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Doctoral student writing

Small Steps Big Changes Evaluation

  • School: School of Social Sciences
  • Starting: 2021
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / Fully-funded


The Small Steps, Big Changes (SSBC) is a £45million programme, supported by the National Lottery Community Fund's ten year 'A Better Start' funding to improve the lives of Nottingham's young children. Led by Nottingham CityCare, a third sector provider of community health services in the city, SSBC is a partnership of parents, professionals and organisations including voluntary and community groups, the City Council and health providers coming together to help give the best start for Nottingham’s babies and children.

The SSBC programme covers four wards across the city (Aspley, Bulwell, Hyson Green and Arboretum, and St Ann’s), and focuses on helping families and children learn to:

  • Eat well and be healthy
  • Talk and communicate
  • Be confident, friendly and understand their emotions and behaviour.

The Nottingham Centre for Children, Young People and Families (NCCYPF) at NTU is working alongside SSBC as its evaluation and learning partner, and we are advertising for a fully funded PhD student to work with the NCCYPF and SSBC teams to investigate one aspect of SSBC’s work – the extent to which the programme shapes the local communities within which it works.

The main focus of SSBC is on improving the outcomes of children in the early years through a series of interventions designed to support parents. Their ambition for system change is to ‘turn the system on its head’ by ‘injecting’ parents and communities into the system and involving them in all planning, decision-making and commissioning processes for children and young people’s services in the City. Improving outcomes and delivering lasting systems transformation requires more than just good evidence based interventions. It requires careful focus on the local people with the potential to deliver change for young children and their families. This will involve more than just parents represented on boards, it will require informed, engaged and active communities. The ‘Community Connections’ approach is SSBC’s commitment to embed an effective model of engagement in the forward development of SSBC and City services. The Community Voice Community Connections programme includes two groups of parents:

  • Parent Champions who are trained and supported to contribute to strategic decision-making, service design and service development
  • Ambassadors who raise awareness and understanding of SSBC – sustaining the voice and involvement of families in the design of SSBC activities

A number of questions arise from this that warrant further investigation, for example:

  • How can we better understand the experiences and outcomes of being a Parent Champion or Ambassador? What are the benefits for themselves, for the community, for the children living there?
  • What evidence is there that such roles contribute to system change? How can we better understand the types and levels of power and influence that parents yield?
  • Can any impact be attributable to the work of Parent Champions and/or Ambassadors that would be different from that achieved by other means?

We welcome proposals for a potential PhD study that seeks to investigate any of these questions or other connected issues.
This is an exciting project that can be shaped by an applicant from a social sciences background, interested in aspects of parenting, community studies or childhood development. NCCYPF has expertise in a wide range of disciplines (including psychology, education, health, and sociology) and the breadth of methodological approaches (ranging from secondary data analysis to participatory action research) so applicants are free to set out their preferred methods.


Professor Carrie Paechter

Entry qualifications

A 2:1 undergraduate degree in a relevant area of social science, or equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK.

If you have a 2:2, you may still be eligible to apply if:

  • you have a Merit or Distinction in a masters degree in a relevant subject
  • you have three or more years of full-time work experience that is relevant to your undergraduate degree or to the PhD project you are applying for

How to apply

How to apply

Applications close at 11:59 pm (UK time) on Friday 22 May.

Download an application form here.
Please make sure you take a look at our application guidance notes before making your application.

Further information on how to apply can be found on this page.

Interview details

Interviews will take place week commencing 8 June.

Fees and funding

Directly funded project.

Guidance and support

Further information on guidance and support can be found on this page.

Still need help?

Carrie Paechter