Social Renewal: what does it mean to you?


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.

Natavan AliyevaNatavan Aliyeva (BA Politics 2012) is an international student ambassador from Azerbaijan.

‘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.’

See Nata's video interview on YouTube.

Dr Alistair ClarkDr Alistair Clark is a lecturer in Politics, with a research interest in local elections.

‘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.’

See Alistair's video interview on YouTube.

Dan EllisDan Ellis (MA Business and Creativity 2011) runs a community cinema in North Tyneside.

‘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.’

See Dan's video interview on YouTube.

Katie GriffithsKatie Griffiths (BA Economics and Business Management 2012) is the outgoing President of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE).

‘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.’

See Katie's video interview on YouTube.

James JohnstonJames Johnston is Chair of Newcastle University’s Diversity Consultative Group.

‘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.’

See James's video interview on YouTube.

Nina LaurieProfessor Nina Laurie’s (BA Geography 1986) research in international development sees her working with Shakti Samuha, an organisation in Nepal comprising women who have been trafficked.

‘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.’

See Nina's video interview on YouTube.

Oonagh McGeeOonagh McGee works on the Social Inclusion in the Digital Economy (SiDE) project.

‘Social renewal is about transferring the knowledge and expertise we have at the University into the community, using education as a vehicle towards regeneration.’

See Oonagh's video interview on YouTube.

David MoffattDavid Moffatt (BSc Agriculture 1966, PhD 1971) is an international development consultant.

‘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.’

See David's video interview on YouTube.

Dr Suzanne MoffattDr Suzanne Moffatt (PhD Speech 1990) is a senior lecturer in the University’s Institute of Health and Society.

‘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.’

See Suzanne's video interview on YouTube.

Prof Mark ShucksmithProfessor Mark Shucksmith (MSc Agricultural Economics 1977, PhD 1987) is Director of the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal, and an expert on rural development.

‘The challenge of social renewal faces us all – wherever we live – in these times of rapid, transformational change.’

See Mark's video interview on YouTube.

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

Return to Arches