Kush Chahal, Senior Research Fellow at the School, tells us how the School’s major new project, Birmingham 2029, is its response to the social challenges faced by residents and how it is enhancing the student experience.
“Birmingham City University forms reciprocal knowledge bonds and exchanges that contribute to addressing social disadvantage, exclusion and injustice.
“This can lead to co-produced knowledge through new partnerships, perspectives and conversations and an empathic approach to contribute to our civic and community focused responsibilities. To add to this, the majority of BCU students come from within Birmingham, which is itself a global as well as diverse city and we have to consider ourselves as influencers, change makers, knowledge creators and exchangers.
“By combining place-based, micro-ethnographies and participatory action research with exploring social problems through big data, our Birmingham 2029 project aims to respond to the knowledge exchange and impact agenda, asking a range of key questions such as: What are the societal challenges Birmingham residents face? How can BCU and the School of Social Sciences respond to these challenges? How can we work with the people and stakeholders of Birmingham to understand, co-design, co-research and co-create solutions that have a lasting place-based impact?
“The first year of activities for Birmingham 2029 have primarily focused on setting up. We have advertised five fully funded PhDs, focusing on a range of social issues, and funded seven Pathway Grants that connect Social Sciences researchers with community and voluntary sector partners to undertake impactful research.
“We have connected with place-based community organisations in Winson Green, Handsworth and Lozells, as well as with strategic partners such as Birmingham City Council and Birmingham Voluntary Services Council, to establish working relationships and co-design projects as well as to organise stakeholder and community consultation events.
“An agreed book series with Policy Press on community-university engagement will connect us to other globally engaged universities. Moving into the next phase, these activities contribute to Birmingham 2029 having both a place-based but also strategic influence.
“The pandemic has affected our planned activities, changed how we can communicate with our partners and undertake engagement and research activities. However, more importantly, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on communities across the city. What will be our civic response to this? How can community-university engagement activities support, understand and respond to the experiences and impacts of the pandemic? COVID-19 is a global challenge lived and experienced at the local level, and it is at this intersection that Birmingham 2029 aims to make a difference.”