Bristol City Lab

City funds logoBristol City Funds is trialling a new process called a City Lab, putting local people’s expertise at the heart of funding decisions

To ensure that local people’s expertise is at the heart of City Funds’ decision-making, we are currently trialling a new process called a City Lab

Quartet is a core partner in Bristol City Funds, a collaboration between Bristol & Bath Regional Capital, Bristol City Council and us, and a range of contributing partners. City Funds offers investment, grant funding and pro bono support that help make Bristol a fair, healthy and sustainable city.

Through City Funds, we bring together different sectors, working together to target the causes and effects of inequality.

So far City Funds has distributed:

  • £1.3m in grant funding
  • £5.4m in investment funding and
  • brokered pro bono support for community organisations worth £110,000.

To ensure that local people’s expertise is at the heart of City Funds’ decision-making, we are currently trialling a new process called a City Lab.

The City Lab

The City Lab brings together a group of people for up to six months to explore key issues facing the area and to propose specific solutions.

The group is made up of:

  • People with lived experience (Citizen Experts)
  • People representing local community-based organisations, including The Park and Hartcliffe & Withywood Community Partnership
  • Facilitators and a coordinator.

Our pilot City Lab is based in south Bristol and focuses on mental health, specifically on Bristol’s One City Plan target, voted a priority at the 2021 City Gathering, to “support community assets (such as community centres/ groups) to reduce social isolation and improve mental wellbeing, focusing particularly on communities with mental health inequalities.”

To help with the lab, the University of Bristol has provided two student research assistants to help inform our research and thinking. We’ve also been grateful to receive some funding from the Global Challenges Local Solutions Fund to support the cost of participating, and £40,000 has been kindly ring-fenced from our recent BCH Health & Wellbeing Fund to kick start one or more of the Lab’s proposed solutions.

Bristol City Lab
Global Challenges Local Solutions fund is supporting this pilot City Lab

The challenges

The Lab has now met six times and carried out a listening exercise locally, getting insights from a wide range of residents.

The key challenges the group has identified

  • People are nervous and hesitant about engaging in many activities which might help them reduce isolation and improve mental wellbeing
  • People are not always aware of things that are happening locally that they could participate in
  • There is a lack of safe community spaces where people can connect with others.

Exploring solutions

The Lab is now researching potential solutions to these issues, and is particularly interested in exploring the following:

  • how can people be supported to re-engage in community life following the pandemic?
  • how can existing efforts to share information about local activities be supported to reach more people?
  • how can community spaces be made more accessible to people and groups?
  • should we support the development of new community spaces in South Bristol?

After a period of research and consultation, the Lab will be meeting throughout February to discuss potential solutions and decide on the next steps.

Get in touch

If you or your organisation has any ideas about any of the above, please get in touch with: 


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