Welcome to #SEEDSR

TUOM, UNDER GRADUATE PROSPECTUSSocial Responsibility (SR) describes the way that we are making a positive impact on our communities through our research, teaching and public engagement activities.  It is the heartbeat of the School of Environment, Education and Development, driving our research, teaching and operations.  Social Responsibility is who we are as SEED.

We have just launched our SEED SR Catalyst Competition which welcomes our SEED community – students, staff and alumni – to apply for between £200 and £1500 as seed corn funding for projects that make a different within SEED and beyond. In consultation with colleagues, we will prioritise applications that directly relate to decolonising university activity, addressing inequalities at the university, and sustainability.  This year we are particularly addressing the ‘Environment’ in SEED.  We will profile the work of SEED colleagues that is making a difference to the environment, locally, nationally and internationally, as well as critically considering our environmental impact closer to home.

We will build upon the success of our Green Impact teams and draw upon our collective expertise to enhance the sustainability of our day to day operations.  Sustainability often requires critical trade offs.  We are a large school that exists over three sites, which includes labs, multiple computer clusters, workshops, offices, kitchens, open spaces, to name but a few.  We travel to international fieldsites and conferences.  There are essential tools of our trade, such as wood, technology and plastics. We need to reduce unnecessary resource use and think creatively about alternatives. Jonathan Lillie, Peter Leigh and Lynda Rowlinson are currently fitting out a room in each SEED building with conference kit – easy to use cameras and wide screens that will better support meetings and hopefully reduce the need to travel.  We will pilot this scheme for a year and document its impact to review whether we should equip other rooms with similar technology.  I am currently writing a new policy where staff can apply for funds to support greener travel.  SEEDSR is working with some of our students who do not want to fly to fieldwork in Amsterdam next semester, which is a core part of their degree programme. With much appreciation to Nick Ritchie and Katrina Clark, and Joe Blakey who is leading the fieldcourse, it is really exciting to work with our students to build a body of practical evidence and experience to potentially shape policy.  Their journey will be informed by Joe Rees’ (SEED RA) recent experience of taking the train to a conference in Prague – full write up to follow! The University will launch an enhanced version of 10,000 Actions towards the end of the year which will enable colleagues to enter in teams.   There will be multiple incentives to build a SEED team to feed into this sustainability initiative.

Responsible Processes is a driving force of Social Responsibility.  Former chair of SEED’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) committee, Dr Susie Miles has become the Associate Dean for EDI for the Faculty of Humanities. As the new Chair of EDI for SEED I have rather large shoes to fill!!  We proudly hold the Athena SWAN Bronze award for gender equality and have much work to do to achieve our action plan.  The discourse around EDI is bigger than Athena SWAN and we will be opening discussions with colleagues about what a fully diverse, inclusive and equal school might look like, and how we can achieve that.  Recent EDI developments include opportunity for colleagues returning from extending carers, or sick leave, to apply for protect research time and a fund to support colleagues with caring responsibilities at overnight events such as conferences. Your line manager can support application to these schemes, or feel free to talk to me directly.

In the spirit of collaboration, transparency and open consultation I will regularly be inviting ideas of how we can enhance SEED’s social responsibility and welcome any thoughts you might have.  Likewise, if you would like to showcase your work on this blog, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: Jennifer.obrien@manchester.ac.uk

This is the personal blog of Jen O’Brien, Director of Social Responsibility, SEED. All views are my own.