In October 2016, the University was one of the first in Scotland to sign the Social Impact Pledge. This Scottish Government initiative encourages public bodies to deliver projects that will benefit the public.
Social Impact Pledge
In 2016/17, funding equivalent to two half-time posts was secured to manage the community engagement programme and coordinate the programme’s communications. Both posts will contribute substantially to the implementation of the University’s first Community Engagement Strategy (approved May 2016) under the leadership of the Assistant Principal Community Relations and Head of External Affairs. In the spring of 2017, the Community Engagement Programme Board met for the first time. This group provides leadership, risk management and prioritisation for the community engagement programme. Webpages under a ‘Local’ banner were developed and published in 2017.
In the summer of 2017, an intern was recruited to undertake mapping of the University’s community engagement relationships. This mapping is essential to ensure that external organisations are not over-burdened with many similar inquiries, that University staff and students are supported in their engagement activities, that any risk to external organisations and the University is managed, and to ensure that the University is working where there is the greatest scope to make a useful contribution.
During the spring and summer of 2017, the Hunter Square challenge took place. This was a series of events that brought together Edinburgh College of Art students, Police Scotland, University researchers, and businesses and individual citizens who are based in the city’s Hunter Square area. The purpose was to come up with solutions to address the anti-social behaviour often seen in the area. Some of these solutions will now be presented to the City of Edinburgh Council. The events were a great example of how agile the University can be – they were in response to an email from a local police officer.
In the winter of 2016, funding from the University’s ESRC Impact Accelerator Account was secured for a project involving the Institute for Academic Development and the Edinburgh Living Lab. Under this project, student community engagement will be used to strengthen the link between research and teaching (for example, students may undertake community engagement that helps deliver the Pathways to Impact activities of research grants).
Following on from a successful pilot in the 2015/16 academic year, recruitment for a further phase of the Digital Ambassadors programme began in May 2017. Around 40 University undergraduate and postgraduate students have now expressed an interest in volunteering through the programme, which aims to help digitally excluded individuals acquire basic online skills. Delivery of this second phase of the programme will begin in September 2017.
Also in the summer of 2017, Edinburgh University Students’ Association appointed its first ever Vice President Community, Ollie Glick, who will be working to ensure that the University’s and Student Association’s approaches on local community engagement enhance one another.