mechanic course to young people in Penryn. The course develops soft and hard skills amongst young people in one of the most deprived parts of Cornwall. 

2015 £1k Cornwall Community Foundation (via Volunteer Cornwall) 

Small scale pilot project designed to give young people the skills they need to repair and rebuild a bicycle. Local young people will be given an opportunity to work in a professional workshop and gain the vital experience needed to gain employment as a mechanic. 

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