In April, Newcastle University launched the third of its Societal Challenge Themes: Social Renewal. This builds on its previous two themes,Ageing and Sustainability, to address some of society’s most pressing needs.
Based in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal asks how societies and communities – whether local, regional, national or international – can thrive when faced with rapid, transformational change.
Researchers are addressing global challenges such as stimulating enterprise, regenerating places and tackling health and education inequalities, and are channelling their work into seven main themes: Leadership, Citizenship and Governance; Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation; Heritage and Culture; Identity, Diversity and Inclusion; People, Place and Community; Digital Innovation; and Wellbeing and Resilience.
Arches asked a group of students, graduates and members of staff: ‘What does social renewal mean to you?’ Here’s what they came back with.
‘Every year thousands of bright and intelligent international students in the UK face unnecessary obstacles in finding reasonable jobs, as the immigration laws are getting stricter and stricter. I understand that loosening the immigration laws by the government might lead to unnecessary migration problems, but I believe that those students who are eager to stay in UK and have all prerequisites for finding good jobs, should be given at least some chances to prove themselves and benefit the UK economy in the future.’
‘Low voter turnout is not just about apathy. The reasons are complex and include declining trust in representatives to deliver what they promise; social exclusion and inclusion; and the decreasing ability and willingness of political parties to run active campaigns to help get the vote out.’
‘We need to empower people to become involved with the improvement of their communities and to achieve this it is essential to improve the infrastructure, the support and resources reaching people and the organisations that are active on a local level.’
‘Social renewal needs to be driven from the bottom up, and I think students can be a key part of that. At SIFE we get students to use what they’ve learned in their degree, and the resources to which they have access, to give something back to society – often teaching business skills and getting individuals in the community to become more entrepreneurial and improve their own standards of living.’
‘Society can overcome difference by celebrating all kinds of diversity and we can do worse than encourage positive role models who can inspire and renew our confidence in each other.’
‘Social renewal is making something new through collective action, with the solidarity and the support of others. For things to change you have to go beyond just a material intervention, and treat people with respect, honour and esteem.’
‘Social renewal is about transferring the knowledge and expertise we have at the University into the community, using education as a vehicle towards regeneration.’
‘For me social renewal must be founded on the devolution of responsibility, authority and, critically, control of the purse strings to communities – and should build on their existing assets.’
‘Poor health and the persistence of health inequalities have a fundamental impact on quality of life. Improvements in health result, first and foremost, from tackling root causes such as poverty, poor housing, educational and employment opportunities and environmental degradation. A challenging and long-term outcome of any social renewal initiative would be improved health and the reduction of health inequalities.’
‘The challenge of social renewal faces us all – wherever we live – in these times of rapid, transformational change.’
But what does it mean to you? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page – and keep an eye on the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal’s website for details of events and activities over the coming year.
published on: 7th September 2012
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