March 7, 2024

What we fund


Scope of applications:

The William Leech Research Fund funds high quality research in the area of Christian social ethics and practical theology in the North East.  Grants are made for research that:

  • Engages with the people and churches of the region, and arises from the questions and issues that they are encountering.
  • Advances understanding of these questions/issues and responses to them, particularly through developing engaged theological reflection on practice.
  • Seeks to create wider social impact.

The fund is keen to work with churches and community partners who share similar aims and wish to initiate and host researchers working on substantive pieces of research. Applications from researchers wishing to undertake research on topics, themes and questions that are proven priorities of churches and Christian social action projects within the region are also eligible, providing these include evidence of support from relevant churches and/or Christian social action projects.  Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Director, Andrew Orton, to discuss their ideas for applications at an early stage, and before submission of any application. A formal application can then be made by following the process detailed on the ‘How to Apply’ page.

Potential themes:

The Fund is open to proposals relating to any topic or theme of demonstrated significance to churches and Christian social action in the region. 

Themes of interest for future research applications based on previous engagement include one or more of the following:

  1. Work, money and debt, poverty and wider inequalities (within the region, and between the North East and other regions)
  2. Different responses to such issues and inequalities (e.g. through community organising, social enterprise, tackling discrimination, etc.).
  3. Rural and urban issues, including housing, land, and regeneration.
  4. Developing communities, including building relationships between diverse individuals and groups of people.
  5. Being Church in the North East: Roles, change, growth and decline.
  6. Christian/church responses to social issues such as addiction, mental health, supporting refugees and asylum seekers; tackling climate change and broader ecological/environmental challenges.

We therefore welcome applications addressing any one or a combination of these topics, or other themes where applicants can demonstrate wider support.  In this  round, we are particularly keen to encourage applications which include aspects of themes 2, 4 and 6 (whilst continuing to be open to applications involving any of the above themes).

Eligible costs:

Practically, typical funding bids may include the costs of undertaking a specific research project, addressing a defined overall question/topic.  This may include the costs of designated researcher/s working on the project, which may take various forms such as:

  • postdoctoral research costs: These are normally the costs of funding a postdoctoral research fellowship full-time for one year or equivalent part time (e.g. 0.5 full time equivalent for 2 years), with remuneration equivalent to that of a university post-doctoral research position, plus an agreed contribution towards study, travel, engagement and dissemination expenses. Applicants should have suitable qualifications.  Applicants for this category of award should note that, in the last application round, the typical funded grant application was in the region of £50,000.
  • grants for supported leave for established scholars or clergy on sabbatical leave, covering shorter periods of up to one year, or for lay people with appropriate interests and experience, to engage in theological reflection and research.   All applicants for these smaller grants should be able to demonstrate that they have sufficient skills in research and theological reflection to undertake the work they propose to do.  These are designed to help cover accommodation, academic support and facilities, and study, travel, engagement and dissemination expenses. The total value of an award will be up to a maximum of £15,000. Support may be given either to those wishing to research and engage in the North East, and/or those already resident in the North East who wish to undertake comparative research elsewhere with the potential to inform practice in the North East.  Applicants for these smaller grants do not necessarily need to have a doctorate, although applications do need to involve theological reflection and research at an appropriate scale for the award.  It is recognised that these applications may involve work at a correspondingly smaller scale than larger applications, and will be assessed proportionately. Where it is considered helpful, costs for an appropriate research mentor can be included within the budget to support this work.  
  • Other researcher and research costs may be considered that satisfy the William Leech Research Fund objectives but which do not fit directly under either of these categories.  For example, these might include: the costs for churches/Christian social action projects within the region to enable them to engage researcher/s in partnership with the William Leech Research Fund, or enable particular churches or organisations to undertake participatory research approaches with appropriate supporting expertise.