Shalim Ali at OU conference collecting research award.

What is ‘personal impact’ in research? A spotlight on the experiences of our co-leaders and photovoice participants

In this blog, we share some of the fantastic personal impacts experienced by our co-leaders; B, Shalim and Stuart, and our photovoice participants; M and Oliver, due to their involvement in this project.

Stuart is smiling and standing in front of the feeling at home interactive board.

Impact in research

When we discuss ‘impact’, we can separate academic impact from non-academic impact. Academic impact refers to a research project’s impact within academia, for example, by publishing research papers, and adding to the knowledge within the academic community.

Non-academic impact refers to the impact of research in broader society. Impact has been defined as an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public services, health, the environment, or quality of life, beyond academia. It is important that research benefits wider society, individuals, organisations, or even nations beyond the academic sphere, to achieve a meaningful and positive impact in the community.

We wanted to explore how our Feeling at Home study had improved aspects of our community, such as our skills, policies, and health.

Cartoon of a diverse group of people within a community standing together

The personal impacts of the Feeling at Home project

Here we share the positive, personal impacts that the Feeling at Home project has had for our co-leaders and photovoice participants, in their own words. These impacts have included gaining new skills, social networks, and knowledge, showing how research can impact individual people as well as communities.

B’s experience

B, who has lived experience of a learning disability, was one of the three co-leaders of our exhibitions and photovoice group. His role involved supporting people to use their cameras and facilitating the group sessions.

Has your role on the project led to any positive impact? If so, how?

B: Yes. It was the first job application I did, and my first interview. It helped me get my role as a volunteer with George Shearing Youth Club. I have more confidence with people and with helping people with learning disabilities like me. I have more confidence speaking in public (and I did this in the opening presentation at the Science Gallery). I have realised how lucky I am in my home and my support. I have met lovely new people and learned new things. I have also visited new places.

Stuart’s experience

Stuart, who has lived experience of a learning disability, was also one of the three co-leaders of our exhibitions and photovoice groups. His role involved taking photographs, supporting people with using their cameras and facilitating the group sessions.

Has your role on the project led to any positive impact? If so, how? 

Stuart: [I have learned] to take my time with the camera, sometimes my photos come out a bit blurred, so take my time a bit more. I also direct my own videos as well. Take my time with photos and figure out what to take photo wise. [It has] made me happier in myself. Used to be a bit down before but now I’m happy again. Through meeting people and having more things to do.

Shalim’s experience

Shalim is a Feeling at Home project research team member and an expert by experience, quality-checking residential living for the CQC. Shalim was also co-leader of a London photovoice group and taught individuals how to use photovoice methods to explore their ideas about home.

Has your role on the project led to any positive impact? If so, how? 

Shalim: Oh yeah, my Feeling at Home project has made so many connections with the group, the researchers, and I’m really grateful to be part of the researchers. Really handy. And I’m really, I’m really thankful that they’ve offered me to go to Finland in September. I just got my scholarship from Finland, so I’m really grateful to be part of that research and I’ve never gone to Finland.

You can keep up to date with Shalim’s activities by following Shalim’s blog.

Shalim happily collecting his award at the Open University conference.

Shalim Ali received the Alan Armstrong Memorial Prize at the Open University’s Social History of Learning Disabilities conference, 2023.


We also spoke to M and Oliver, who both participated in our photovoice groups. To learn more about the photovoice methodology, have a read of our blog post discussing what photovoice is.

M’s experience

Why did you join the Feeling at Home project?

I thought it would be interesting. Photography is something I didn’t really know how to do. The topic of home is interesting too. I didn’t really see this place as a home, but I suppose it is. It’s becoming a home now, but where I lived before was more of a home.

What have you got out of the project?

Loads of things! You know, I’ve learnt how to use the camera, I’ve learnt how to focus. It’s just been interesting… I didn’t like the fact my room was too small but I’m getting more organised in it now. The photography group gave me ideas about how to get the room sorted. I am getting myself a wardrobe.

Oliver’s experience

Oliver, who has lived experience of supported living got with the Feeling at Home project because he was keen to try something new and meet new people. Oliver also wanted to learn how to use a camera. He had never used a digital camera before – only on his mobile phone. He has been saving up for two years to go on holiday to Australia and is excited to use his camera and new photography skills there too.

What he got out of the project

As well as developing his photography skills, Oliver says he was interested to learn, “what helps me feel at home”. The project came at a good time for Oliver: as he plans his move into a new flat with a friend, he has been able to think about what is important to him in creating a homely place. For example, Oliver is passionate sports player and fan, and having his trophies in his room makes him feel at home – he is proud of his achievements. He also realised that he wanted to move somewhere that is close to his sporting interests and activities.


Visitors at the Brighton exhibition looking at photographs and chatting to Deborah and Tony.

Have you been a part of the Feeling at Home project or attended any of our exhibitions? If so, we would love to know about your experiences, and any impact the project has had for you; get in touch and let us know!

Take a look at our events page to see where the travelling Feeling at Home exhibition is next. Or to see the images online, visit our exhibitions page.