Where has volunteering taken SEED students?

SEED has over 250 students who volunteer in communities near and far.  Volunteering contributes towards the University of Manchester’s prestigious Stellify Award which formally recognises how our students graduate with the skills, experience, understanding and drive to make a positive impact on the world. Moreover, volunteering can really enhance your University experience as a great way to meet new people, learn new skills, get out of your comfort zone, and feel good as you give back to society.  Don’t take our word for it – listen to why some of SEED’s students decided to volunteer, and just how much they have given back to the community, but gained in the process, too.

Sakib graduated from Geography in 2017.  His range of volunteer experience equipped him to set up his own organisation, Open Mind, aiming to support students living with mental health issues.  Sakib and Open Mind, won a University of Manchester Making a Difference Award in 2017.  Listen to why he decided to volunteer:


Lucia Banjo graduated from Management, Leadership and Leisure.  During her studies she had a work placement with the Big Change Campaign.  She then went on to volunteer with Team Uganda. She won the University of Manchester’s Volunteer of the Year Award.  In the video below she talks about how much she enjoyed this experience and how it helped her to get a graduate job.


Postgraduate, international student Mengru was studying for an MSc in International Development: Public Policy and Management with the Global Development Institute.  She talks about how volunteering helped to develop her skills but also meet new people, practice her language skills and get to know Manchester.


Matt studied for an MSc in Planning.  Here he talks about his volunteering with the Scouts, including a development project which has given him the opportunity to use the skills he has gained from his degree.


If you are interested in volunteering – or would like to advertise a volunteering opportunity –  the Volunteer Hub lists pre approved volunteering opportunities, everything from environmental opportunities, work in schools, cultural projects, experience overseas, representing your fellow students, to name but a few.

Read with SEED

Every week a team of Professional Support Services (PSS) colleagues from SEED use the University’s electric car to travel to two local primary schools to read with school children. Created and lead entirely by PSS staff, ‘Read with SEED’ came about in 2015 in response to requests from schools asking for trainee teachers to support reading. PGCE students do not have this capacity. Read with SEED originally partnered with Claremont Primary School in Moss Side which has a transient population with large groups of Somali, Pakistani and Arabic speakers. A high proportion receive the pupil premium. The team sought funding to purchase books from the Accelerated Reader Book list and produced stickers to be used on reading records.

Read with SEED were given guidance on supporting and evaluating reading comprehension by Claremont. On a weekly basis each colleague spends 30 minutes reading one-to-one with pupils. From October-December 2015, the 18 participant children from Claremont School showed an average increase in reading age of 6.5 months. The rest of the year group made on average 4.5 months’ progress. The Read with SEED team was Highly Commended for Inspiring Communities in the University of Manchester Making a Difference Awards, 2016.

Read with SEED receiving their high commendation at the Making a Difference Awards, 2016

Two years on, the scheme has gone from strength to strength and has been expanded to include Medlock School in Ardwick alongside Claremont Primary maintaining the weekly reading support and continuing to provide books. The current Read with SEED team is: Ruth Rawling, Jonathan Lillie, Kerry Mccann, Georgia Irving, Vesna Higginbotham, Phillippa Stirk, Emma Davies, Emma Moores, Emma Curran and Elaine Jones.

The 2018 data from Claremont School showed the incredibly positive impact of Read with SEED on the school learners, just from October to April, as measured through reading points:

Claremont pupil reading data Oct-April 2018
Learner’s reading point change between October and April, 2018 with support from Read with SEED

The learners said:

“ I like it when I read with them, it made my minutes go really high (referring to her accelerated reading level). They really helped me”. – Fardowsa

“ It was good because they helped me understand how to do comprehension and read and they shared their thoughts about the books … I had fun reading”. – Emmanuel

Ruth Rawling, one of the original Read with SEED creators, successfully secured funding from the Faculty of Humanities Public Engagement competition 2018 to welcome learners from SEED partner schools onto campus. In July 2018 over 100 7-9 year old pupils alongside teachers and supportive parents from Claremont and Medlock Primary Schools were welcomed to the University of Manchester to get a sense of who we are and what we do. Some spent time in Martin Harris learning about sound and light production; some visited the Geography labs learning how to identify bugs in water to analyse its quality with Tom, JY and John;  others used GIS to find battleships with Patrick.

Some learners worked with Jen to critically consider single use plastics, their use and impact on the environment.  The learners created plastic awareness posters to enhance sustainability, a sample of which can be seen below:

Some of the plastic awareness posters designed by Claremont School learners

Beyond the obvious and immense positive impact on the schools, the team also benefit from Read with SEED. Ruth Rawling explained that she first got involved as a way of getting experience in project management, budgeting and working with outside agencies on her CV. She evidenced that the project has taught her skills in all three which she wouldn’t ordinarily have the opportunity to achieve in her day to day role at the University. She said:
“I thoroughly enjoy being part of Read with SEED because of the many and varied opportunities it has brought me. Foremost, it’s a fab opportunity to be helping out the local community and to see the confidence of our pupils grow each week. It’s great to dive into a ‘word party’ poem or help to make sense of a book extract for an hour or so, and this seems to put the other day’s tasks into the shade somewhat! But I also enjoy the project as a way of getting to know other with PSS staff in the school where our roles don’t usually bring us in contact”.

SEED is immensely proud of the inspiring commitment and dedication of our colleagues which has made such a positive impact on the local community.

If any other PSS teams across the University, or indeed beyond, might be interested in setting up their own reading with school partners scheme, or would like to join Read with SEED, please feel free to contact Ruth:

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:


Making a Difference Award: work in progress…The Rainy City

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.

Joseph McCarty, a student of the Manchester Institute of Education’s Management, Leadership and Leisure programme was commended for his social innovation, The Rainy City

Joseph Rainy City
Joseph’s ‘Rainy City’ alter ego, ‘borrowed’ from

As a Mancunian born and bred, Joseph often found himself to be the ‘one stop shop’ for advice for arriving students, particularly international students, about where was good to eat, where to buy items, even where to have a good hair cut. Joseph set up ‘Rainy City’ which he described as ‘a one stop shop for all things Manchester for the student new to the city, the tourist here for the highlights and the local who just wants more’.  Since launch, the project has gathered a following of over 2,300 people across the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram; amongst those, a vast number of international students from universities across Greater Manchester. These are individuals who are in an entirely new country, with no bearings, no family, few or zero friends, and no idea where to start. Site users said:

I came here last year and didn’t know anything about Manchester other than the university. As an international student The Rainy City has been absolutely amazing, introducing me to so many cool things and places and has only helped strengthen my relationship with my now girlfriend! 

Adrienne Kuster, UoM International student.

The project has become a source of unofficial, unaffiliated and unpaid marketing and advertisement for the independent business’s within Manchester, whilst also establishing a reputation as an online entity that people trust, and keep coming back to again and again, to discover more and more of The Rainy City.

The Rainy City is Manchester’s best blog by a mile. Mixing top photos, slick text & a splash of humanity; the events and locations show that they care about supporting the great indies of Manchester, not just writing about every flashy opening”

Jason Bailey, Director of GRUB MCR LTD.

Follow The Rainy City on Facebook Instagram or Twitter to hear about all good things happening in our glorious Manchester.


SEED Makes a Difference!


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.


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.