Image of people walking in a field

The winners of the first round of the Advancing Capacity for Climate Environment Social Science (ACCESS) Flex Fund competition have today been announced.

Over 60 applications were received from universities and research networks from all over the UK, and nine projects have been chosen to share the £250,000 fund from September 2023 for 9 to 12 months.

Each project meets the key aims around innovation, making the social sciences more visible and having an impact on today’s climate and environment crisis, and take forward the guiding principles of co-production, sustainability and equality, diversity and inclusion.

The winning projects range from using social science methods to examine how active storytelling can increase children’s sense of agency over environmental crises; using multiple social science disciplines to explore how a rapid transformation of the global fashion and textile system from unsustainable practices to regenerative, post-growth alternatives is possible; and how thinking about a ‘More-Than-Human’ world can help us negotiate conflicts between environmental challenges and human priorities, to ensure sustainable futures for the planet and its inhabitants.

Patrick Devine-Wright, ACCESS Director at the University of Exeter said: “The projects are all extremely varied and demonstrate how widely social sciences can be applied to very different areas of work, but all with a single goal to improve environmental decision making and practice.”

“We were very impressed with the high calibre of application, and it was great to see some important collaborations between universities and public sector organisations as well as making projects inclusive and environmentally sustainable.”

“We are pleased to be funding projects that provide more visibility to minority groups in the UK; understanding how British Muslims engage in environmental action and their experience; and funding for engaging Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people in designing a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable approach to conservation. Other successful awardees will also be looking at other marginalised communities; water scarcity in rural Scotland, energy demand in racialised communities in cities, and engaging under-privileged groups in nature renewal.”

Birgitta Gatersleben, Co-Director of ACCESS from the University of Surrey said: “ACCESS is about giving opportunities to the future generation of social scientists who we hope will go on to work with decision-makers across society to better inform UK policy and practices.”

“We were particularly excited to see that over 95% of the applications came from Early Career Researchers* and it was great to learn about the links they’ve already established with non-academic partners and stakeholders including government nature agencies, the Children’s Environmental Agency, the Citizens Advice Bureau, British Muslim organisations, schools and community leaders.”

“We are delighted to see more people joining the ACCESS Network and recognising the importance of social science expertise and methodology to start to solve some of today’s most pressing environmental issues.”

The second round of the Flex Fund will open in Spring 2024 for larger project proposals, with up to £700,000 being awarded to the winning projects.

List of awardees:

Patrick Elf, Middlesex University, Regenerative post-growth fashion – Challenging the unsustainability of the UK fashion and textile sector from the perspective of key suppliers in Bangladesh and India

Jaya Gajparia, London South Bank University, Dismantling the Legacy: Decolonising the conservation and environmental sectors using a social science framework

Sarah Higginson and Uttara Narayan, University of Oxford, REPAIR: Research on Energy through Participatory Insights from Community Representatives

Ruth Lamont, Natural England, Developing across-organisation social science resources for non-social scientists within environmental agencies

Elizabeth Lawson, Newcastle University, “Taps Aff!” Voicing experiences of water scarcity in rural Scotland

Davide Pettinato, University of Exeter, Green(ing) British Muslims: Towards an interdisciplinary, intersectoral, co-produced framework

Rosamund Portus, University of West England Bristol, Buzzing about Bees: Exploring Active Storytelling for transforming Children’s Environmental Agency

Catherine Price, University of Nottingham, Including the More-Than-Human World in Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI): Developing a conceptual framework

Bethan Stagg, University of Exeter, Can a novel knowledge co-production approach advance community organisations’ ability to harness the social sciences in urban bio-diversity renewal?