About VERN

Racism and social exclusion is a serious challenge to our society. The continuing problems black and minority ethnic group’s face in economic and social terms remain a major challenge.  Increasingly research within the university system and within social organisations has tried to raise these issues and propose social and institutional responses. However, the problems facing many black and minority ethnic communities remain and if anything are likely to do so for some time. The impact of economic change and crisis will present a set of new challenges. Furthermore a greater level of intolerance towards immigrant and minority communities is a feature of much is the media within Britain.

Institutional responses have varied. Policy related action is normally focused on forms of social inclusion such as training, service provision and formal support at best – at worst it is normally absent or hierarchical and disconnected from real needs. These initiatives often lack a participative agenda and can be distanced from the real and ongoing needs of the communities they aim to address. In terms of businesses and private organisations, the increasing interest in the subject of ‘managing diversity’ as a way of ‘selling’ the business benefits of social inclusion and equality to British management has also raised some concerns as to the way equality and fairness are understood: much appears to be tokenistic and underpinned by a weak commitment to real equality. Consequently, there is an issue as to the understanding, support and strategic focus of policy makers and organisations in relation to the broader community and social enterprise groups within BME and disadvantaged communities more generally. This is especially the case given the changing nature of marginalised social groups and the increasing presence of new ‘harder to reach’ groups.

The aim of this research and action network is to provide a democratic and radically innovative space for a debate concerning the collective dynamics within BME communities, their networks and the attitude of traditional bodies to them as they attempt to connect institutionally. In effect, it is aimed at understanding the reality and importance of organisations and networks within immigrant and black and minority ethnic groups in terms of their roles, strategies and linkages. There is a broad tapestry of representation that needs to be viewed and understood as a fundamental feature of social and political debates in terms of their structures, diversity, roles and interests.   In our view debates and discussions on equality and inclusion must involve addressing questions of collective representation and organisational structures and networks within communities in terms of living space, workplaces, and civil society more broadly, and not just individual needs and issues.   This is a challenge when the new approach to equality in legal and policy terms is more focused on individual dimensions as opposed to positive and institutional features of those communities most affected.

VERN has emerged from the ESRC seminar series run by Bradford University and Manchester University: ‘Ethnicity, networks and voice mechanisms in established and hard to reach BME communities: capacity building and beyond’ sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council.

The aims of VERN is to focus on collective and organisational dynamics within BME and marginalised communities in terms of their networks and the attitude of traditional public and private bodies towards them. It aims to do the following:

  • Explain and raise the profile of BME communities and their networks.
  • Raise awareness of BME capacity related issues and internal dynamics.
  • Examine how these link to other bodies such as trade unions and broader interest groups
  • Evaluate their role in national and local economic dynamics and regulatory processes
  • Survey their representative structures and cultures
  • Raise awareness of the collective and organisational dimensions of the equality debate


Meet the research team

ESRC Seminar Series

Contact or Join

Find out about the people involved with VERN. Read more Click here to view VERN seminar series archive. Contact us, or join our network. Read more