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 (


Mapping hidden homes in post-conflict Uganda to deliver medical care

Written by Jonny Huck ( and Cait Robinson (

The 30th of November saw the first of a series of ‘mapathons’ held by the Geography Department. A mapathon is an event where volunteers gather together and create maps of areas that have not previously been mapped, normally for the purposes of humanitarian work. The mapathon is inspired by Missing Maps, an open and collaborative project that aims to ‘put the world’s vulnerable people on the map’. Around the world it is estimated that over 200 million people are affected or displaced every year by conflict or disaster, and many of the impacted regions are quite literally missing from the map. By organising a Mapathon, coordinating a group of volunteers to map the affected region using OpenStreetMap, first responders can be rapidly provided with a map to help them to targeted those most in need.

In this case, the area to be mapped was the Acholi region of Northern Uganda, which is a fertile but impoverished region with a population of approximately 1.5 million people and a land area of approximately 28,000 km squared. The small town centres and the surrounding remote villages were badly affected by a prolonged civil war (1986-2006), which has left people of all ages suffered from poverty, malnutrition, disease, mutilation and Major Limb Loss (MLL) related to gunshot wounds, mines and punishment amputations. Unfortunately, the majority of victims in this region have no access to health or rehabilitation services and the level of requirement for those services is currently unknown.

Because of this, the Acholi region is the focus of a multi-disciplinary research project that was recently funded by the MRC/AHRC, which seeks to provide the first systematic study of the prevalence of these injuries, as well as the installation of an orthopaedic workshop in the town of Gulu, the construction of a mobile orthopaedic clinic, and the provision of 50 prosthetic limbs using an outreach service delivery model. Further funds are currently being being sought to fit limbs to hundreds or thousands more victims, as well as address numerous other endemic post-conflict health issues that we have encountered in this region.

One of the greatest challenges to this research is that detailed maps of the area have never been produced, with the only previous attempt being by the British Army in the 1960’s (which are available in the University Map Collection). These maps, however, are very outdated and lacking in detail, and without detailed maps we cannot model population distribution, understand the level of requirement for prosthetic limbs and orthopaedic care, and access the people who can benefit from healthcare provision. As such, we are holding a series of ‘mapathons’, where volunteers can come along, enjoy some complimentary pizza, and contribute to a new, freely available map of the area by drawing around huts, buildings and tracks on satellite photography. No skills or experience are required, you simply need to turn up (with a laptop if you have one) go to our website ( and get mapping. The map data that is created goes to OpenStreetMap, meaning that it is freely available to anyone that wants it, and we are going to produce a series of map sheets for the Acholi Region, which again will be freely available to anyone. Last week’s event saw 100 volunteers arrive from within and beyond the Geography, including staff and students at all levels of study. It was wonderful to see how many people were willing to give up their time to help produce these vital maps (including some entire seminar groups arriving together!), and we hope that the event series continues to grow and include more volunteers from elsewhere in the University.

The mapping process: drawing round the huts and highlighting roads to access them so medical teams can reach homes to deliver care.

The mapathon was organised by Jonny Huck (Geography), Cait Robinson (Geography), Garrett Wolf (Architecture), Patrick Reynolds (SEED), and Chris Perkins (Geography), and 28 pizzas were kindly provided by the Geography Student Experience Fund. Mapathons are a simple and enjoyable way to do some real good in the world, and we would be delighted to see you at the next one, watch this space for the next date! You can also map from home, simply go to and have a go, even if you can only spend a few minutes, it’s well worth having a go every little helps! Some people even find it quite addictive!


Just some of the 100 strong mappers of the first #UoMMapathon

If you would like to know more information about the mapathons, or indeed about the ongoing research into healthcare provision in post-conflict Uganda, then please do not hesitate to contact Dr Jonny Huck ( Whilst we made fantastic progress at the first event, we still have a long way to go! To find out about how to join in at the next event keep an eye on our twitter @UoM_MCGIS #UoMMapathon

SEED Teaching Matters, RECLAIM and how to enhance attainment, wellbeing and retention of working class students

By Ellen Logan (

As part of SEED’s Teaching Matters  seminar series, in November we welcomed RECLAIM to share with us the experiences of working class students to consider how the university can work to improve the attainment, wellbeing and retention of working class students.

Terry Mayeh from RECLAIM, discussed how to improve the support from Universities for working class students.

Led by Terry Mayeh (pictured above), from youth leadership and social change organisation RECLAIM, the discussion centred on the types of barriers working class students face during their time at university, with an emphasis on ‘imposter syndrome’ and the lacking of sufficient support and structures.

In 2016 RECLAIM conducted research into the experiences of working class students across a number of universities. This research was used to set up the groundbreaking, student-led programme Educating All. Working in collaboration with universities, Educating All creates bespoke, student-centred solutions/recommendations to address the barriers working class students experience in higher education.

Terry said:

“We often assume students know what support is offered, where to find it, and have the confidence to ask for it. Spaces must be created to allow students to open up about the challenges they face: but too often decisions are made without consulting the very people they affect.

A lack of entitlement, sometimes described as ‘imposter syndrome’, coupled with limited knowledge and understanding of higher education institutions and processes can damage the performance and retention of students, and prevent them seeking support.

Educating All is built from the resilience working-class students are forced to develop. Through our programmes, led, designed and delivered by working-class young people; we create authentic solutions, based on our lived experiences to improve the recruitment, retention, attainment, and well-being of working-class students.

Everything starts by listening, usually in informal conversations in which participants are encouraged to explore the barriers and challenges they have faced. This is then used to develop solutions which can range from establishing alumni and peer support schemes, mentors, tailored inductions to implementing specific financial and academic support to match the unique needs of the students.”

With both academics and self-identified working class students in attendance, there was some very open and interesting discussion. The students spoke about ‘imposter syndrome’ and confidence; they frequently don’t feel confident in speaking out in lectures and seminars, or questioning areas they don’t understand, in – what they feel – contrast to their peers. They also said that they feel there is an academic language barrier, which is exacerbated by issues with confidence.

Some of the academic staff in the seminar asked the two students exactly how they think university staff can best support these students. For academic staff, they said, student backgrounds are generally anonymous and so they will only know a student’s specific circumstances if said student self-identifies. This does mean more of the onus is on the student to approach a member of staff.

The students made the point that as working class students are often unaware of the structures in place to support them, universities need to take this into consideration and implement measures to ensure all students know the support available to them. To encourage student’s approaching staff, one of the students suggested that staff provide all students with examples of the sorts of issues they can approach them with, such as difficulties with the language used in lectures, financial problems, problems with balancing care work/studies/part-time jobs etc.

The seminar made it clear that there is a long way to go, but having open and honest conversations is definitely a good start.

For further information about Educating All programme, please contact

If you are interested in delivering a seminar for SEED’s Teaching Matters series, please contact Drew Whitworth and/or Jen O’Brien (;