What is a Smart City?
Most people don’t know what a ‘Smart City’ is, and let’s face it why would they care? Even the most simplified definition, like this one, taken from Wikipedia, would switch off any man or woman in the street quicker than a dodgy smartphone battery: “A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of things (IoT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets – the city’s assets include, but are not limited to, local departments’ information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services.” If you haven’t already blown your own brains out and get the gist of it, you soon realise that this stuff is much bigger than us, so probably wont engage with it. To quote The Smiths: “It says nothing to me about my life…” I met with my colleague Dr Lee Hadlington who sits with me and on the De Montfort University Smart City Project Board to work out how we can get people more involved in the idea, as we work on a plan to see how Leicester could be a Smart City*.
Continue reading “Public Engagement blog: Design your life in an app and define what a Smart City could be…”
Here is a piece of writing that I did recently that ambitiously I was hoping to turn into a research paper and send to an academic journal. My PhD supervisors’ feedback was that the scope was too broad and I should refine it. Since that conversation, I have taken those words on board and I’m currently developing a more focused research plan, which will potentially spin-off a number of pieces of research from this initial idea. I wanted to investigate where students’ awareness of austerity is motivating them to volunteer in the new era of Higher Education tuition fees.I thought I would blog my original writing as it will prove a useful reference point as my ideas and writing develops on this subject area. Obviously I’ve made it blog friendly and cut some details around data gathering and methodology out – oh and there’s no findings! On the other hand, it does present the notion that somewhere within this subject matter, there is an opportunity for further investigation.
Continue reading “Public Engagement blog: Is austerity motivating students to volunteer in an era of tuition fees?”
I was recently with a delegation of De Montfort University (DMU) students researching Berlin’s response to the huge influx of Syrian people to the city – so that we can reinvigorate a programme to help refugees and asylum seekers in Leicester, United Kingdom. During my time in the German capital I recorded the following podcast with two DMU students, Nabs and Ruth, who were interviewed with ex-Syrian refugee, now architecture student, Manar.
In a gloomy, dank school gymnasium in a backstreet of Berlin I got a tiny insight into what life is like for the displaced people of Syria who find themselves trying to settle in Germany. One sports hall in the complex was turned into a makeshift community centre for children and families. Adjacent to this was the living area for up to 150 families who have come to Germany in search of a better life. In my role as Head of Public Engagement at De Montfort University, I was with a delegation of (DMU) students researching the city’s response to the huge influx of Syrian people – so they can reinvigorate a programme to help refugees and asylum seekers in Leicester,
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There’s nothing like a great piece of music, fashion or a movie to set the scene of the 1960s some of the most exciting and creative times in modern history. Earlier this month I was lucky enough to take part in an event in London where a group of De Montfort University staff and students recreated the 1960s cinema experience from the findings of research of more than 1,000 people sharing their memories. The research project was led by DMU’s Dr Matthew Jones and was brought to life in collaboration with staff and students from DMU’s Drama studies course.For me, it was great to see such an innovative way to disseminate research findings. This podcast was recorded at the event, held at the Picturehouse Cinema in London’s Piccadilly Circus. It features first year DMU Drama Student Sophie Dolling, Senior lecturers in Drama Kelly Jordan and Alissa Clarke and Lecturer in Cinema and Television History, Dr Matthew Jones. Read the full blog about the event here. I hope you enjoy the podcast, if you have any questions please email me on email@example.com
I don’t know if it was the offer of a free sherbert lemon from an usherette or the constant flashing of torches throughout the film, but, on a wet Wednesday in London, the experience of sights, sounds and colour of 1960s movie-going was convincingly brought to life by staff and students of De Montfort University, Leicester. In terms of attention to detail, it couldn’t have looked better. The Picturehouse in Piccadilly Circus, London, still exhorts the splendour of a classic cinema of yesteryear, so it was the ideal location for a group of DMU academics and drama students to take a venue back in time.
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I recently presented at the Annual Conference of the University Association of Life-long Learning at the University of Oxford. As I am not an academic, rather a practictioner as Head of Public Engagement at De Montfort University, I do not present things too often. In fact this was the first time I presented anything related to my PhD research. The University of Oxford was one of the pioneers of the University Extension movement in the United Kingdom. My presentation was in Rewley House, Oxford’s home of extramural activity where for over 100 years academics and communities have undertaken learning activities together (see photo). I was very proud to be presenting my work in such historic surroundings, if a little nervous. In my verbal introduction to the delegates, I explained that this research, done specifically for this particular conference, was an opportunity for me to investigate something that had been bugging me for a while. Namely, do the great things universities say are happening when they work with communities actually happen? Or do they assume they happened? As it was a conference for academics and practitioners, the research was written for a broad audience and the presentation was not particularly framed in the language of social science. With this in mind, if you have any questions about the detail or methodology, please tweet me @TheNewStatsman – otherwise here is the corresponding article I wrote for the presentation:
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I looked out of my hotel window – five, six, seven dogs ran through the street, a gentle warm January breeze tossed dozens of kites caught in a tree and cars continued to peep their horns loudly at 2am. An old man walked by eating ice cream and the lights had finally gone out on a nearby slum. Ahmedabad, India, had given me an insomniac’s welcome that was far from restful. The stiffest drink in the hotel bar, a can of Diet Coke, was not going to help me fall asleep so I sat staring at the road below, reflecting on my day.I was thinking about that cliche of Indian life – where extreme poverty and wealth live side by side.
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There is a growing interest in how universities work with the public to pursue projects that aim to deliver mutual benefits through engagement (Owen and Hill S, 2011; Watson, 2007; NCCPE, 2015) and while public engagement in higher education is not a new concept (Robinson F, Zass-Ogilvie I, Hudson R., 2012), there is now a need for greater accountability from funding bodies and authorities, increasing the need for universities to demonstrate how they connects their work with people beyond the campus (Wellcome Trust, 2011). This literature review aims to discuss two elements. It sets out to provide analysis of the existing literature around university-community engagement. It also identifies a gap in the literature around evaluation of engagement activities. Higher Education sees its third mission, beyond teaching and learning, as sharing its knowledge to benefit the wider public (Goddard J, 2009) (Boyer, 1990). How this is achieved can take many forms, from people taking part in research, school children participating in Higher Education taster days to community groups using campus facilities (Robinson F, Zass-Ogilvie I, Hudson R., 2012).How universities engage with people from outside their organisations differs from institution to institution (Universities UK, 2010) and how this is described is inconsistent across the sector, nationally and internationally (Hart & Northmore, 2011), (Mason O‘Connor K, et al 2011).
Definitions of this work will be considered, along with why different types of engagement need to be evaluated.
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This is a work in progress and may be slightly inaccurate in that it doesn’t show every location that a DMU Square Mile project has taken place. However it does go some way to show the number of projects we have operated across the city since 2014. Box 1 shows the original square mile location where projects began in 2011. Box 2 shows our recent work in the Beaumont Leys community. The remainder shows how capacity has allowed us to share existing activities with different Leicester communities. See an interactive map here