We are so delighted to have welcomed the wonderful University of Reading to Connect Reading! Sarah Gardner, Community Relations Manager, shared with us a bit about what their last year has been like, what they’re looking forward to, and how you can connect with them.
The University are really passionate about local community and they’d love to hear from you. Either contact the team via email@example.com or sign up to their Cuppa over Community scheme to have a 15 minute chat with a staff or student volunteer to share your ideas.
And, to learn more about the University’s Community Champion Scheme head here: Student community champions (reading.ac.uk)
Spotlight On: University of Reading
The Community Relations team is based within the Marketing, Communications and Engagement Team in the University. The team works with the Berkshire community, which includes individual residents, grassroots community groups, charities, businesses and local agencies such as borough councils. The team also works with staff and students across the University and Student’s Union who are passionate about community engagement and participatory action research.
What’s been your biggest challenge this year?
Trying to find ways to support the many grassroots organisations across Berkshire who were struggling to adapt during the pandemic. The University itself had to make big changes, like every single organisation and individual in Reading, but we also wanted – and continue to want – to be an ally and a partner in the Reading community.
What have you learned?
I think we’ve all learnt that we need to take care of ourselves, as well as one another. Also I’ve learnt that you need to use your energy wisely. You can’t be everything to everyone – we aren’t superheroes, as much as we might pretend or wish that we are (I would be Klara from Saga, if you’re asking.) The pandemic has exacerbated poverty, exclusion and discrimination and it is essential we prioritise working towards authentic equality and inclusion. I’ve also learnt that, whilst in many ways, times are the worst they’ve ever been there is also a huge will to work together to make Berkshire a more equal place.
What has been your biggest creative triumph as an organisation?
The University is a big institution, so I can’t speak for all of it. In terms of the Community Relations team, I’m continually delighted at how creative students are at finding solutions to – what often seems like – the impossible. I love how staff and students have worked together creatively to find ways to support Berkshire organisations, for example through volunteering their digital and tech skills as part of the University’s Community Champion scheme and building authentic relationships through the Cuppa over Community scheme.
What are you most looking forward to?
The Community Relations Team is working with staff and students to improve the way we work with communities in Berkshire, particularly under-represented groups. We are learning about their needs and how we can work collaboratively with them to tell their stories, support their work and bring about positive change. There are lots of exciting things happening – you’ll have to watch this space!
How can people connect with you and support what you’re doing?
Please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you and explore how we can work together. Either contact the team via firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up to our Cuppa over Community scheme to have a 15 minute chat with a staff or student volunteer to share your ideas.