Transforming lives through University’s most ambitious community plan ever

21 October 2014

Grange Gardens

Five projects to transform lives from south Wales to sub-Saharan Africa have been unveiled as part of Cardiff University's most ambitious plan ever for communities.

The University will work with communities on issues such as tackling poverty, boosting the economy, and improving health, education and wellbeing.

There will also be benefits for social inclusion, digital literacy and the Welsh language.

The Welsh Government, the Welsh NHS and local authorities, among others, will play vital roles to help ensure the projects are a success.

This vision of community engagement complements the University's plans – announced earlier this month - to boost the Welsh economy through innovation, centred on a £300m investment in a cutting edge campus.

The engagement work focuses on communities in Wales but the benefits will be felt as far as south-west Africa, where one project will use University expertise to save lives in collaboration with the University of Namibia.

Cardiff University has a long history of successful engagement work but has never attempted anything on this scale before.

Professor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, said: "This is the University's most ambitious plan to date for communities, and one of the most forward thinking of its kind attempted by any university in the UK.

"It will help transform lives from our doorstep in Grangetown, Cardiff to Namibia in south-west Africa.

"Our world-leading research will benefit from local pride and expertise to produce something very special indeed.

"I am incredibly proud of the scale of what we are trying to achieve. We can really make a difference.

"This type of work is important to our University, which has had a long history of civic engagement since its founding.

"We have always worked in our communities in a multitude of ways and will continue to do so."

The work will not be possible without the help of the communities themselves.

It is a shared approach between the University and the communities, with the projects shaped by those involved.

The impact of the work will be closely monitored.

First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones said: "This ambitious project from Cardiff University is to be highly commended.

"The five projects announced today will make a significant difference to communities in Wales and sub-Saharan Africa.

"I wish Cardiff University and the communities involved every success and I'm sure the benefits will be widespread and long lasting."

The five flagship engagement projects are:

The University's work is playing a pivotal role in shaping Cardiff Capital Region as it strives to boost the economy and create new jobs. The region covers ten local authorities in south-east Wales: Vale of Glamorgan, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Newport, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Monmouthshire and Bridgend.

Residents will work with the University as equal partners to bring innovative schemes to life that will benefit their community, starting in Grangetown, Cardiff. The team is keen to develop ten schemes and wants to hear ideas from within the community itself.

Communities lacking in access to local news will be supported to develop hyperlocal news websites. Some have already been set up, including in Rhondda and Cardiff . The team's next move is to support the Port Talbot Magnet .

Working in tandem with the Welsh Government's Wales for Africa programme, this project will operate in Namibia and aims to include everything from training medical staff and boosting communications, to strengthening local languages and increasing maths skills among students. It will also contribute to delivering the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The University has teamed up with the University of Namibia, which will play a vital role in the project.

This project focuses on health and wellbeing, initially in north Merthyr and the Butetown, Riverside and Grangetown areas of Cardiff. Each of the two areas has its own distinct history, geography, economy and identity, but they share similar levels of poverty and social and economic exclusion. 

The projects are a long-term commitment by the University to the communities involved and will leave a strong legacy.

It is hoped, where possible, they will eventually create self-sustaining models. That could be community journalists running their own news websites or, following support from the University, medical staff in Namibia training more students.

The University will also benefit as there will be an opportunity for academics, staff and students to take part.

Roger Lewis, chair of the Cardiff Capital Region Board, said: "Cardiff University is playing a pivotal role in not only hosting the Cardiff Capital Region, but with Welsh Government and Cardiff Council providing vital resources. 

"Without the kind of support Cardiff University and its partners have supplied, the Board wouldn't be able to take forward its ambitious agenda for change."

Professor Osmund Mwandemele, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Academic Affairs and Research, the University of Namibia, said: "We believe very strongly that a university, especially an African university, and ours in particular being the only national university in Namibia, does not deserve to exist if it cannot play that critical role as a change agent and thus address the challenges facing society by utilising its brain power to find solutions to those challenges.

"The Cardiff Engagement Projects are another opportunity for UNAM to benefit from the experiences of an institution which has a similar philosophy with respect to community engagement.  

"UNAM looks forward to active participation in these excellent engagement projects."