De Montfort University

Social responsibility projects are commonplace in the Higher Education sector, but many are funded through research grants and therefore have a limited lifespan. De Montfort University’s Mile2 programme looks to use the expertise of staff and students to create sustainable platform for projects to offer life changing opportunities for a community located on the peripheries of the campus. The project also recently won the Green Gown Award for Social Responsibility in 2012. 

Why this particular Square Mile?

This particular area of Leicester was chosen for as it ranked highly on a number of City Council deprivation indexes, issues highlighted included:

• Transient community: Only 40% of the 7,200 population have lived in the area for longer than 6 years. Migrant influx has created language barriers between residents.

• Unemployment: At least 55% of the population were receiving Job seekers allowance or had classified themselves as unemployed or economically inactive.

• Lack of youth provision: Only two dedicated youth services operate in the area, struggling to meet the demands of an ever diversifying population.

• Low computer access & literacy: Only 30% of residents in the area have access to a PC, and only 50% of the population describe themselves as “proficient” in the use of IT. 

The area has also suffered from a lack of investment even before the 2008 economic crisis. The deciding factor in choosing the area however was its proximity to the University campus, with the area situated just a 10 minute walk away.

Consultation 

One vital element of sustainable engagement came in the form of resident consultation prior to the project launch which ultimately determined the course of the Mile2 programme. For example, migrant residents identified that they felt left out of community activities due to language barriers, leading to the creation a Free English lessons project which in just 18 months, is about to teach written, reading and spoken English to its 100th migrant resident. 

This approach of finding the target audience before implementing a project, has meant that engagement with residents is on a sustainable footing as Mile2 is delivering projects the community themselves have identified as a need. This has reflected in the numbers engaged with the project, 810 during 2011/12, rising to 1443 so far from September to December alone in 2012/13.

Partnerships

Upon identifying the needs of the community, it became clear that we would need to form working partnerships with both local and national organisations to deliver on community needs. Some of the more high profile partnerships such as Hewlett Packard have allowed Mile2 to create new IT suites in the local neighbourhood centre and primary schools within the area; but perhaps our most important partnership, in terms of sustainability, is with Leicester City Council. This partnership has allowed for discounted and free use of community centres, in return for Mile2 delivering a minimum of 30 free projects for the community that also help increase resident usage of community centres within the area. Without this arrangement, the cost of running projects in the community centres would have spiralled and eventually become unsustainable for De Montfort.

As the external profile of Mile2 has increased, over the last 18 months a number of new partners have agreed to help deliver specific projects. In Training, an apprenticeship, skills and employment agency, is leading Mile2’s Employability project. Also Leicestershire County Cricket club, through ex-England cricketer Paul Nixon, has created a community sports project for Mile2 that trains students to be sports coaches with the long term goal of delivering sessions to the community during the spring/summer term.

Creativity 

Even with consistent community engagement and high profile local and national partnerships; the Mile2 team have had to use their creativity to ensure specific projects remained sustainable. For example, with the I.T. training project, the aim has been to improve computer literacy in the Mile2 area; however sessions could only take place during hourly slots in the week due to staff availability, thus limiting the scope and the impact of the project. To solve this issue Mile2 began intensive training of students to deliver an accredited curriculum for the community. With 8 out of the 10 students taking part currently in their first year of study, these newly trained students are now able to train the next cohort of students in 2013/14 and every academic year henceforth. This not only reduced the costs attributed to the training, but more importantly created a sustainable bank of free I.T. trainers not just for Mile2, but for wider Leicester.

Creativity has also played a part in securing funding and institutional commitment to the projects. By aligning as many projects as possible with the aims of widening participation and raising aspirations, Mile2 has covered around 50% of its project costs through the OFFA (Office for Fair Access) agreement for the next three years. Allowing Mile2 to continue to develop at a minimal cost to De Montfort University.

Success

Consultation, partnership working and creativity have contributed to a successful and multi-award winning project, these successes include: 

• The free hearing screening project has successfully treated 107 residents with varying hearing issues.

• Movin’2 Gether dance project has provided an accredited arts award worth 35 UCAS points, to 17 young residents so far in the Mile2 area.

• Work in determining energy efficiency of the Mile2 area, has unlocked around £300,000 of investment into the area from British Gas.

• 12 residents taking part in the Free English lessons project have found employment as a result of their improved English.

• Mile2’s Business works project is working to help small to medium size businesses in Leicester increase their revenue whilst enhancing student’s employability. 

• Pioneering research into home remedies for Type 2 diabetes is being conducted in the Mile2 area.

• 3 residents have lost over 2 stone individually, having taken part in Mile2’s get fit with your pharmacy project. 

• 470 Schoolchildren have learnt about the stock market and the value of gain and loss through the Play Dough project.

• 16 residents have received their basic European computing driving licence (ECDL) through the I.T. training project.

For more information about the projects, please visit our website: www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/the-mile2-project/the-square-mile-project.aspxLook out for De Montfort's full Mile2 Green Gown Award case study coming soon!

Main Contact Name: David Hollis, Operations Manager
Main Contact Email & Telephone: dhollis@dmu.ac.uk and 01162 078064 
Further information/website: www.dmusquaremile.our.dmu.ac.uk
Share with us: www.twitter.com/DMUSquareMile www.facebook.com/DMUMile2

Mile2 - an Award winning project
Mile2 - an Award winning project

Mile2 Movin’2 Gether dance project
Mile2 Movin’2 Gether dance project

Mile2 English lessons
Mile2 English lessons

Mile2 IT training project
Mile2 IT training project