Working as a CommUNIty
Sometimes it’s difficult to explain partnership working – the benefits are obvious, nonetheless the ingredients of success can be difficult to pin down.
On 12th November, Leeds Beckett University is launching a film about our CommUNIty project. This tells the story of an innovative partnership approach between the university and local voluntary and community organisations in Leeds. Our overarching goal has been to find new, more effective ways to improve health and reduce health inequalities in communities through bringing together community know-how with academic know-how. The film, which was a collaboration between the School of Health and Community Studies and the Northern Film School, captures that essence of this approach through the voices of some of those involved. It shows how strong and enduring relationships between local organisations, staff and students can make a difference over time. This all builds on the place of the university as an important local anchor organisation in the city.
The film celebrates some of the achievements of CommUNIty. It has not always been easy – this was very much a ‘left field’ idea when we started in 2013. CommUNIty was the first Community Campus Partnership for Health (CCPH) in the UK. CCPH is a well-established model in the United States, based on values of equity and social justice. We felt that fitted well with our approach. I remember sitting in the Rose Bowl with Hanif Malik, then CEO of Hamara, talking together about how we needed to do things differently and take risks if we wanted to have an impact on health inequalities. What happens of course when you start a ball rolling is rarely predictable. CommUNIty has been shaped by the commitment and ideas of all the academic staff, students and voluntary sector partners involved. Activities grew that I never would have imagined in 2013 – the CommUNIty learning course, seminars in community settings, placements in the university and in local organisations, new funding, social science festivals, research projects, fun runs and honorary degrees recognising local community leaders. It’s not all been plain sailing – we have had our ups and downs and had to make the case for this approach more than once. So our instructions to Rowena Baldwin, our wonderful film maker and an alumni of LBU, and to Dave Turner, Northern Film School, was make it real and don’t gloss over the messy nature of this work.
When I watch the film, I know we have achieved something that has changed how we work and I am proud of that. The most important messages in the film are ones around values – equality, respect and trust and the importance of widening access to higher education and research. For me, those are the ingredients of success. I hope you can join us for this film launch and hear this story.
Follow our the CommUNIty project on twitter @LeedsCCP