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SEEDSR Random Acts of Appreciation

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Every year we have held a little celebration for the SEED staff and students who have been recognised and rewarded for their great work that contributes to Social Responsibility.  This year it was impossible to recognise the fantastic work of all our colleagues in one event – considering that we have over 250 volunteers, alone! Instead, over summer and into September, SEED is delivering random acts of appreciation, to reward, recognise and inspire. Our #SEEDSR reusable coffee cups and SEED seeds (see what we did there!) speak to our commitment to sustainability, in part through our Sustainability Champions, just small tokens of appreciation to our colleagues and friends who do so much to make a difference.

This blog details just some of the great things that have been happening in SEED over the last year, or so, showcasing some fantastic people.  If you would like to add your story, or discuss developing ideas, drop me a line: jennifer.obrien@manchester.ac.uk

Carbon Landscape: opening of new boardwalk to bring the community closer to nature

Led by Dr. Joanne Tippett, in Planning, the Carbon Landscape is a 5-year, £3.2 million project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the first project of the Great Manchester Wetlands Partnership.

 

This ambitious project will restore landscapes in Wigan, Warrington and Salford previously scarred by industry. By improving and re-connecting these green spaces the Carbon Landscape is not only creating a better future for wildlife but is also benefiting the local communities living alongside them.

The Carbon Landscape aims to restore more than 130 hectares of habitat, reducing fire risk whilst also creating opportunities for local people through training, volunteering, events and learning resources.

Risley Moss

Risley Moss is one of the last remaining fragments of the lowland raised peat bog that once covered large areas of South Lancashire and North Cheshire.

Restoration and a new boardwalk will improve the area for wildlife, and enable access up close to the Mini Moss bog education area for all ages and abilities.

 

July 17 marked the official opening of the first major restoration project of the Carbon Landscape to be completed. A new Boardwalk (see image to the right, above) at Risley Moss, Warrington now allows the public to get up close to nature. The boardwalk allows people to see how a peat bog is coming back to life with the restoration efforts made possible by the Heritage Lottery fund and hundreds of volunteers.

At this launch, after Dr. Amanda Wright from Natural England briefly introduced the Carbon Landscape project, Gorse Covert Primary school and Wigan disability advocacy group More Than Words received a guided tour of this ancient moss, joined by the Risley Moss friends group (RIMAG) and partners from across the Carbon Landscape. Ranger Mark Cozens of Warrington Borough Council and Dr. Paul Thomas of Natural England discussed the restoration work and the project’s future ambitions.

This is the first of 8 major restoration projects in the Carbon Landscape, which over five years will restore more than 130 hectares to nature. Upcoming projects include restoration works at Wigan Flashes, Hey Brook, Rixton Claypits, Woolston Eyes and Paddington Meadows.

Further projects include the Carbon Trail, a 20 km route linking up wild spaces in between urban areas; Carbon Volunteers, getting people involved in improving the landscape; and the Mossland Gateway to improve pedestrian and cyclist assess to Chat Moss. Other plans include an educational programme for schools, physical and online interpretation of the landscape and Citizen Science, with volunteers surveying species across the landscape and increasing our knowledge of how the landscape is changing.

So far, the project has successfully worked with 150 dedicated volunteers and provided 6 trainee placements, all of which leading to full-time employment in their desired careers.

Mike Longden, a former trainee said: “During my traineeship I gained a lot of new skills and knowledge and was able to tailor my experience to fill gaps in my C.V. It was great to work alongside the project officers helping them to deliver their part of the Carbon Landscape. I was also able to meet a lot of amazing people who shared my passion for wildlife. The skills I learnt varied from practical experience and leading groups, to survey skills and working with the local community.

The traineeship was a great experience, the work you do is very diverse and you gain valuable skills and knowledge for your future career. I am now working for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust as their Chat Moss Project Officer and I am having a great time!”

What is coming up?

The next few months will see a roll out of the Carbon Clever programme, which has been piloted in two schools so far and will reach 40 schools over the next few years. An exciting community project will document the transformation of the landscape using photography and work with archival photographs from local museums through the Carbon Creative programme.  The programme of community events will see a series of nature, history and family fun walks and a Jurassic Quest for families to celebrate national bog day. There are lots of volunteer days and training opportunities, such as mapping and GIS skills, coming up through the summer.

Why is this work so vital?

Our wildlife is being squeezed out, isolated and we have a real risk of losing species locally if we don’t create a safe and effective corridor for them to move through the landscape. By creating a network of safe spaces for wildlife to move between, and inspiring local people to experience these areas in new ways, we will re-imagine our landscape.

There are twenty-two different projects interwoven throughout the Carbon Landscape, ranging from habitat restoration works to community group empowerment.  These projects are delivered by the Carbon Landscape Project Team and the thirteen project partners. The Carbon Landscape offers access to amazing natural sites and rare habitats on the doorsteps of our major cities in the North West.

The restoration work has another important benefit, reducing fire risk.

Dr. Anna Hetterley, the Programme Manager of the Carbon Landscape says: “People have been digging-up the lowland peat bogs for fuel in Salford and Warrington for thousands of years. When large areas of peat between these major cities in the North West dry out, they become fire hazards. This project is restoring these rare habitats, allowing them to soak up and store rainwater. Re-wetting the bogs reduces the risks of fires, such as those that are currently ravaging Saddleworth Moors. The restoration work enabled by the Carbon Landscape has the extra benefit of helping to reduce flooding in times of extreme rain.”

Warrington Borough Council’s executive board member for leisure and community, Cllr Tony Higgins, says: “The mini Moss and boardwalk that has been created though the Carbon Landscape showcases the vital role nature can play in improving our lives, with vastly improved access and educational value. I am looking forward to taking hundreds of school children out onto the moss, and watching them learn about this amazing, rare habitat that is right on their doorstep, which up until now has been hard to access and see”.

Dr. Joanne Tippett, of the University of Manchester, says:

“This is the landscape that fuelled the Revolution. It is appropriate that through telling the story of this landscape and uncovering its hidden beauty, we are starting to think differently about the future. It is exciting to see this first project that not only restores a rare and important lowland bog habitat, it helps us all get closer to the natural processes at work. I am proud to be working with the people of the North West to learn from our industrial past so we can reimage a more sustainable future”.

SEED at UoM’s Community Festival

As Dame Nancy Rothwell, the University of Manchester’s President put it, ‘Universities should be a force for public good’.  Social Responsibility at the University of Manchester aims to make a positive difference to the social and economic well-being of our communities through our teaching, research, and public events and activities.  A big part of that aim is to (literally) break down the ivory tower and share who we are and what we do with our communities.  The, now annual, University of Manchester Community Festival does exactly that.  SEED was delighted to showcase just some of its research to the 2,000 people from our local and wider communities who were welcomed onto campus on Saturday 16th June.

Dr Judith Krauss challenged our guests to consider where cocoa comes from.  Based upon her extensive research in conjunction with UoM’s Global Development Institute with farmers, NGOs and consumers in the Global South, Judith challenged our guests to consider who grows cocoa and whether they earn enough to make a living out of our tasty treats.  The quizzes and games  – and naturally cocoa and chocolate to taste! – engaged the community in fun activities which in turn equipped them to make informed decisions about more positive, sustainable consumption.   Further details of Judith’s research is available on the Global Development Institute’s blog for National Chocolate Week.

Judith at Community Fest my photo
Photo: J O’Brien

 

Dr. Alexander Baratta who is a lecturer in SEED’s Manchester Institute of Education, engaged the public with his research about accent. He explained how your accent is an oral ID which contributes to your overall sense of self and identity, but that can also represent a challenge.

Alex Baratta Community Festival 2018 from UoM SR FB
Photo: University of Manchester

Alex used his research to encourage the public to think about how accents might impact experiences at work and school, to learn more about different accents and where they come from, to celebrate the diversity of accents and even to have the chance to try a few new accents.

Beyond SEED’s research there was something for everyone in our free event that showcased the University of Manchester’s research. Our guests could discover how drugs get to the right part of the body and use tiny materials to treat diseases, to the art of a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, they could create electronic music and walk on water and even had the opportunity to scale the climbing wall and brave the helter-skelter (face painting optional).

 

Dr Julian Skyrme, Director of Social Responsibility, said: “It was exciting to welcome so many people from our local communities onto the University campus, getting involved and finding out more about our work. This was the University at its best, sharing our knowledge and involving the public in the full spectrum of our work”.

Rob Nixon, a visitor to the event, said: “This is the 2nd time my daughter and I have been to the University’s Community Festival. It’s a great day and fantastic way to see all the different things that go on at the University. We really enjoyed it and will be looking out for next year’s Festival!”

To see the full Festival programme visit the social responsibility website.

Photographs of the event are available on the social responsibility Facebook page.

SEED Making a Difference Work in Progress: PGR FunDay

FunDay 5

In addition to our formal awards (see SEED Makes a Difference!) many other colleagues were recognised by the University’s Social Responsibility team.  These are fantastic  projects that were highly commended by the committee for having emerging impact and great potential. It was a particular pleasure that the panel recognised the positive social impact work of some of our SEED students.

Khairul Farhah Khairuddin (Fafa) and Harry Radzuan, both postgraduate researchers (PGRs, also known as PhD Students) in the Manchester Institute of Education and Planning and Environmental Management were commended for their Outstanding contribution to equality, diversity and inclusion for their FunDay for PGRs.

The primary objective of FunDay, which ran in 2017 and 2018, was to create a sense of belonging to overcome the loneliness and segregation of PGRs throughout their study, as reported by the PGR Reps. The teambuilding event also provides a platform for interaction and networking with people from different background and cultural differences. The FunDay was held with the intention to provide a platform for the community in SEED to network, build rapport while promoting the development of an inclusive society in an informal, fun and safe environment.

This was done through a few group activities (treasure hunt, games, quiz) around the campus which enforced student and staff partnership, strengthened their general knowledge about the University, School and admin personnel, while at the same time de-stressed from work.

After FunDay, Fafa and Harry gauged feedback from the participants to see how the event has made a difference to them. Their evaluation made it clear that FunDay greatly enhanced the learning experience for the diverse colleagues across SEED in various areas:

Rapport building: “I had a really good time out of work and think it’s nice that the school tries to organise such events to bond PGRs.” Asma, GDI

Engaging people with different abilities: “Despite being 7 months pregnant at the time I was able to take part in the event” – Heather, MIE

De-stress from work and freshen up for better: “Working together in an activity allowed students from across the different departments within the School to come together, get to know each other, de-stress from PhD life and have some fun.” Hairul, Planning

Positivity in life: “I learned to be positive even when struck with bad situations” Yin, MIE

Dr. Steve Jones, Director of Postgraduate Research commended FunDay saying:

“The event was entirely student-led, and brought together PGR communities from across disciplines in SEED. Given that PhD writing is known to be a solitary activity, it was great to see such wide participation. Multiple nationalities and ethnicities were represented. Fafa and Harry did a terrific job of organising the event, and their efforts were clearly appreciated by all who attended.”

Below is a link to their FunDay page:

http://www.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/pgr-handbook-seed/connect/events/fun-day/

 

SEED Makes a Difference!

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The incredible work of many SEED colleagues was formally recognised this year at University award ceremonies.  At the Making a Difference Awards SEED took home six (six!) awards and a further four certificates of commendation. At the Venture Further Awards Seyedehsomayeh Taheri Moosavi and team won for their research that tackles fuel poverty with artificial intelligence techniques and blockchain technology.  Read about all of the awards below:

Professor Neil Humphry and team won the category of Outstanding Benefit to Society through Research for their work with HeadStart, a National Lottery initiative that aims to improve young people’s mental health. They have embarked upon a groundbreaking research project to provide significant new insights into mental health that are already shaping policy and practice. Hear more about their work here:

 

Dr. Sarah M. Hall won the award for Outstanding Benefit to Society through Research (Emerging Impact) for her work to better understand and communicate living in austerity in Manchester. You can read more about the project and Sarah’s exhibition here See more about Sarah’s award here:

 

Dr. Jonny Huck won the Outstanding Contribution to Social Innovation for his project #Huckathon which was an open street mapping project welcoming over 100 normal people to use GIS to find hidden homes in previously war torn Uganda so that emergency teams could deliver medical care.

 

Caroline Boyd and Chris Jordan collected an award of high commendation in the Outstanding public and community engagement initiative (local community) category for Be//Longing.  BE//LONGING is a thought-provoking, immersive, multi-media theatre production, developed by award-winning political theatre collective Take Back (Julie Hesmondhalgh, Becx Harrison and Grant Archer), in partnership with The University of Manchester and Hope Mill Theatre, using installations, music, art, video and scripted theatre to create an experience that boldly addresses perceptions of migration and exposes myths.

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Craig Thomas, Jana Wendler and Rachele Evaroa were  highly commended within the Outstanding Public Engagement Initiative: Local for their STEAM hub in a pub hosted at the Old Abbey Taphouse on the Manchester Science Park20180501_182950

Dr. Seyedehsomayeh Taheri Moosa and team were highly commended in the “Outstanding contribution to social innovation” category for their research into tackling fuel poverty with artificial intelligence techniques and blockchain technology.
UrbanChain is a University of Manchester Start-up company developed to reduce the cost of utility services for vulnerable households in the UK and worldwide. They are developing a blockchain platform for the energy market to enable peer-to-peer trading of electricity between energy producers and vulnerable households. William Woof (pictured below) collected the award on behalf of the team – a team that went on to win first place in the Venture Further Awards.

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School Outreach: Wonders of the Ice Age delivered by Professor Jamie Woodward, Geography.

On 28th March Professor Jamie Woodward, Head of Geography, gave the annual Bexwyke Lecture with the theme of ‘Wonders of The Ice Age’at The Manchester Grammar School (MGS). Year 4 and 5 pupils from ten schools across Manchester came to MGS to participate in a series of workshops then attended Jamie’s lecture.

Woodward school outreach 2

 

Jamie is the author of The Ice Age: A Very Short Introduction in the best-selling series published by Oxford University Press. His research explores landscape change over thousands of years and considers how humans have coped with changing environments. Jamie is a Trustee and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Before Jamie’s lecture, attending pupils were invited to compete in MGS’s prize winning challenge, which was to write a poem inspired by the Ice Age, whether it be about the Ice Age itself, or simply inspired by the theme of ice and snow. Jamie had the tough task of judging the entries and presented a prize to the winner at the end of his lecture.

Over 400 pupils then listened to Jamie’s discussion about the Wonders of the Ice Age. 

 

MGS conveyed their thanks to Jamie for presenting a very interesting and informative talk to a packed Memorial Hall.  They also offered their thanks to Mrs. Barnett (MGS) for organising, along with participating Junior and Senior school staff for ensuring a fun and fascinating day was had by all.

A further write up of the event is available at: http://www.mgslife.org/story/2b9b375cf3 .  Details will also be published in the School of Environment, Education and Development (University of Manchester) newsletter.

 

Co-creating Learning Loops with partners in Brunswick to make a difference

As a result of their scale and range of activities, universities have a tremendous impact on the neighbourhoods around them. If a university is attentive to the needs of its neighbours, this impact can be positive. The university can be seen as a source of amenities to enjoy such as green space, museums and public events. It can be a provider of knowledge and support that is available to local communities, a partner in solving problems rather than a source of problems. In this spirit, the LOOPER project is working with residents of the Brunswick neighbourhood which is adjacent to the eastern edge of the main University of Manchester campus.

LOOPER stands for Learning Loops in the Public Realm and the project is funded through JPI Urban Europe with support for the UK portion provided by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The aim of LOOPER is to build a participatory co-creation methodology and platform to demonstrate ‘learning loops’, which are new ways of decision-making that bring together citizens, stakeholders and policy-makers and incorporate visualisation technologies and experimentation. This process unfolds through the implementation of ‘Urban Living Labs’ here in Manchester and also in Brussels and Verona with continual exchange and learning taking place across the three sites.

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The LOOPER Logo

During the next two years LOOPER project participants from the Brunswick neighbourhood, local partner S4B and the University of Manchester will together move through the learning loops. The process begins with discussions of issues of concern in Brunswick and gradual framing of problems followed by participatory data collection and visualisation in order to fully understand the nature of the identified problems. Based on collective understanding of the problems to be addressed, we will co-design potential solutions, and evaluate their feasibility and likely effectiveness. The most promising solutions will be implemented and the results monitored. (This will probably mean physically changing something in the neighbourhood on a temporary basis.)  If an experimental solution works, we will explore how to make the change permanent.

Based on several months of discussions and facilitated workshops using Ketso and maps/aerial views of the neighbourhood, we are getting a sense of the key concerns of Brunswick residents (see photographs below).

People in Brunswick have voiced concern about air quality, which they see as a result of the high volume of traffic moving around and through the neighbourhood. Some of the traffic results from people who work nearby looking for parking and some Brunswick residents feel that their neighbourhood is being treated as a car park and they resent this. Traffic within the neighbourhood also raises a lot of concerns about road safety for pedestrians and particularly for children. People talk as well about whether they feel safe and secure in other public spaces and opinions about this vary depending on the places and the individuals who experience them. There is general agreement that there is a lack of good community spaces for people to meet and children to play, and of basic amenities such as bus stops and a laundrette. Residents wonder about the effect of moving local shops to the periphery of the neighbourhood, which is one of the many changes resulting from the large scale regeneration project currently taking place in Brunswick. As the university is engaged in a similar process just across the street, local residents feel like they are living in a continuous building site with all of the corresponding disturbances and constant changes in their surroundings.

We are now beginning to more clearly frame the problems and preparing for participatory data collection which will involve work with technologies like air quality monitors and geotagging apps, as well as documenting people’s perceptions and experiences and linking these to particular places in the neighbourhood. It’s a chance for everyone involved to try out new tools and learn new things, and hopefully it will all lead to positive change in the Brunswick neighbourhood based on the ideas of people who live there. Learning from Brunswick and the other LOOPER sites will be shared widely so that the learning loops approach can be applied in other contexts and the benefits extended.

If you would like to get involved please contact Janice Astbury (janice.astbury@manchester.ac.uk).