Reversing sealife decline, reusing old tech and reclaiming local parks: The British Academy and SOS-UK fund student-led sustainability projects

28 Jul 2022

Projects exploring local communities’ understanding of seaside biodiversity through the arts and increasing access to digital technology for lower-income families are among those set to receive additional funding from the British Academy and Students Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK). The funding is part of a collaboration focused on student-led solutions to sustainability challenges.

First launched in 2020, the SHAPE Impact Projects collaboration engages students and academics across the SHAPE disciplines (social sciences, humanities and the arts for people and the economy) in realising the relevance and impact of their subjects for tackling key challenges around environmental, social and economic sustainability.

The SHAPE Impact Projects adopt a "living laboratory" model with the institutions and the students’ local communities serving as testbeds for their ideas, enabling an understanding of the real-world impact of their ideas. Additional learning and development workshops were held to support the student project leaders in key areas.

Following the 2021/22 programme's conclusion at a Birmingham conference, participating students bid for additional funding across 12 projects based at five UK universities: Aberystwyth University, De Montfort University, Glasgow Caledonian, Goldsmiths and the University of West London.

The successful projects set to receive the additional funding include:

  • Resisting seaside decline: The (bio)diversity challenge (Aberystwyth University): Drawing on co-production methodologies in the arts, this project will support local communities to explore and understand coastal biodiversity and will conclude with an exhibition.

  • How can we address the challenges of access to digital technology for lower-income households? (Glasgow Caledonian University): Promoting a ‘circular economy’ approach, this project will collect out-of-use technology from the university IT department, restore it via a local repair café, and distribute the technology to lower-income families via a local charity.

  • What can we do to improve the experiences of young people in Lewisham’s parks? (Goldsmiths, University of London): Through educational arts workshops, students will work with children and young people to explore their local park, focusing on issues of litter, crime, sustainability, and reimagining local green spaces through different mediums, including poetry and filmmaking.

Dr Molly Morgan Jones, the British Academy’s Director of Policy, said:

“The SHAPE disciplines play a critical role in understanding the complex human and social dimensions to environmental challenges. It is wonderful to offer students and academics in these subjects an opportunity to test out and grow their innovative solutions to issues of environmental sustainability in their local area through the SHAPE Impact Projects.”

Quinn Runkle, SOS-UK's Director of Education, said:

“The arts, social sciences, and humanities actively shape society’s ideas about how the future could look. Engaging students from these disciplines to work with academics to create local solutions to complex sustainability challenges has been inspiring and impactful. We are delighted to deliver this work in partnership with the British Academy. This is what meaningful education should include in the face of the climate crisis and ecological emergency.”

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