Community-academic partnership through a pandemic: examples from the College of Social Sciences.

To give a flavour of the diversity of expertise and experiences in community engagement across our College and beyond, below is a (non-exhaustive) collection shared through our CoSS Newsletter during 2020. Examples range from volunteering to collaborative research.

Our School of Education’s Community Development staff and students carry out a huge amount of fantastic work on an ongoing basis. Below is just a short summary. To read the full paper, follow this link

Staff and students within the Community Development area of the school are contributing extensively to supporting their communities in a range of ways, including through involvement in local community organising crisis-response efforts, supporting neighbours with shopping, prescription and telephone assistance; making PPE equipment for NHS staff; facilitating weekly Mindfulness group sessions for staff and their families; providing emotional support to volunteers in NGOs through check-in chats, referral information and, in some cases, financial support; supporting or setting up soup kitchens; a wide range of volunteering activities with local authority and community organisations, such as: Glasgow Women’s Library, Kinning Park Complex, Independent Age, Y-Sort-It, Link Up, Find Your Branch, Inverclyde Carers Centre, Helensburgh and Lomond Community Learning, East End Flat Pack Meals, Youth Link Scotland and St.Pauls Parish Church, Blackhill. 

It is important to note, that our staff and students facilitate community development practice in their workplaces and communities to offer vital support to some of the most vulnerable people in society both throughout this pandemic and before it began.  

The global context in which the work takes place has changed and vulnerable people’s situations have been exacerbated, but the ethics and values of community development remain unfaltering in their commitment to work alongside communities. This work will continue to be essential long after the pandemic, in order to challenge the inequalities felt by many in society. 

Riikka Gonzalez, Sustainable Food Cities Co-ordinator for the Glasgow Food Policy Partnership (GFPP) hosted by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) and Jill Muirie (also GCPH) have been working with the Food for Good Group (FFG). This was set up to coordinate the emergency food provision response in Glasgow.

As well as sharing information about how to volunteer and support their Crowdfunder, on the request of FFG, the University of Glasgow provided kitchen storage space, volunteers and vehicles to support this initiative. Watch a short video here to learn more and meet some of the UofG volunteers. GFPP are collecting data from the FFG project in order to evaluate it, as well as to inform the Glasgow City Food Plan currently in development. 

Riikka has written a blog looking at how COVID-19 has affected and exacerbated food poverty in Glasgow, and how the community food sector has responded to the challenge. She highlights the community-led response efforts as well as the learning coming from this effort. The Sustainable Food Places Network, that GFPP is a part of, has also written a Case Study on Glasgow’s Emergency Food Responses.

Dr. Kate Reid and Professor Catherine Lido completed a 12-month commissioned research project with social enterprise and charity partner ‘Food Train’, and their impact and evidence arm, ‘Eat Well Age Well’, in February 2020. They recently held a webinar with MSPs and other stakeholders as part of the organisation’s activities for UK Malnutrition Awareness Week to highlight the need for political and policy intervention to tackle malnutrition and food insecurity. You can read more about this work here.

During the pandemic, Dr Reid also began volunteering with The Food Train and supported the mobilisation of new telephone befrienders through UofG SRC recruitment of student volunteers. She has published a blog about this experience. Through the CoSS Newsletter, we supported this effort as well as highlighting Food Train’s campaigns during Malnutrition Week (@EatWellScot using the #TimeforChangeScot) and their Christmas fundraising initiative. 

Dr. Nicola Burns, from Social and Political Sciences is a Board Member of Govan Community Project (GCP)

GCP is a community-based organisation working in the south of Glasgow. Originally a community and church member response to the needs of newly arrived asylum seekers, it has developed over the years to become a local charity working with and for all the diverse communities of the Greater Govan area and beyond.

GCP provides direct services, such as, advice, information and advocacy, cultural events, a community flat, English classes, a destitution food project, hate-crime reporting and an interpreting service. In addition, the network facilitates forums bringing together public, voluntary and community organisations with local people to help plan public services, promote equal rights and opportunities and cross-cultural understanding, and to build bonds and links within and between communities.

On asking how we at UofG could support GCP, the organisation asked people to support their 2.6 Challenge or Covid-19 response JustGiving campaign page during the Pandemic and shared with us how they have had to change what they do:

GCP has adapted their services to offer as much support to community members as possible during the Covid-19 crisis. Funds raised will go towards supporting these direct services and any organisational costs incurred in adapting services to deliver them remotely. These services include Asylum Support Advice & Advocacy, Food Distribution, Staying Connected and ESOL. 

Jeanette Findlay, Senior Lecturer in Economics from the Adam Smith Business School is a Board Member of charity Royston Youth Action in the North East of Glasgow. They work with children, young people and families to provide a wide range of educational, social, physical and emotional wellbeing projects and activities. Normally their service would provide 22 weekly clubs for the local community including homework’s clubs, health groups, sports clubs, workshops, youth club drop ins and much more 

Jeanette is also a Board Member of Ceann Creige Hurling and Camogie Club in Glasgow’s East End. At UofG, we were able to support the Christmas Raffle by sharing information in our Newsletter. The club was reliant on this fundraising initiative to enable its work in providing physical activity opportunities to the local community, which support the physical and mental health of so many in this area. Their normal fundraising activities, such as bag-packing, were cancelled and they were unusually reliant on the raffle this year.  

Dr. Helen Mullen from the Adam Smith Business School is a volunteer Mentor with MCR Pathways. Helen approached Monique and Zara to see how UofG could support this organisation during the Pandemic. So, we arranged a meeting to see what would be of most value to MCR. The charity wanted to engage with UofG staff who might want to become volunteer mentors with the charity and we collectively decided to host a virtual information session. This hour long session included representatives from MCR and Mentors from UofG and GCPH and was facilitate by Monique Campbell and Dr. Zara Gladman. It led to additional volunteers signing up with MCR and they have published a blog about recruitment here. Below is a blog written jointly for our CoSS Newsletter by Dr. Mullen and Sheena Fletcher, a Mentor from GCPH.

“My mentor helps me a lot … He encourages me to work harder.” 

“It was a good place to go, someone to talk to and relax when you were stressed.” 

These are thoughts from young people who’ve benefited from the MCR Pathways Programme, a mentoring initiative for care-experienced and disadvantaged young people. Mentoring can bring about the change they need, helping them recognise their potential and boosting the number of them that go on to college, university or employment post-school.  

I only started mentoring a year ago, but I’ve seen for myself what this brilliant programme can do. It gives young people time out with someone neutral where they focus on themselves, think about goals, try new things, and access different networks.  

I mentor for an hour a week at Hillhead Secondary School and got involved to ‘give something back’.  What I didn’t realise was how much I would gain. The young person I work with has been an inspiration. A quiet and determined character who sticks to their goals, they have made me laugh, continually surprised me, and rewarded me with their friendship.  

We have talked about home, school, videogames, music and business. We have interviewed a University colleague about career paths. We have rolled our eyes together at what frustrates us. We have discussed entrepreneurial ideas for a school project, seeing the dawning realisation that this could be a career move or an academic pursuit – “You can get a PhD in business… really?”  

The support for mentors is immense – from MCR, the school and my amazing Coordinator, Eileen McLeod – and the benefits outweigh any challenges.  

Sheena Fletcher, from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, is also a mentor and based at St Mungo’s High School. “I was matched with my mentee when she was 13 and had been going through some very rough times indeed. Instead of a career and academic focus, my role was initially to be a person to talk to when things got a bit much, someone who would simply listen and always be on her side.”  

“Some of the young people in the programme really benefit from having an adult in their life who isn’t a family member, teacher, social worker or police officer, but someone who is, first and foremost, their confidante.  

We hit it off straight away and I made a real effort to always be open and honest with her, so she felt she could do the same. She is 15 now and our relationship is very strong and rewarding for both of us – in fact we were recently interviewed for a BBC piece about MCR.  Seeing her really brightens my day and she’s always telling me I’m cool, which, from a teenager, is praise indeed!” 

A few community organisations got directly in touch with us at UofG to ask us to share information about their initiatives through our networks:

Glasgow City Parents Group (GCPG) worked in collaboration with Glasgow’s Pre-Loved Uniforms and ApparelXchange CIC to provide free uniform packages across Glasgow.   

Leanne McGuire (GCPG Chair) foresaw potential challenges for families purchasing school uniforms for the new school year. The service provided essential support, whilst encouraging recycling.  

The service relied on donations, and appealed for items to be washed, folded, and bagged up. GCPG co-ordinated drop offs and donations were quarantined for 72 hours.   

Family representatives discreetly emailed GCPG with requests. No explanation was required.  

“During the month-long service, we received almost 400 requests. With uniform packages averaging 12 uniform items per child, we reused over 4000 items, reducing Glasgow’s clothing waste.   

Glasgow City Council supported us, adding our service to their website and we received a donation from Teleperformance UK (Glasgow) of water bottles, lunch boxes and drawstring bags to add to the parcels”.  

Realising the level of need, Leanne and Izzie (ApparelXchange Director) are already planning for next year.   

 “This year families may be worrying about how to afford school uniform due to the impacts of Covid-19. I wanted to make it easy and discreet to access support and give them one less thing to worry about” (Leanne McGuire)  

“We are proud to be part of this partnership, supporting families across Glasgow facing uncertainty. We are also committed to the environmental impacts of clothing, and this service brings benefits to the community and our planet.” (Izzie, ApparelXchange)  

“We want ALL families to save money when it comes to school uniform, that’s why our service is open to everyone”. (Donna, Glasgow Pre-loved Uniforms)  

In addition to these specific support and collaboration requests and opportunities, we highlighted the work of a number of local charities and community-led organisations:

We highlighted the work of Aberlour and the Scottish Refugee Council’s Scottish Guardianship Service supporting young asylum seekers and refugees and BME-led organisation Pachedu‘ s new Heritage Lottery Community Fund to run a six- month health and wellbeing project entitled ‘Connected & Empowered’.

In response to the racist police killing of George Floyd, we highlighted the work of numerous community initiatives, groups and organisations across Scotland who’ve been at the forefront of fighting against institutional racism and discrimination nationally for decades. Many call for immediate systemic change in a wide range of areas, such as public health, employment, decolonising education curriculum, and housing and asylum policy. Included below is a small, and by no means fully representative, list of articles, educational resources and campaigns produced or highlighted over the last couple of weeks. This has been in response to the racist police killing of George Floyd, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and this year’s World Refugee Day (20th of June), as well as Pride Month. The links below also contain information about how to support local grassroots and national organisations and anti-racist campaigns in Scotland.

2 thoughts on “Community-academic partnership through a pandemic: examples from the College of Social Sciences.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s