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Experimental Collectives

In 2020, the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research launched the Experimental Collective initiative, designed to support emerging research groups. Funding will be awarded to two groups whose interdisciplinary collaboration across-college in some way addresses ‘the social’, and contributes to the work of the BISR.

We encourage experimentation in the approach and activities of the group, as well as in the potential outcomes and/or legacies of these experimental groups. We want to encourage people to think broadly about what they wish to work on collaboratively, and how they wish to do it.

Experimental Collectives 2020-21

Decolonising the Academy

  • The Decolonising the Academy Collective seeks to critically interrogate the impact of the legacies of enslavement and colonialism on the practice of teaching and research in higher education.
  • The group seeks to provide remedies to these enduring legacies and contribute to improving practice by engaging in interdisciplinary dialogue, training and drawing on best practice in research, teaching and academic resources management in the UK and abroad.
  • A unique aspect of the Collective is its active engagement and interrogation of academic resources and the student experience, alongside that of teaching and learning and research, with all members of these communities playing a key role in the group's aims and activities alongside academics. The group breaks down traditional academic/administrative divides enabling wider inputs and insights to inform and change traditional academic practices.
  • As well as having a broad reach across Birkbeck, the group has links with engaged communities of practice at a number of UK universities at the forefront of work in this area including SOAS, Sussex, Bristol, and Kingston, and also has international links with decolonising constituencies in South Africa, the USA and Australia. 
  • Given the nature of institutionalised racism and other forms of discrimination in higher education as evidenced by the BAME awarding gap and lack of BAME faculty at senior levels, the work of the group is of critical importance and necessary at this time.  
  • Members
    • Dr William Ackah, Lecturer in Community and Voluntary Sector Studies (Lead)
    • Dr Jan Etienne, Associate Lecturer, Social Policy and Education
    • Dr Kerry Harman, Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics
    • Elizabeth Charles, Assistant Director, Library Services
    • Dr Fred Yamoah, Senior Lecturer in Marketing
    • Nadita Sirka, MA student applying for PhD in Psychosocial Studies
  • Events
  • Designing and Delivering Anti-Racist Pedagogy in the Academy in the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities

Urban Intersections

  • How does the social take shape through urban forms? And how does the urban shape social life? Across millennia, cities have been centres of economic, political and cultural power. The Urban Intersections Collective explores why and how cities offer a compelling lens for locating, observing, critiquing and inspiring dialogues about social practices, values and identities. The ‘urban’ shows up in a panoply of ways across the social sciences and humanities, and almost by definition is a topic demanding interdisciplinary investigation. 
  • The Collective will take this interdisciplinary demand seriously, founded on a collaboration between scholars from three of Birkbeck’s schools, and seven of its departments. It will convene and consolidate a range of constituencies interested in urban issues and research at Birkbeck, which are shown in a diversity of urban-related initiatives across the College. The sheer range of these initiatives underscores the benefit that Birkbeck scholars and students will take from this uniquely interdisciplinary urban research grouping amongst London-based universities.
  • The Urban Intersections will establish a distinct cross-College research forum on cities that will work towards REF 2028, creating the potential for a permanent urban research institute or centre at Birkbeck. A signature feature of the Urban Intersections Collective will be to explore how Birkbeck’s research interests, at the intersection of the urban and the social, might better connect to the College’s access and participation mission, particularly as it relates to the daily urban experiences and challenges faced by our largely London-based student community. 
  • Events organised by the Urban Intersections Collective will be included in the BISR events programme.
  • Listen to podcasts of previous events organised by the Urban Intersections Collective.
  • Members

Guidelines for applicants


  • All members of the College engaged in research are eligible to apply. We strongly encourage applications that include doctoral students, post-doctoral researchers, and teaching and support staff.


  • You should ensure that you provide adequate information to demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of the collective, and its contribution to the work of the BISR. We are keen to encourage applications for groups that will address ‘the social’ and ‘social research’ in their widest senses. 
  • Priority will be given to proposals:
    • whose collective statement advances the work of the BISR 
    • which do not significantly overlap with the focus of the existing BISR working groups
    • whose activities could not ordinarily be supported within a single department.
  • Financial support of up to £1,500 per academic year is available.
  • The BISR funding can be used for internal or external events, publications, workshops, exhibitions or other activities, as benefits the aims of the collective. Payments for speakers’ fees, travel and/or accommodation expenses as well as other general event expenses can be claimed. Some catering costs will be considered.
  • Groups should note that while the BISR will be able to assist with certain elements of the events (room bookings etc.), the collective will be responsible for organising its own activities, compiling necessary records (for payments and budgets), and preparing feedback and legacy documentation.
  • Successful groups will have the possibility of reapplying for up to two more years of funding.


  • Experimental collectives will be required:
    • to submit a detailed proposal of their activities and give a short presentation on their plans to the BISR advisory group at the summer meeting
    • provide receipts and completed expense or other payment forms as requested by the BISR and finance departments
    • to provide a report of their activities at the close of the academic year 
    • to provide text so that their collective can feature on the BISR website.
  • Experimental collectives are able to bid for up to an additional two years of funding. There is no guarantee that additional funding will be awarded; applications for follow-on funding will be considered by the BISR advisory group.
  • The experimental collectives will be selected by the BISR advisory group.


  • Applications are now open for the academic year 2021-22.
    • Application deadline: 5pm, Friday 25 June 2021
    • BISR Steering Group meeting: July 2021
    • Applicants informed of the result: July 2021
    • New collectives will commence their work at the start of the academic year 2021-22

How to apply