In a year where the EU referendum result exposed divisions in local communities, students on 3FF’s ParliaMentors programme have been delivering transformative change across the country with their social action projects.
A recurring theme of cohesion was evident across many of the projects . Our mixed-faith teams made up of 50 emerging student leaders from 9 Universities have come together to understand and respond to the needs of their local communities with the support of the 3FF staff and with leading MPs acting as mentors.
One of our teams, Nottingham Pension Pals set up an intergenerational letter writing project that aimed to reduce loneliness amongst elderly people in the area and students. With over 18 letter writers signed up, they have helped to forge new connections between students and elderly care home residents in the area. The team also set up a society to continue the project into the future. The project has already begun to have an impact by bringing students into the wider community.
Meanwhile, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) Time for Change aimed to address their area’s poor provision of mental health services, which is one of the most pressing issues facing students and local residents. Through engaging with senior stakeholders at the university, health professionals and local community organisations, they created a set of key demands for the improvement of mental health services provision. This all culminated in a workshop day at the university which raised awareness of the issue and inspired more people to push for change.
Elsewhere, the Manchester team worked to bring together local residents, students, academics and politicians in order to shape a vision for how Manchester can get the most out of Brexit. They hosted an evening of discussion, including Mayor Andy Burnham, where they helped the local community feel ownership over the Brexit conversation and encouraged them to push for the best Brexit for Manchester.
Other projects are similarly seeking to transform their local communities, such as the team at SOAS who convened a conference to tackle domestic violence in Camden. The team from Nottingham Trent took an alternative route and set up a community photography exhibition called THESPACESBETWEEN which sought to raise awareness of the lived experiences of homeless people in Nottingham. Similarly, QMUL Bridge-It hosted an evening exhibition drawing attention to the achievements of those who live, work and study in Tower Hamlets.
We’ve also seen incredible attempts to raise the aspirations of local community members with the Salford Inner Futures team running employability mentoring sessions, and the Birmingham In2Politics team running a year-long programme aimed at encouraging greater youth involvement in politics. Finally, we’ve seen incredibly innovative projects such as Coventry’s Breaking Barriers Growing Green (read more here) which brings residents and students together through working on a communal allotment.
The ParliaMentors programme this year has given students across the country the opportunity to bring about change whilst developing their personal leadership skills. From workshops to exhibitions to farming, all the teams have worked hard to shape their communities. We are sure many of the projects will continue to have an impact well past this year and we’re excited to see what these emerging leaders go on to do next.