Navigation

News and events

Community leadership approaches shared in pioneering collaboration

12 August 2015

Chris Theobald

UCLan students join Finnish academics at knowledge exchange initiative

New ideas in relation to community leadership could soon be implemented on the streets of Burnley and Helsinki thanks to a new initiative being developed at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

And at special workshops, organised by UCLan’s Centre for Volunteering and Community Leadership, Community Leadership students from the Burnley Campus were given the opportunity to gain tips from the top as they joined a party of social workers and academics from Finland to explore community dialogue and share best practice.

The workshops were led by Dr John Lockhart, Director of the UCLan-based Freire Institute; Kaijus Varjonen, from the Laurea University of Applied Sciences, and planned in association with Helsinki University. The UCLan students attending the initiative were Paul Wilkinson, Rebecca Melvin and Bryan Wilks.

As part of the programme the research party met the Mayor of Burnley, Elizabeth Monk, in the Council Chambers (pictured) for a discussion on community empowerment.

UCLan student Byran Wilks explained that although the researchers involved were from a different culture and language, there were many similarities: “We share the same ideas, values and beliefs as our Finnish colleagues and we are all looking for the same goals. To make a difference to society it is critical to link knowledge with action.”

“We share the same ideas, values and beliefs as our Finnish colleagues and we are all looking for the same goals. To make a difference to society it is critical to link knowledge with action.”

Dr Ali Melling, Director of the Centre for Volunteering and Community Leadership, said the students had gained a huge amount from the initiative. “Although our students are familiar with Freirean approaches to community dialogue and practice, this innovative collaboration is enabling them to gain some new and complementary academic ideas from our Finnish guests.”

The collaboration has been so successful that UCLan’s School of Social Work, Care and Community is looking to develop further partnerships around social pedagogy between the Freire Institute, Helsinki University’s social sciences department and the Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

Dr Lockhart of the Freire Institute added: “Our vision is to establish a long term collaboration that has mutual benefits for all.”

Finnish guests attending the workshops included: Hanna Elo and Virpi Lajunen, Senior Social Workers, City of Espoo Adult Social Services who have research interests in social rehabilitation and community social work. Also attending were Saara Lipponen, University of Helsinki, a coordinator of social work with communities and Niina Haatainan a social adviser, working with communities and helping with employment advice. Irene Ponkala-Karlsson represented the NGO Askel, Kalliolan Setlementti. Askel is a meeting place with a wide remit, organising groups, courses and events. Visitor Pauliina Alanko is working with UCLan and Askel and is an active deacon in Espoo while another guest, Kaj Järvisalo, is Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of Espoo, Emy Association.

Underpinned by the philosophy of Paulo Freire, Community Leadership is a two-year foundation degree followed by a BA top-up. Both are run at UCLan’s Burnley Campus with a few places still available for the 2015/16 academic year. For further details contact Alethea Melling or Kat Huskisson on 01772 893662.