‘Community to me is’…Young People’s Musings on Community

Post by Catherine Wilkinson, ESRC NWDTC PhD student

KCC Live is a community youth-led radio station situated in Knowsley, just outside of Liverpool. The station targets listeners between the ages of 10-24 and has a cohort of volunteers aged 16 and upwards, assisting with roles such as presenting, programming and fundraising. The overarching aim of my doctoral research is to explore how KCC Live creates social capital among these young people in the current time of political, social and economic uncertainty. Within my project I draw on a range of creative qualitative methods, namely: participant observation; interviews and focus groups with young volunteers; interviews with key stakeholders; a listener survey and follow-up interviews; and listener diaries and follow-up interviews. Within my research I adopt a participatory approach.

As part of my research, I am particularly interested in understanding what ‘community’ means to the young people, and the different meanings they attach to the word. To this end, as part of my participatory methodology, the young people and I co-created an audio documentary. The documentary was participatory to the extent that: the young people highlighted key topics relating to community which they would like to discuss; the young people and I recorded discussions about community to be used as content; the young people provided me with advice as to how to edit the documentary; they chose the music and sound effects to be included; after a ‘first draft’ was complete, the young people were involved in snoops (listening sessions where critique and feedback is provided), which instructed me on how to improve the documentary.

In accordance with the desires of the young people, the documentary explores: what community means to them; the different community groups they are involved in; different scales of community, from geographic to virtual; the role of social media in the construction of community; whether they perceive community as positive or negative; the Scouse sense of community; and the community of KCC Live. The audio documentary is around 30 minutes in length and was played out on KCC Live during a show that I present. It is now available as a resource for young people to use as broadcasting content on the station whenever they desire. To listen to the documentary, please follow this link: https://soundcloud.com/catherinewilkinson

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Exploring the social and solidarity economies in Liverpool and Brazil

Carol (second on the left) with the Social Enterprise Network team and Cllr Rosie Jolly, Chief Executive of SEN and the Mayoral Lead for Social and Community Enterprise at the Liverpool International Festival of Business

Carol (second on the left) with the Social Enterprise Network team and Cllr Rosie Jolly, Chief Executive of SEN and the Mayoral Lead for Social and Community Enterprise at the Liverpool International Festival of Business

Having lived in Liverpool for a year, I can say how enriching the experience of leaving your individual comfort zone can be! I am Carolina Santos. I have been a Brazilian exchange student at the University of Liverpool for the last twelve months as part of the Science without Borders program, part of the Environmental Sciences degree. This is what I have learned…

Even after having spent some time in this lovely and vibrant city, it is still not easy for me to fully understand how deep the differences between Brazil and the UK – politically, socially, economically, culturally – actually are. While the UK has been at the heart of globalising processes since the Second World War – and the British Empire, with Liverpool at its heart, was central to global trade before that – the Latin American experience of deeply exploitative colonial processes both historically and, as Eduardo Galliano showed, today. This understanding profoundly shaped and intensified my experiences of living among such profound differences. The historical injustice of the legacy of global trade that is celebrated by Liverpool’s UNESCO World Heritage Status still matters, and I am very pleased that these ‘geographies of responsibility’ are properly grappled with by Liverpool Geographers.

During my time in Liverpool I was lucky enough to participate in a research project which examined potential learning between the British ‘Social Economy’ context and the Latin American ‘Solidarity Economy’ scenario, coordinated by Dr Peter North with Liverpool’s Social Enterprise Network. While it may seem a debate about definitions, basically the British Social Economy looks to use business skills and methods to do good and to meet social needs, while the Latin American Solidarity Economy context starts with a different question – how do we want to live with dignity, meeting both our needs, and those of the other species that we share this planet? How can we build an economy that helps us do that? While there are differences, both concepts put people before pounds or profit.

I found the differences between the UK and Brazil fascinating. You will have seen the million strong demonstrations in Brazil around the World Cup: was it right to spend money on stadia while people went hungry in the favelas a few miles away? Considering the current British socioeconomic condition of austerity and the continuing existence of highly deprived neighbourhoods (especially around Liverpool, close to the city centre), I could not help but feel that a dose of radicalism would be beneficial to British society, in order to build a stronger repudiation of the public sector cuts as part of a fight against deprivation and for a better society. Dr North told me that back in his day, Liverpool did see such a fightback, and it did not end well – are todays politicians right to be more pragmatic? As a Latin American, I’m not sure.

Indeed, it’s incredibly interesting for me to observe how people act in relation to economic crisis. Generally speaking: even though in both contexts there is a general historical tendency for people to get together in difficult socioeconomic times, it seems to me that Latin Americans explore and recognize their power as citizens able to make a difference and to fight for their rights more fully. They frequently make this explicit by taking to the streets far more regularly in order to pressure the public sector and fight for public policies or new agendas. The Solidarity Economy in this context can be considered a more radical anti-capitalist approach than Social Economy as it understands social issues as housing, employment, health and education are all connected as consequences of the same exploitative competitive system. The Solidarity economy is based on feelings of reciprocity, democracy and equality, and it works mainly through cooperatives.

In contrast, in the face of public spending cuts the British Social Economy or third sector has explored more market-based alternatives to stake funded provision. Social enterprises, for example, aim to tackle social issues as their main objective, and mainly differentiate themselves from private businesses by having their surpluses reinvested. I struggled to find anyone who had a good word to say about the Big Society! On the other hand, I was very impressed with the professionalism of and the commitment of the lovely friends I made at the Social Enterprise Network in Liverpool – their professionalism and expertise is something I will take back to Brazil.

That said, my Brazilian roots suggest that, no matter how developed the British third sector is and how great its social impact has become (especially around the very well-received “buy social, buy local” movement), it should also be important to keep a clear understanding of what social needs are and what social demands should be made to change things for the better, holding the balance between tackling social needs in positive, pragmatic ways while not accepting state withdrawal, especially in times of austerity, without a fight. We should not be complicit in the cuts, in neoliberalisation!

In this context, Brazilian experiences of public policies for the development of the Solidarity Economy consist of both massive popular pressure toward the public sector to win social benefits through a fairer economy for all, with concrete projects to make this happen. Ever since 2002 there has been a National Secretariat of the Solidarity Economy which supports solidarity economy initiatives nationally and locally. They focus on empowering people and communities with both technical and managerial support, and through supporting what we call self-management and direct democracy. They work to strengthen community cohesion and use educational methodologies developed by Friere which are part of a long-term process toward achieving a more representative and inclusive society. I suppose what I could not help thinking was that the British Social Economy movement could be more obviously part of a fight for a better world, not a way of making the cuts less ‘painful’.

Something else I could notice in the UK (more specifically in Liverpool) was the low involvement of the young student generation in political movements and social economy itself, and how little is made of the potential for running things in co-operative and solidaristic ways by student unions and even student guilds. They do not seem to do as much as I expected to organise political actions, even though the region has had a strong militant past by the 80s. This is a definitely different aspect from Brazil, where students still have a strong culture of political involvement, which is directly connected to the need for change and the fight for social equality, and, in this way, to solidarity economy principles. It all also shows how positive things could be could be if social enterprises got more support from universities, especially through student guilds and unions.

At this point, about to return to my home country, I am feeling fulfilled and thankful for taking back a huge bag full of learning and knowledge for life with me. Even though it has not been easy to live in a different place, noticing differences definitely has the potential to bring understanding between different societies and, consequently, to understand how both can make the world a better place in their own way.

Carol Santos, Science without Borders student, School for Environmental Sciences

Mission Possible: Scoat Tarn Boot Camp

By Fiona Russell (PhD researcher and Graduate Teaching Assistant)

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2st July 2014, the day we conquered Scoat Tarn!

Your mission, Fiona Russell, should you wish to accept it is…… compile a group of eight willing volunteers, two boats, paddles, 8 life jackets (must be safe), two corers, 350m of rope, 10 litres of drinking water, a ladder, some dodgy knees, sunshine and some cling film, then tackle one of the highest lakes in the Lake District to recover 1000 years of mud from beneath 18m of water. This message will self-destruct in 30 seconds.

After some last minute alterations due potential 40 kph winds on Thursday, we set off for an epic coring trip to Scoat Tarn, a typical mountain cirque basin at 600m altitude in the Lake District National Park, UK. Scoat Tarn is small (5.2ha), deep (<20 m), lies in a west facing valley at an altitude of 602 m to the north and above Wastwater, England’s deepest lake. The catchment comprises steeply sloping walls; with summits in excess of 825 m. Scoat Tarn shows a sediment signature of severe acidification in recent years as a direct result of human-induced acid deposition, and the location is one of the UK Upland Waters Monitoring Network of sites, whose data show the lake has recovered to some extent the last two decades.

Seven of the group sensibly met at the Wasdale Head Inn where we set up camp and spent an enjoyable evening in the pub eating drinking and watching Belgium knock USA out of the World Cup. The eighth decided to play a league tennis match til 8.30pm and then drive to the Lake District arriving just in time for last orders and a welcome pint of Lakeland Ale already purchased by the team.

In the morning, after a quiet night’s sleep accompanied by incessant bleating sheep, squawking birds, cuckoos and general noisy countryside, the reality of it all struck home and the tough fieldwork we had come here for arrived. A short drive along the edge of Wastwater and we arrived at the car park. Eight rucksacks packed to the brim with boats, ropes and coring equipment, we set off into the hills for a slightly daunting 500m climb over 4km.

Several hours and several miles (or km) later we reached Scoat Tarn. The aim was to collect 3 short gravity cores and a longer sediment record using a piston corer. To get the latter, we had to set up a rig with a stable working area from which we could operate the piston from. Our design was successful (it was worth carrying the ladder all that way!) and we managed to extract a one meter core from 18 m of water that will probably encompass the last 1000 years of environmental history for this upland catchment and what a catchment a stunning cirque basin in the southwest fells of one of the most beautiful valleys in England…..

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We returned home to Liverpool the next morning with bags of sediment and a huge sense of achievement, my first PhD samples in the bag! Thanks to the team; Richard Chiverrell, John Boyle, Daniel Schillereff, Jen Clear, Hugh Smith, Amy Lennard and Agata Marzecova.

Opportunity knocks for Woman scientists: maximise your voice

By Karen Halsall (PhD Researcher in Geography and Planning)

Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE

Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, the new presenter of the Sky at Night

For me, giving presentations is a nerve-racking experience. Although it could be worse, according to Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, the new presenter of the Sky at Night, En Hudu Anan, the first woman Astronomer and Babylonian High Priestess had to wear a beard when presenting her studies on the stars so that she looked more like a man. Personally, I am always keen to improve my presentation skills and have often resorted to hiding behind rustling papers and a plethora of PowerPoint slides but perhaps a beard would be one step too far! So I was very pleased to receive a grant from Athena Swan (Charter for women in science: Recognising commitment to advancing woman’s careers in STEMM academia http://www.athenaswan.org.uk) to attend a one day course led by Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Screenhouse Film Company.

The day was in two sections; the morning was spent listening to Maggie and the producer presenting very useful and insightful information into some of the pitfalls and highlights of ‘being on the telly’ with clips of various science experts on news programmes. We also heard that women are currently being sought after by journalists to comment on topical science stories. One of the delegates at the course said she was already promoting herself in this way to the chagrin of her colleagues as she was away from her desk so much! During the afternoon, we were filmed 3 times presenting a 90 second story of our own choosing – no script mostly off the cuff talking. We got feedback after each review on how to improve speech pace, energy and non-verbal skills. This was very useful. I practiced controlling the talk by leaving a few seconds silence between sections (also a useful opportunity to breathe). We talked about the merits of gesticulating and I found that it’s OK to let your arms/hands join in.

So why, you may be asking, is this women only course necessary? Recent research has highlighted that many young female students are not choosing science subjects at A Level. Maggie said “This is because there can be a lack of female role models in schools and that some female students have misconceptions about science being for people who are socially inept”. (Maggie works freelance as a Science Communicator promoting science in schools). So this course was set up to encourage/train more female scientists to stick their head above the parapet and discuss their newsworthy scientific research in a way that is understandable to non-experts.

The day encouraged us to look for opportunities to become more media savvy. For example; by presenting at science fairs, writing press releases and writing blogs (e.g. www.thewomensroom.org.uk/ and www.hersay.co.uk). We gained an insight into the work of a currently sought after scientific expert, Maggie Aderin-Pocock, and I picked up some useful tips that will (hopefully) improve my presentations. So it was all together a useful day that I would recommend to other women. It has certainly encouraged me to look out for opportunities to share my research with a wider audience and the value of being skilled in interpreting and communicating complex scientific concepts to non-experts; so thank you Athena Swan! .

Athena Swan (Charter for woman in science: Recognising commitment to advancing woman’s careers in STEMM academia) supported me by paying for registration and travel through a competitive application. Are you already media savvy? If you are not like Professor Alan King and more like Maggie in this News Night clip then now is the time to be an opportunist!

How a work-based dissertation re-affirmed my confidence in my subject, my own ability and my future

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Post by Jonathon Clark, 3rd Year BSc Geography

The second semester of my second year saw the onset of what all geography undergraduates regard with terror, mystique and possibly a touch of (occasionally) misguided optimism: the Dissertation.

Initially, I felt secure – buoyant amongst a cohort of geography students in the same sea of chaos. The BA-inclined were all scrambling to draw up questionnaires for unsuspecting members of the public. The eager physical scientists in the making immersed in geological maps, ready to snap the perfect Facebook profile picture of them standing triumphantly over a patch of ground they had cored, blasted with an XRF spectrometer and talked about in what could be their first pitch to the scientific community. However, I soon found myself falling behind in the race to have my proposal accepted. The deadline for the proposal loomed, drawing ever closer. My page was still blank. With a sense of impending castastrophe for not only my grades but also my pride, I questioned myself thoroughly. Have I suddenly fallen behind? Am I not as intelligent? Does my brain work differently? Is this the sign that maybe this whole thing isn’t for me? It got that dire.

My logic led me to think about what particular aspects of geography appeal most to me. I have never identified myself as purely a physical or human geographer. Rather, from the first geography lesson I sat in my A Level class, I recognised that geography holds a unique selling point over any other subject taught in academia. No, not its so often bragged about breadth and depth, or its great fieldtrips, but its ability as a discipline to be studied not only for the sole purpose of expanding knowledge of socio-economic trends or physical phenomena but also integrating this knowledge to provide solutions to problems which can affect hundreds of thousands of people, every single day. Great! But how can I translate this interest and passion into a feasible project to carry out in the field? I recognised there were several options open to me. Why not see how different rungs of society in Liverpool feel about climate change? Why not see if austerity is impacting wildlife preservation in the Sefton coast? How has political instability in the Middle East affected the renewable energy industry in Britain? It’s strange; looking back, all of these ideas were actually quite possible. Yet, at the time, in the stress of the moment, I felt like there was an overwhelming amount of scale and work involved in pursuing any of these avenues. It seemed I’d taken one step forwards and two steps back…

Hands up if you’re guilty of sometimes clicking delete loads of times to get through a large backlog of e-mails! I know I’ve done it. This particular day, however, I was lucky to not do this as I received an e-mail from Andy Plater regarding work placements available over summer, which could convert into work-based dissertations. I had heard about work-based dissertations in a lecture earlier in the year and dismissed it as a complicated, paperwork-laden option for completing my dissertation. This dismissal was reinforced by the naive belief I held at the time which led me to falsely trust I could come up with a piece of original research on the spot. One of the placements Andy talked about in the e-mail was at a social enterprise recycling company based in Huyton, called Elixir. I read on to learn about what would eventually become a significant part of my life.

Close up gran pick beltElixir was founded by Ben Donnelly as a company which employed ex-offenders, addicts and those who have been out of work for prolonged periods. At their plant, they recycle waste PVCu plastic from the construction industry. Through shredding and granulating it and then shipping it on to manufacturers, the PVCu is completely recycled with zero waste to landfill. The story of the company’s creation really struck a chord with me, and the nature of their environmental and social work appealed to me. Ben had contacted Andy as well as the Centre for Global Eco Innovation (CGE) – a venture run by the universities of Lancaster and Liverpool as well as the commercialisation firm Inventya. Based on the first floor of the Roxby, they normally deal with small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who have an environmental focus to their work. The universities provide enable the companies to host dedicated graduate researchers and to gain access to research and development facilities to allow the companies to develop new economically sustainable or beneficial products. In the case of Elixir, no postgraduate student had been found at the time to quite suit the nature of the work they were undertaking; Elixir sought to expand from recycling just PVCu to also recycling other types of plastic waste, as well as potentially recycling electronic waste and looking into setting up a renewable energy project.

After a short but intense series of discussions regarding what work I would be undertaking during my internship and how it would produce an academic piece that would constitute a dissertation, the interested parties came to an agreement that I would assist Elixir in setting up a facility at their plant which could process waste LCD televisions and computer monitors. On the academic front, I would employ knowledge of ecosystems and environmental planning to produce an environmental impact assessment and life-cycle analysis of the waste screens.

Shred in magIt was a great relief to have other experienced people steer me in what I would write such a lengthy piece of work about. Through the assistance of Matt Fulton, the CGE project manager, the paperwork involved was minimal. Aside from the regular dissertation proposal I only needed complete some insurance documents and a learning agreement. I also quickly realised that I was gaining valuable experience in an industry closely related to my degree subject. Such experience is highly valued by graduate employers and gave me an edge over my peers who may have edged me out in the game of raw marks, chasing that elusive first class honours degree. It was reassuring.

1798458_3973871241712_1373085539_nThe work itself was a combination of office duties, finance and business report tasks akin to an assistant managerial level and also some hands on work in the plant using machinery and working with the lads on the factory floor. It was insightful, educational, useful and, best of all, fun. Working in such a company let me network with key authoritative figures in UK recycling, energy and environmental bodies and companies. It also let me meet some amazing people who have come from the most horrendous backgrounds possible in this country and overcome challenges that cause you to reflect on how lucky you are to have family, friends, health, food and shelter. After 4 weeks of work over the summer, which culminated in a boardroom presentation to managing directors and investors, I was relieved to see my research and designs given approval and investment (after some minor adjustments – I can’t say I’m ashamed about not knowing what the difference between revenue and profit was, having never touched business studies in my life!). This paved the way for me to take a break from Elixir and use my rapidly approaching first semester of third year to focus on completing the academic element of my dissertation. The summary report and skills diary which compose one third of the work-based dissertation module were completed on the job – another huge benefit if you’re someone who is less academically inclined and more oriented towards reports and action plans as well as practical learning.

Gran bag stand with mattyWith the dissertation progressing smoothly, I was delighted to receive a call from Ben offering me part-time work for the remainder of my degree at the company. Spending a few hours a week at Elixir now allows me to manage the operation I tended to from its design stage right up to its present stage of operation. I can now call myself the proud Waste Electronic Development Manager of a company which is processing several tons of electronic waste per week, which would have otherwise contaminated landfill sites and ecosystems with the harmful mercury and lead contaminants such waste electronic goods contain. The added financial bonus to this work is also helping me pay for my final year fieldtrip to California. It’s truly a win-win situation.

Vib 2Hopefully, this post has cast some light on how a work-based dissertation can be so advantageous to an undergraduate student. It’s no exaggeration to say that it shapes you personally as well as academically. Even if the added fun of this doesn’t interest you and you are dead set on logging pollen in samples from the hills of North Wales or the dissertation seems so far off, perhaps this has given you some insight into the highs and lows and mental battles that you can encounter as you enter the twilight of your degree. I hope to add to this post in the not-too-distant future, where I feel the experiences I have detailed here will help me take a leap into the world of work and benefit me even further.

Dream big and work hard.
Jonny

By the way – I got a first (provisionally)!!

First publication – ‘Procedural and distributive justice in a community-based Marine Protected Area in Zanzibar, Tanzania’

By Madeleine Gustavsson

As a PhD student in the Department of Geography and Planning, earlier this week I got my first research article published in Marine Policy: “Procedural and distributive justice in a community-based Marine Protected Area in Zanzibar, Tanzania”. The paper was co-authored by Lars Lindström (Dept. Political Science, Stockholm University), Narriman S. Jiddawi (Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Dar es Salaam) and Maricela de la Torre-Castro (Dept. Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University) who are all experts on natural resource management and governance in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

Uroa, Zanzibar Island

Uroa, Zanzibar Island

The article investigates participation by local actors in planning and implementation of a ‘community-based managed’ Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Zanzibar, Tanzania, which is analysed in terms of procedural and distributive justice.

The study finds that no local actors participated in the planning of the MPA. Fishermen who were members of a village fishermen committee participated in implementation although this did not include women. The government of Zanzibar distributed equipment, alternative income generating projects and relied on tourism for development of the local economy. However, the distributed equipment and tourism development have created conflict and injustice within and between villages, because of the insufficient resources, which do not target those in need. Tourism created problems such as inequality between livelihoods, environmental destruction and local power asymmetries between hotel management and local people.” This paper found that neither procedural nor distributive justice has been achieved. The MPA has further failed to meet its objectives of conflict resolution and sustainable use of natural resources.  The paper argues that interactive participation by all, in the design and planning phases, is necessary for social-ecological sustainability outcomes.

The work was part of my master’s degree project at Stockholm University, Sweden. The paper adds to the growing field of MPAs social impacts in developing countries. Thanks for reading this blog post, and if you are interested, please get in contact (Click here to email).

The Anthropocene Review: Issue 1 Content

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Following the recent announcement that the new, peer-reviewed journal The Anthropocene Review has launched (based from the Department of Geography and Planning, School of Environmental Sciences), we are delighted to confirm the Table of Contents for Issue 1 of our journal. These contributions will present research on many aspects of the Anthropocene ensuring the journal lives up to its transdisciplinary remit.

Whilst the full issue will appear in print in April 2014, articles will appear as OnlineFirst versions as soon as the proofs have been accepted by the authors. These will be hosted on the journal website. We would particularly like to highlight that SAGE are currently offering free online access to The Anthropocene Review.

Interested readers can subscribe to RSS notifications or email alerts via this website and it will also contain information about the journal that is not hosted by our blog, including specific details on manuscript submission, how articles are indexed by SAGE as well as information on permissions for posting reprints of manuscripts.

Lastly, we are continuously searching for contributions to future Issues. Why not consider submitting a manuscript to this important new journal?

Issue 1: Table of Contents

Oldfield F, Barnosky AD, Dearing J, Fischer-Kowalski M, McNeill J, Steffen W and Zalasiewicz J.  The Anthropocene Review: Its significance, implications and the rationale for a new transdisciplinary journal.

Barnosky AD and Hadly EA. Problem solving in the Anthropocene.

Barnosky AD, Brown JH, Daily GC, Ehrlich AH, Ehrelich PR, Eronen JT, Fortelius M, Hadly EA, Leopold EB, Mooney HA, Myers JP, Naylor RL, Palumbi S, StensethNC and Wake MH. Scientific Consensus on Maintaining Humanity’s Life Support Systems in the 21st Century: Information for Policy Makers

McMichael AJ. Population Health in the Anthropocene: Gains, losses and emerging trends.

Biermann FH. The Anthropocene: a governance perspective.

Malm A and Hornborg A. The Geology of Mankind?  A Critique of the Anthropocene Narrative

Zalasiewicz J, Williams M, Waters CN, Barnosky AD and Haff P.  The technofossil record of humans.

Fischer-Kowalski M, Krausmann and Pallua I. A socio-metabolic reading of the Anthropocene: modes of subsistence, population size and human impact on Earth.

Oldfield F and Steffen W. Anthropocene climate change and the nature of Earth System Science