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Nov 3, 2022 | by What Works Centre for Wellbeing

Invitation to Tender: rapid review of community agency and control

Note that the deadline for this ITT has passed.

We are commissioning a rapid evidence review focusing on the role of community agency, power and control as final outcomes or as enablers of place-based interventions that use collective action to improve community-level wellbeing.

We welcome proposals that explore how to deliver a feasible and meaningful research project on this topic.

This work is co-funded by People’s Health Trust & The National Lottery Community Fund.

Background information

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing

The primary mission of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing (WWCW) is to develop and share robust, accessible and useful evidence that governments, businesses, and communities can use to improve wellbeing across the UK. In this context, we aim to influence policy and community action by promoting the use of high quality and accessible evidence syntheses for better decision-making.  

We use the UK’s National Wellbeing Framework and harmonised quality of life standards to inform our evidence reviews and explore what can be done to improve wellbeing and reduce inequalities. The national measures within the harmonised standards include subjective wellbeing, mental wellbeing and social capital measures, all of which are commonly used in national and local outcomes frameworks. They help us build a shared knowledge base that uses consistent and comparable wellbeing constructs.

Rapid reviews can be used as a systematic yet pragmatic alternative to full systematic reviews to identify evidence on the effectiveness of wellbeing interventions. To date, we have focused on projects and pilots that aim to improve individual wellbeing outcomes, like subjective wellbeing and mental wellbeing, and affect the drivers of community wellbeing outcomes like neighbourhood belonging, community cohesion and social support networks. We have also focused on specific themes, such as arts, culture and heritage interventions and on the subjective wellbeing of volunteers.   

People’s Health Trust

People’s Health Trust is a charity addressing health inequalities in England, Scotland and Wales. It works to ensure that where you live does not unfairly reduce the length of your life, or the quality of your health. Its work focuses on: funding and support for communities; using its evidence and learning to influence change locally and nationally; and working with its networks of funded partners to offer support, shape its programmes and policy, and ensure their voices are well-represented with decision-makers.

The National Lottery Community Fund

The National Lottery Community Fund is a distributor of National Lottery funding, established as a non-departmental public body by an Act of Parliament. The National Lottery Community Fund has a critical role to play in supporting communities to unleash their energy and potential so they can get to where they want to be. Every year, the projects they back reach more than five million people and help tackle things that matter, such as mental health and loneliness, providing young people with skills and employment opportunities, supporting communities’ COVID efforts and much, much more.

Community Agency and Control

The Marmot Review and its ‘10 Years On’ report both argue that having control over one’s life is critical to an individual’s health and wellbeing. 

This is seen in the data all the way up to national level where, according to the World Happiness Report, having the freedom to make life choices is one of the six factors that explain the variation in national wellbeing between countries.

Community agency, control and power

Research suggests neighbourhood belonging, social connectedness and community control are determinants of health influenced by social conditions and that they can be addressed by local action. Having recently reviewed the evidence for the first two determinants, we are now looking to review the evidence for the third, focusing on the concepts of agency, control and power at the community level. We plan to explore the evidence for both individual and workplace agency and control in due course, subject to funding.

Our funding partners, People’s Health Trust, refer to people getting together to influence decisions in their own communities as ‘community power. In our conceptual review of community wellbeing, the word ‘power’ is used to describe one of the community level factors, alongside people and place, that determine wellbeing – specifically participation in local decision-making, joint decision-making or having influence over decisions that affect our lives.  

Community influence in local areas

However, in England only 27% of respondents to the Community Life Survey agree that they can influence decisions in their local areas. We want to explore what works for those 27% and what might work for the remaining 73%. We want to identify evidence on the drivers and enablers of measures such as this, and of community agency, power and control more broadly. It’s important to note that not everyone wants more influence. 

The same survey found 46% of all respondents did not think it important to be able to influence decisions in their local area. However, there are also many who do want more influence and we expect the research to cover these considerations.

We want the review to explore the peer-reviewed evidence, delve into the grey literature, and analyse the evaluations of small projects, community-initiated activities, and citizens assemblies. It will also include multi-million pound programmes that make long-term funding available for resident-led programmes like Big Local and The New Deal for Communities, making use of extensive resources in the process like the Institute for Community Studies’ repository.

What we are looking for

We are commissioning a rapid review to identify research on place-based interventions that use collective action to improve community-level wellbeing outcomes including the social determinants of health. More specifically, we are interested in the role of community agency, power and control as final outcomes or as enablers of place-based interventions and change.  

The focus of the review will be on interventions that have a community action or resident-led component or employ collective empowerment strategies to affect change at a local level.

While we have referred earlier to a number of quantitative measures, as with the majority of our reviews we do not want to limit this study’s scope to either the measures mentioned nor to quantitative data alone.

Compared to a systematic review, the rapid evidence review approach typically includes narrower questions with a less extensive review methodology. We welcome proposals that explore the criteria for how to deliver a feasible and meaningful research project on this topic.

Research team activities

The commissioned researcher/team will adopt a clear, transparent and well-documented approach to the search, identification and narrative synthesis of studies. They will work with WWCW to finalise search parameters and study inclusion/exclusion criteria and their deliverables will address the following questions: 

  1. What evaluation research has been carried out to assess the effectiveness of collective action on community-level wellbeing outcomes? 
  2. What are the key findings on the effects on community control and power at the community level?
  3. What are the common features of changes to collective agency, control and power at the community level?

Ways of working

We expect this project to include a design phase in which the WWCW works with the commissioned researcher/team to review and refine the research questions, agree inclusion criteria and methodology. There will also be an advisory panel of technical, thematic & audience experts who will ensure quality assurance of the final outputs. The role and involvement of this panel will also be agreed at the initial stages of the project.


The commissioned team will be expected to submit a technical report of findings, an excel spreadsheet with extracted study details that addresses the research questions, and a  resultant Theory of Change.

Expected Timetable 

Call for tender issued 3 November 2022
Deadline for receipt of tenders 4 December 2022
Shortlist interviews and appointments          week of 12 December 2022
Work to commence 3 January 2023
Advisory Group meeting 1 early January 2023
Advisory Group meeting 2 late February 2023
Advisory Group meeting 3 end of March 2023
Final deliverables to be submitted 3 April 2023


How to apply

If you would like to be considered to undertake the REA please detail your approach to addressing the following areas in no more than 3,000 words (excluding tables and references): 

  1. Your understanding of the brief and your proposed methodology and approach to the research (including your approach for searching, inclusion, data extraction and appraisal of the studies).  
  2. Your ability to carry out the proposed work, including relevant skills and demonstrable thematic and technical expertise of your team. 
  3. A project plan with milestones, key activities and deliverables, including the specific roles of your team members, and how you will work with the WWCW and the project advisory panel.  
  4. A budget, including a full breakdown of your proposed fees, identifying the day rate and seniority of members of staff assigned to each role. The proposed budget should be between £22 – 27k, including all expenses, travel costs and VAT.
  5. A minimum of two examples of similar work carried out by your team. 

Assessment criteria

Our criteria for assessing the tenders are set out below, including their respective weightings: 

  • Vision and knowledge – understanding of the requirements for this Tender, including the specific area of research, objectives, audience and context. Compelling vision for the research (20%).
  • Proposed approach, methodology and expertise – clear, relevant and appropriate approach to the proposed work. Realistic and feasible staging and workplans. Rigorous and transparent approach. Skills and experience to meet the Tender’s requirements (40%).
  • Ways of working and delivery – collaborative and open approach to working with WWCW and the project advisory panel. Adherence to good practice GDPR, legislation and ethical guidelines. Alignment with the values of WWCW. Experience of delivering similar projects on time and to budget (20%).
  • Value for money – with respect to total cost, full breakdown of fees and pricing structure. Balanced allocation of resources to workstreams and phases of the project. Clear roles, day rates, number of days and balance of seniority levels in relation to proposed work (20%).

Please send your proposal with the subject line Submission for tender Rapid review of Community Agency and Control to: Applications close 23:59 GMT on Sunday 4th December 2022.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss this tender invitation please email

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