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.




SEEDSR Random Acts of Appreciation


Every year we hold a small celebration for SEED staff and students who have been recognised, formally or otherwise, 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.

We like seeing #SEEDSR on the road!  If you receive one of our mugs or plant pots please Tweet a photo to #SEEDSR and @jenrobrien. Fabulous prizes to be won – although Rosie, Williams, our Head of School Administration, may be in the lead with her morning brew at Greenman Festival:

Rosie's mug at Greenman Festival
#SEEDSR at the Greenman Festival 2018 with Rosie Williams, SEED HOSA

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:

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: .  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.


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 (