Fiona Wotton

Department: Politics

Project Summary

My research is investigating the idea of the sustainable community. I am seeking to understand how UK policy and political actors are shaping public understanding of community and sustainability and how state interventions at a local level help or hinder real communities. The focus of the research is adult informal learning as a mechanism for bringing together differently motivated institutions and groups within communities and its role in promoting emergent behaviour including self-organisation and resilience.

The project is an empirical study of “The Look Group Network” – an interconnected series of adult, informal learning groups located in geographically diverse communities across Cornwall.  Based on the premise of a ‘book group’, Look Groups meet regularly to talk about art, artists and ideas in an informal and enjoyable way. The Look Group Network, delivered by Tate St Ives in partnership with Cornwall Council, was developed in response to the Learning Revolution – a nationwide strategy launched under the previous UK administration in 2009[1] which identified a key role for adult informal learning in building and sustaining communities.  Now in its third year of activity the Look Group Network is entering a period of potential transformation as scarcity of resources helps some groups gain the independence they desire, whilst others struggle to survive. 

I am using participatory qualitative research methods including interviews focus groups and negotiated feedback to explore the experiences of groups of learners in diverse communities across Cornwall.  This is an in-depth case study, working alongside Tate and the Eden Project which aims to document the relationships, resources, tensions, ethics and structures at play in community-public sector partnership projects.

[1] Department for Business, Skills and Innovation (2009) The Learning Revolution London The Stationery Office


Supervisory Team

Dr Robin Durie (Lead)

Dr Victoria Basham (Second supervisor)

Dr Katrina Wyatt (Research Mentor)