Social and Community Impact Award: Participatory Geography - Community Project

Suzanne Jenkins, Jonathan Duckett

    Allbwn ymchwil: Cyfraniad aralladolygiad gan gymheiriaid


    Guardian 2019 Category: Social and community impact
    Awarded to the programme that has engaged with communities at a local, national or global level and implemented changes that have had a lasting impact.
    1) Outline the project, its place within your university’s strategy and what makes it innovative and inspiring (max 300 words).

    USW’s Geography programmes are designed to provide students with practical skills that boost employability, whilst meaningfully and sustainably embodying the philosophy and values of the discipline. As a multi-campus institution with a primary catchment area that spans rural and urban communities and includes areas of severe deprivation, USW is uniquely positioned to commit to these aims.
    Engaging with the diverse communities in our region forms an integral element of our BSc Geography programme. All students undertake a 20 credit Level 5 module in Participatory Geography that explores collaborative methods for engagement and the deconstruction of barriers within and between communities and community institutions (Pain, 2013).
    Since its inception students have worked on diverse projects alongside communities from across Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT). The primary focus is on engaging people with green space in a sustainable and locally meaningful way, empowering communities, building resilience and promoting health and wellbeing. This is making a real difference to communities where deindustrialisation has resulted in pockets of severe deprivation and challenges in relation to physical and mental health.
    The students are encouraged to challenge traditional spaces of learning and facilitate long-term collaborative partnerships. This experiential approach to learning enables students to understand their own knowledge of what and how they learn, helping them to communicate ideas clearly, manage and meet expectations, build emotional awareness, undertake effective group working and reflect on this process.
    The module’s focus on learning with and through communities (outside the institution) and contributing to communities of learning within it, builds relationships between participants; and a sense of belonging. This enhances academic performance, progression and career prospects for students and reinforces a collaborative academic community ethos across the programme and into postgraduate study. It also enables students to contribute to the wider community in line with the University’s strategic objectives.

    2) Detail how the project was delivered, from the planning stage through to its successful conclusion (max 300 words). Include details of timing* and funding.

    2017-18 witnessed two successful student-facilitated community projects, building on earlier partnerships with the local authority (RCT). The first, located in Ynysangharad Park in Pontypridd, centred on the creation of a ‘Friends of the Park scheme’. This followed the Transition Initiative approach of Hopkins (2008) in recognising the importance of communities generating their own visions and making them happen. The project included a ’Love Community’ event, at which 58 people registered a commitment to becoming ’friends’ and taking part in volunteer days.

    The second project was located in the Graig area of Pontypridd) and was based on the theme of ‘Adopt a Path’. The project focused on encouraging community participation and pride and promoting the benefits of using local rights of way. An ‘Adopt a Path’ fun day event, showcasing the scheme, welcomed over 80 people to the Graig community centre, including “hard-to-reach” community members. This then led to a walking project involving the Ramblers and Scouts for 2018/19.

    As a transient project – one module in one academic year – Participatory Geography provides a discrete insight into effective community engagement and also encourages students to reflect on the process. This co-inquiry approach involves working with communities, fostering a research approach that focusses on working with people, rather than “on” them and situating students as key stakeholders in the co-production of knowledge. This reinforces USW’s role in breaking down barriers and generating opportunities for lifelong learning.

    The aim of the module is to develop the inter-personal skills of students through a community-based project which runs through the academic year and concludes with a ‘celebratory’ final event. This practical element is reinforced through a series of assessed online seminars, which underpin academic theory on participatory working. This is further reinforced with two-weekly workshops where staff and students can come together to discuss progress.

    3) Outline the project’s outcome(s) within the university and beyond with relevant supporting evidence**, metrics or testimony (max 400 words).

    The participatory geography module has enabled students to work on diverse projects, alongside communities from across RCT. These projects are helping communities to reconnect with their local environment and are also unlocking wider benefits: improving health and wellbeing; empowering marginalised communities; and; strengthening relationships between the University and local people.

    Student feedback has now led to the creation of a mentoring system which includes a ‘Participatory Helpline’ facilitated by Level 7 MGeog students, as part of their Active Citizenship module. This reinforces the benefits of peer support and the active appreciation of students as partners within the learning experience. It also provides an opportunity for both cohorts to share knowledge and expertise and (more importantly) to recognise how to overcome internal and external challenges occurring in participatory working. This ensures that students see participatory research in terms of its process, as opposed to simply a distinct end product.

    Futures thinking is shaped by the forging of effective community partnerships, ensuring the foundation of a productive dialogue. Students then work collaboratively, forming a triangle of participation between the University staff, local authority and community to operationalise the project. Students embed themselves in the community and negotiate with multiple, often conflicting, stakeholder interests to produce an equitable outcome. For students, the module offers access to a unique learning experience in which they become drivers of change, transforming their understanding of community and assisting their personal development and academic progression.
    The approach is endorsed by key stakeholders, including RCT Councillor Jayne Brencher who has stated that:
    “The response from the local community has been moving, with children who have few opportunities being fully engaged, particularly through the final event…the relationship between students and the host town can sometimes be problematic but this is a perfect example of how such projects can enhance the lives of both”.
    Crucially, the benefits of the course are also appreciated by students. A second year student states:
    “It was great to know that our event has brought change to the Graig community, we brought stakeholders together who are now going to work together, and we made a difference to the people of the Graig”. (Participatory Geography Student, 2018)

    Hopkins, R (2008). The Transition Handbook. Dartington: Green Books.
    Pain, R., Finn, M., Bouveng, R. and Ngobe, G. (2013). Productive tensions—engaging geography students in participatory action research with communities. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 37(1), pp.28-43.

    Iaith wreiddiolSaesneg
    StatwsCyhoeddwyd - Chwef 2019

    Ôl bys

    Gweld gwybodaeth am bynciau ymchwil 'Social and Community Impact Award: Participatory Geography - Community Project'. Gyda’i gilydd, maen nhw’n ffurfio ôl bys unigryw.

    Dyfynnu hyn