Storying Sheffield

The Learning University Project

This is a guest post by a group of staff from various parts of the University of Sheffield.

We are a group of University staff on the Sheffield Leader 3 programme. When we started the course in April we were asked to choose an area of interest to the University as a topic for a project. Although we chose civic engagement, when we set out in April we had no idea what we wanted the project to be.
It is now July and we have come a long way. We realised early on that we needed to meet regularly even if we didn’t have any firm plans, and the first few meetings were really about sharing ideas and finding and sharing information. We established that we wanted to find out more about what the University might learn from people who were disconnected or remote from it, in order to inform the University Civic Engagement strategy. This led us to the idea of “The Learning University”.
We talked to many people within the University about our ideas to help us formulate our project. From this we have learned that whilst the University is a big place, and can seem daunting when you are not quite sure where you need to look, it is full of knowledgeable and helpful people who are all nodes in a larger network, and help can always be found. As a result, we have connected with Brendan Stone as our project sponsor. He has helped with external connections, although we have also found many of our own, and with validating our approach.
We are going to visit schools and community groups over the next few months thanks to the contacts that we have made, and hope that working with them interactively in a number of different ways (storyboarding, picture drawing, buzz groups) we will collectively produce some useful insights into perceptions of the University and what this might mean for civic engagement.
This project has meant a very different way of working in a very different environment than the group is used to. It is scary and exciting, but that has enabled us to be more creative and flexible than usual.
We are wondering what our first visit to a primary school will be like, and what that might tell us.
We’ll let you know in our next post.