University Celebrates Economic and Social Impact in the Local Community
On Thursday 5 October, the University welcomed community organisations, staff and local politicians to Dovecot Studios for an evening of performances and talks to celebrate the economic and social impact which the University has had on the local community.
The Economic Impact Report, conducted by London Economics earlier this year, found that the University of Edinburgh generates £7.6bn for the UK economy annually. In speeches and performances, the Economic and Social Impact Reception provided a sample of what this means for the local community, our staff and students, as told by local community organisations themselves.
Hosted on the beautiful premises of the Dovecot community arts charity, a former swimming pool turned live weaving studio, the reception was an opportunity not just for the University to celebrate, but for community organisations from across Edinburgh to come together, learn about community projects across the city, and make new connections.
Guests, including community groups with an affiliation to the University, staff, and student representatives, were welcomed to the event by University Principal Sir Peter Mathieson. Mathieson began by summarising the University’s impact on the UK economy – worth more than ten times that of the 2014 Commonwealth Games annually – and highlighting how these numbers have impacted the local community, including through the Community Grants scheme, Community Access to Rooms pilot and in funding as part of the University’s Social Enterprise and Social Investment Strategy.
Guest speakers throughout the evening demonstrated the varied ways in which the University has been supporting community groups, staff and students to make a positive social impact on their local area.
Lesley McAra, Assistant Principal Community Relations, introduced the first speaker for the evening, Hugh Hill, Depute CEO of Simon Community Scotland. The Simon Community are an award-winning charity that provides information, advice and support to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. In 2021, the University contributed £1million into a social investment fund of £5million to expand the Simon Community’s services and buy property for up to 30 tenants otherwise at risk of homelessness.
Second-year University of Edinburgh student, Alice Macmillan followed Hill with a stunning performance of a Gaelic song written by one of Alice’s own family, the Lewis poet William MacKenzie. In 2022, Alice won the prestigious Gold Medal for Traditional Singing at the Royal National Mòd in Perth.
McAra then expanded on the Principal’s comments, highlighting the University’s Community Grants scheme which has given over £600,000 worth of support to more than 220 community projects since 2016. Demonstrating the real-life impact of this fund, McAra provided examples including the mural for Gibb’s Entry organised by the Southside Association which has reduced graffiti and boosted pride in the area, the pilot Mayfield and Easthouses Youth 2000 project which is still going strong today, and recent grantee Groundswell who provide surf therapy for women recovering from trauma and who recently featured on STV News.
Guests were then treated to a performance by Community Grant recipients, Bare Productions. Edinburgh-based theatre company Bare Productions have also been utilising the University’s Community Access to Rooms pilot, which has made rooms at the University available for use by community groups completely free of charge. So far, the scheme has fulfilled 884 hours of space requests with refugee charity The Welcoming as the most prolific user for their English-language classes.
Managing Director of MiAlgae, Douglas Martin, was the final speaker of the evening. Martin received support from the University’s commercialisation service, Edinburgh Innovations, to develop his firm which grows eco-friendly omega-3 using “waste” co-product from the whisky distillation process. In August this year, MiAlgae secured a £2.3million investment to drive the next stage of their journey.
McAra ended the evening by thanking the speakers, performers, attendees and the teams involved in pulling together the evidence for the Economic Impact report. Attendees were encouraged to stay for chat to the backdrop of musicians Rab Taylor and Leo Bacica who perform with Community Grant recipient, the Tinderbox Collective.
More information about the University’s Community Grants and other support schemes can be found on the Edinburgh Local pages of the University website, linked below.