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Making Connections: Q&A with Patrick Nyikavaranda of Diversity Resource International

The Agora Digital Centre recently hosted a ‘Making Connections’ event. The purpose of the event was to talk to local community organisations representing underrepresented groups in health and social care research with a view of working in partnership with them on future projects. At this event, we began a conversation about the importance of research, its role in addressing health inequalities, patient and public involvement and how we could collaborate moving forward. We hosted the event in partnership with colleagues from Hatch and from Diversity Resource International. Here, we talk to Patrick Nyikavaranda about his involvement with the event, the work of Diversity Research International and the importance of involving community organisations in research. 

Tell us about yourself and Diversity Resource International 

Hi, I am Patrick Nyikavaranda, and I wear two hats: one as an academic researcher and another as the newly appointed managing director of Diversity Resource International (DRI). When I’m not engrossed in research or organisational leadership, you might find me indulging in my passion for gaming (though I admit, I’m not very good at it!). 

DRI is an organisation that empowers diverse communities, focusing on minority ethnic groups. We foster an inclusive environment where individuals from all backgrounds can connect, learn, and grow. We promote social inclusion and build a stronger, more just society together through training programs, cultural celebrations, and community initiatives. DRI’s four key areas of work are Community Development (through grants and events), Leadership and Enterprise (empowering diverse leaders), Equity Trainings (for culturally competent service delivery), and Community-led Research. DRI has a rich 20-year history, founded by the visionary Ms. Mebrak Ghebreweldi and Dr. Yaa Asare. Their unwavering focus on community development and empowering newly arrived migrants has solidified DRI’s reputation in East Sussex and beyond. Our recent transition to a Community Interest Company (CIC) underscores our dedication to serving the community. 

Research, in all its forms, is at the core of what we do. We collaborate closely with communities to identify their priorities and research needs. Once those needs are clear, we work together to determine the best path forward. This may involve seeking funding from commissioners, partnering with local organisations or academic institutions, or utilising our in-house research team. We have strong ties with researchers across the UK and internationally, which opens up exciting opportunities for collaboration. We are seeing a demand for partnerships working on research, which is very exciting.  

We firmly believe in research’s power to influence policy and practice, which ultimately impacts our communities. Research helps us understand the barriers to access and support that lead to inequalities, and it allows us to test the effectiveness and value of potential solutions. In short, research is essential in every aspect of community well-being, whether it provides definitive answers or raises new questions to explore. 

Why did you get involved in the Making Connections project? 

At DRI, we value relationships, and this project offered a unique chance to strengthen our connection with Agora Digital Centre, while also learning from and sharing with other community organisations. The opportunity for mutual learning and growth was truly appealing. 

What has it been like working with Agora on this Making Connections event? 

It’s been a valuable learning experience, collaborating with a partner outside our usual sphere. The event highlighted that shared goals – like meaningful engagement, trust-building, and relationship development – can transcend geographic and organisational boundaries. It’s been mutually beneficial, demonstrating the power of working together for a common good. We’ve been introduced to new communities and research partners that we wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. 

A key purpose of the Making Connections event was to reach out to and begin to develop a relationship between Agora and community organisations. How important do you think this development of trusting relationships is when working with community organisations? 

Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship. In the context of community organisations, trust is built through open communication, shared goals, and a commitment to mutual benefit. The Making Connections event provided a safe space for community organisations to voice their needs and for Agora to showcase potential solutions, fostering a sense of understanding and shared purpose. 

What was one key learning or comment that you took away from the event? 

I was reminded that creating a safe space for sharing experiences can spark powerful solutions. It’s time to bridge the gap between academia and community development, where magic can happen. A comment that resonated with me was the event’s title itself, “Making Connections.” It captures the idea that meaningful change requires collaboration and partnership, especially when resources are limited. 

Do you think it’s important for community organisations to get involved in research? If so, why? 

Absolutely. Community organisations are the bridge between research and meaningful change. They have a deep understanding of their communities’ needs and can facilitate their voices in the research process. Without their involvement, research findings may never translate into real-world impact. Equally, community organisations benefit from research by gaining evidence to support their work and identify effective solutions. 

Where can readers find out more information about DRI? 

We are always eager to explore new connections and collaborate on academic and community-led initiatives. Readers can visit our website or email us at Let’s connect and work together! 

Do you want to find out more about patient and public involvement and engagement? 

In our new online course ‘Nothing about us without us,’ you can learn about what makes good patient and public involvement and engagement in health and social care research. Register your place on the course today!