Participatory Geography - Community Impact

Suzanne Jenkins, Jonathan Duckett

    Research output: Other contributionpeer-review


    Over the past 5 years, students undertaking the Participatory Geography module at USW (a 20 credit Level 5 module that forms a core element of our BSc Geography programme) have engaged in a variety of exciting collaborative projects, working alongside communities and local authorities to encourage greater engagement with the local environment. The project has also helped to break down barriers (real and imagined) between USW and the communities that we serve and are located within.
    The delivery of the module has enabled seven student groups to work on a range of projects, in partnership with local communities across Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT). The unitary authority registers as one of the most deprived areas of Wales on the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation, due to the legacy of its heavily industrial past, with high levels of unemployment and associated health issues among large numbers of hard to reach groups. Student projects have focused on the benefits of engaging people with green space in a sustainable and locally meaningful way, empowering communities, building resilience and promoting health and wellbeing.
    Learning lessons and building on best practice from previous years, the two most recent projects (detailed within the supporting evidence) were designed to promote community access to and responsibility over green space. It has become imperative for more creative, innovative and cost neutral approaches to community development at a time when local authorities face greater financial pressure. Our effective partnership working has been evidenced in RCT strategy, heritage lottery bids and through the interest shown by third sector organisations, such as PONT who seek to build relations between communities in RCT and Uganda. These align with the national priorities of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which aims to make Wales a globally responsible, healthier and more prosperous place to live.
    Futures thinking is shaped by the effective community partnerships forged, thus ensuring the foundation of a productive dialogue. Students then work collaboratively, forming a triangle of participation between the University, local authority and community to operationalise the project. Students embed themselves in the community and negotiate multiple, often conflicting, stakeholder interests to produce an equitable outcome. The team provide regular meetings and support for students, supplemented by online seminars detailing the nature of participatory working. Through this model, the module seeks to contribute to the community, situating students as key stakeholders in the co-production of knowledge. This reinforces the role of the University in breaking down barriers and generating opportunities for lifelong learning. The projects culminate in a final community event that celebrates the students and wider community and showcases their aspirations.
    The projects have successfully enabled communities to reconnect with their local environment and unlock an appreciation of its benefits to the long-term health and wellbeing of all. These efforts continue to empower socio-economically marginalised communities and strengthen relations between the University, council and community. For students, the module offers access to a threshold learning experience as they become drivers of change, transforming their understanding of community.
    Original languageEnglish
    TypeTimes Higher Eduction University Imapct Award Application
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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