Making a Difference: Reflecting on 19/20
Social Responsibility at Coventry University is embedded into everything we do and informed by the needs of our communities. The strength of community has never been more apparent than this year. Above and beyond some already fantastic work with our communities, staff and students responded quickly to help during the pandemic by volunteering, joining the frontline of the NHS, producing and donating PPE and opening up our buildings to support NHS training.
Responding in a crisis
We were awed but not surprised at the amazing response to the COVID-19 pandemic across our communities. Staff and students volunteered to support vulnerable neighbours, help foodbanks provide essentials and sew scrubs for local hospitals. Many students joined the NHS frontline and our alumni pulled together to support students impacted financially by the pandemic. In a difficult time for all, community spirit and resilience shined through.
Launching our Corporate Social Responsibility Framework
We launched our partnership with charity City Year UK in September 2019. The programme helps local school pupils at risk of not fulfilling their potential and provides impactful work placements for young people. During a successful first year, 200 pupils were supported by City Year mentors, including our students, with marked improvements seen in their behaviour and attendance.
Students in the Community
Our aim is to support and enable students to explore and understand key social challenges, then act as change-makers at university and beyond.
This year over 1,000 students volunteered to make a difference in Coventry, engaged in social responsibility through enterprise training and created their own opportunities for activism and community development.
Investing in Social Enterprise
Recognising that social enterprise will play a key role in a sustainable future, our Enterprise Hub supports students, alumni, staff and the community at various stages of their entrepreneurial journey.
This year marked the start of Launch: an innovative programme of workshops, networking events, training opportunities and competitions for students focussed on solving the world's problems through enterprise. Themes in 19/20 included youth engagement, knife crime, mental health and safety.
Creating resilient communities through Research
Our research makes a difference to communities locally, nationally and globally. This is even more relevant in the COVID-19 era and many in our research community supported the national effort to understand COVID-19 and its wider impacts.
Our 2020 Innovate magazine showcased how our research benefits communities all over the world; from developing migrant-friendly cities in the Midlands through to improving the lives of students with disabilities in North Africa. We also launched three new research centres focussing on real world issues to continue creating better futures for individuals and communities.
Developing community skills and cohesion
Despite having to close our physical premises, it did not stop staff innovating to provide meaningful support and experiences for local residents remotely.
Coventry FabLab pivoted quickly to produce PPE for the NHS and this year supported more people than in their first three years of operation combined. Our Widening Participation team supported many underrepresented groups: over the summer they ran an art event to give 260 young people a way to think about their future away from screens, foster a sense of belonging to the university and help them prepare to return to education.
Curating a City of Culture
Staff and students are already planning events and projects to celebrate Coventry as City of Culture 2021. So far we have funded 26 staff projects which celebrate the culture and people of Coventry. Ten students also received funding to deliver projects which included working with local schools to educate young people about mental well-being through creative activities and creation of a photo exhibition celebrating the cultures of Coventry.
Through our partnership with Warwick University, 'Coventry Creates' was born; a digital exhibition created during lockdown and inspired by university research, the project showcases how researchers and the local artistic community can collaborate to create truly inspiring pieces