Keeping London at the forefront of global business
working with and for the whole UK
Why London universities must work locally
28 October 2020
The research that takes place at universities has the power to transform the world. It finds cures for diseases, promotes social and economic progress, and improves people’s everyday lives in all kinds of ways. In an increasingly interconnected world, universities are rightly keen to point out the impact they have on a global scale. But it’s important that the impact we can have locally is not forgotten.
London might be theoretically the wealthiest city in the country, but some of its boroughs are among the UK’s poorest areas. With 28% of Londoners living in poverty and over 80,000 children in temporary accommodation poverty, the city faces diverse and multifarious challenges.
The city is also home to more than 40 higher education institutions and hundreds of thousands of students. The majority of these are clustered centrally, but between them they span from Ealing to Stratford; Middlesex to Tooting. This means there is huge potential for civic movements connected to these institutions to affect change at a local level, and a lot of ground that can be covered.
London Metropolitan University has recently launched theLondon Met Lab: Empowering Londonas a way of giving back to our local communities by working in partnership with them to tackle major social challenges. We’ve identified six major challenges facing the city — Crime, Poverty and Deprivation, Social Wealth, Discrimination, Health Improvement, and the Environment – and have recruited a team of ‘Challenge Champions’ from across the University to tackle each one. We believe that any big organisation within a community (and higher education institutions are often the biggest) have a responsibility to their communities to realise their potential and use their geographic role more effectively as agents to drive positive societal change.
A number of projects show how we’re putting this ethos into practice. Firstly, we’re working alongside Hackney Council to help rebuild their local economy in a way that puts local residents first. As part of a long-term response to the economic damage wrought by the pandemic, we’re co-designing solutions for groups facing employment disadvantage by facilitating programmes, placements and networking opportunities across the borough.
Student populations can be a major asset to their communities. We’ve recently created a new module, Empowering London, which allows students to work directly with their local community, whatever course they are studying. This is on top of over 2,000 students we have placed in local businesses, charities and social enterprises each year on subject specific work placements over the last 3 years. This both facilitates thedevelopment of our students’ skills and links with the community, while providing residents with opportunities to access theUniversity’s expertise.
In addition, the academic expertise universities can provide can help local authorities to make evidence-based policy decisions. One London Met criminologist, Dr James Alexander, has been working with at-risk youths for nearly two decades. Through a partnership approach with Camden Council, he advises their youth crime task force to ensure that the strategies which are pursued to reduce gang influence in the area are meaningful and purposeful.
Many facets of the way we live are becoming more globalised; but these projects show the power of working locally. We would be keen to hear from any local businesses or organisations who want to work with us to tackle the challenges facing the city. If you are interested in developing or supporting a project through the London Met Lab, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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