Building bikes, building opportunities
2 October 2012
A workshop session at the Bristol Bike Project
Image by Bristol Bike Project
Community-based learning offers the integration of in-depth study with the vibrancy of real world communities.
By allowing students to carry out work in community settings that is part of their degree, students can tackle real life problems whilst community partners gain access to cutting edge research.
These projects can be organised by the University, but they can also grow organically due to a student’s personal involvement.
The latter is what happened with Louis Devenish’s third year Geographical Sciences undergraduate dissertation topic.
The project was initiated after Louis had spent some time volunteering with the Bristol Bike Project in his free time. The Bristol Bike Project is a charity organisation which promotes social inclusion through providing their ‘Earn-a-Bike’ scheme; this gives individuals an opportunity to refurbish a donated bike that they can then take away and use as cheap and sustainable transport whilst learning valuable maintenance skills. His involvement with the group and their activities prompted his interest in the effects of the scheme and he chose to do his third year research project on the impact of increased mobility on the refugees and asylum seekers who took part in the scheme.
The research displayed the mutual benefit that is possible from these projects: Louis was able to use the resources that he had access to through being a University of Bristol student to produce a piece of research that counted towards his degree, as well as gaining invaluable life skills. In addition, Louis felt that “there is more value in the task, that the work is more worthwhile” than an ordinary research project. The Bristol Bike Project was able to use the research to successfully apply for funding. James Lucas, the director of the Bristol Bike Project was “excited when Louis first arrived to discuss the possibility of research” because of the opportunities that it could create. On the back of the commitment and engagement that Louis had shown he was offered a paid internship with Bristol Bike Project once he had completed his degree, allowing him to do further work for an organisation whose work he feels strongly about.
There is more value in the task...the work is more worthwhile
This community-based learning project allowed Louis to explore opportunities with an organisation that he felt passionate about as well as developing his communication skills and gaining invaluable knowledge on how to work for a client. The skills he developed through engaging with the community can be applied to a work environment; by having experienced first-hand the needs and constraints of an organisation Louis has developed a new skill set that will appeal to employers that could not have been gained from purely theoretical work. As well as benefiting the community partners and students, community-based learning is also valuable to the University. It can be used as a method to open up further avenues of research and to encourage community cohesion and widen participation. By forging strong links with community organisations the University is able to become further integrated within the city. As Dr Mark Jackson, Louis’ supervisor, explains “there are opportunities to reach into new communities” which means that “the University can really learn from the city.”
There are opportunities to reach into new communities...the University can really learn from the city
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