What is community engagement?
What is Community Engagement in ELCE?
Community engagement is a practice-based subject where students are accredited to design, run and reflect upon thier own unique community-based project. Projects tend to explore the role of literature, reading, readers and literacy in everyday life and aim to celebrate the diverse roles of reading, stories and literature in contemporary society.
Students set up projects in a wide range of venues, currently including libraries, pubs, community centers, drug rehabilitation centres and a prison. Students are supported in their community-engaged projects by the ELCE Community Partner Network, a network of community-based organizations and civic institutions in Bristol and beyond who can offer relevant short and long-term placements to ELCE students and/or opportunities to co-develop unique community-engaged projects.
Community engagement is taught through regular seminars and a series of 'masterclasses' with visiting experts from both in and outside of the University. Students are invited to explore the ideas of 'community' and 'engagement' and to examine the belief that reading, stories and literature have value not only to the individual, but also to society and to the wider community. Alongside regular teaching students are supported in developing thier community-engaged project through access to a one-to-one community engagement tutor.
Some students feel nervous to begin with about the community engagement aspect of the course. But, be reassured that each student has an opportunity to develop a project that fits with their other commitments and which is in a setting in which they feel comfortable.
For many students thier project is in the form of a reading group which may read literary works that are also studied on the degree combined with popular fiction, non-fiction, short stories or extracts that are read aloud. However, many students undertake community-engaged projects in completely different ways. The range and diversity of projects our students undertake is something we celebrate and each project is also shaped by the needs, interests and participation of the community with whom the student engages.
Current Community Engagement Projects
The LGBT reading group Gloucestershire
"My mission was to bring the community together through a love of reading about the 'Queer' experience. The group allows a what can sometimes be a fractured community, to learn from each other and discover our history, identity and to unravel hidden lives."
Sixth Form Poetry Club
"During my second year on the ELCE course I volunteered to run an already established weekly poetry group with The Domino Project in Bristol, a charity supported by the university to help people get their lives back on track following alcohol or drug abuse."
Age UK reading group
"Age Uk and the library are crying out for more volunteers to start new groups – I have a long waiting list for mine!"
Please contact Helen Thomas-Hughes (ELCE Community Engagement Lead) for further information about community engagement in ELCE: firstname.lastname@example.org
Current ELCE student, Lesley Lees, writes about her experiences of starting a reading group with adults on the autistic spectrum, in the University public-engagement story, 'Words and what they mean'.