Research explores local community initiatives in Sheffield
As part of a European project, researchers are working with local groups to develop a set of innovative approaches for inclusive, vibrant and accessible urban communities.
Urban Education Live is a three-year project led by Dr Tatjana Schneider, Carolyn Butterworth and Dr Maša Šorn funded by the ESRC as part of the EU’s Joint Programme Initiative ‘Smart Urban Futures’. Researchers are working with academic and non-academic partners in Finland, Romania and Slovenia as they set up local hubs in locations across Europe. Partners are using their local hub to work with communities, schools, non-profit organisations, businesses and councils to imagine new futures for our cities.
The Sheffield School of Architecture will utilise Live Works for this project which is the first permanent University-backed Urban Room in the UK. Researchers in Sheffield are currently working on a range of activities which explore local initiatives.
A map of existing groups, organisations and other local practices in the City will be collated throughout the project. The initial aim of building this ‘network of practices’ is to explore the current situation of grassroots organisations in Sheffield, their ways of operating and the main barriers they encounter in their work. Sheffield groups are invited to share their stories within a broader context, connecting their work with a wider audience and inspiring each other to create new collaborations.
Building the ‘network of practices’ is closely related with the work done through Live Works. Live Works activities aim to act as a local catalyst for collaborations between Sheffield City Council, local schools, arts organisations, local charities, volunteer groups and the University. By opening up future possibilities of co-production of urban space, the Live Works hub functions as a location for enabling collaborations between stakeholders. Participants, passers-by and anyone who is interested in visiting Live Works will soon also be able to feed their stories directly into the map. The aim is to capture the meeting between the social reality of space and the space itself.
Strengthening international collaborations within the Urban Education Live consortium, the Sheffield team was joined by Daniela Calciu from Bucharest team Urboteca during the 6-week Live Projects. Daniela worked with Sheffield academics on mentoring Live Project collaborations with local clients and stakeholders including the Umbrella Factory collaboration with Theatre Deli Sheffield, the Sheffield Housing Conversations working with South Yorkshire Housing Association, and Moorfoot Link with The Labour Party Planning Policy. Final outcomes of the collaborations between students and client groups were presented at an event in November 2017.
Researchers have kick-started a series of focus group discussions with Sheffield community groups and grassroots organisations by working with Adam Yusuf and Robin Forsyth from Israac Somali Community Association and Patrick Meleady from Pitsmoor Adventure Playground. They explored issues surrounding the background of their organisations, the activities they create with local communities, their views on their position in Sheffield, their experiences of collaboration with educational institutions and their ways of learning from experience.
Israac Somali Community Association and Pitsmoor Adventure Playground were identified as some of the key groups involved in community projects, who play an important strategic role in co-creating Sheffield. Feeding into the overarching research questions of Urban Education Live, the focus group debates have been structured around participants’ views and experiences of co-creation with communities, collaborations with academia, documentation of work, and the relevant discourse in Sheffield.
About the project
Urban Education Live builds on the long-term collaboration between the School of Architecture and Sheffield through many years of innovative, interdisciplinary teaching and research. This is most recently manifested in the School’s Live Works initiative, led by Carolyn Butterworth, which allows local people and organisations to learn about our civic engagement activities, suggest and collaborate with us on projects. Live Works is also closely connected to the Urban Education Live research work, focusing on exploring local issues at a national and international level. Sheffield School of Architecture students and graduates can continue to work with Live Project clients and local stakeholders through the Live Works project office, situated in Sheffield city centre.