Socially conscious students reap the benefits of Canadian exchange programme

Date 19.06.2018

An exchange programme with a difference has been helping students at University of Northampton and a Canadian University make their ideas for helping out in the world a reality.

The ‘SocialxChange’ sees universities who are part of the AshokaU* network link up to let students who have an idea for a social enterprise project travel to a university overseas and learn from experts about how to get their ideas off the ground.

Organised by the University of Northampton’s Changemaker** initiative, the students from Ryerson University, Toronto and their Northampton peers teamed up develop projects that will challenge social issues in both countries related to three key areas of social problems:

  • Urban renewal and sustainability (how to address the needs of people in towns and cities and future generations can do this too)
  • Resilience (how individuals, communities, businesses and systems adapt to sudden and negative change)
  • Equity and inclusion (ensuring the fair and just treatment of all members of a community and making sure they participate in social enterprises).

The students will start the next part of the exchange, visiting Ryerson, on Wednesday 20 June with Northampton students returning on 30 June. This is University of Northampton’s second SocialxChange, following the success of a pilot exchange with the University of Warsaw in September 2017.

Zarkah Shazad, a Year 1 Law Student at Northampton, is looking at creating social spaces on university campuses and encourages students to take part in future Social xChanges: “You just have to step up and do it and don’t worry about failing. People look down on failure and worry about saying the wrong thing, but the great thing about the xChange is you get the chance to really talk about your ideas.”

Natalie Ramtahal, who is studying for her Masters in Communications at Ryerson, echoed Zarkah’s thoughts: “The SocialxChange provided us all with a safe place to talk about our ideas and where it doesn’t matter if your idea isn’t all ‘right’. We could embrace failures, learn from them and move our ideas on to success.”

Matthew Worku, a first year Creative Industries student from Ryerson, is looking to develop a project to help people from marginalised communities realise their full potential (for instance, pursuing their ideal career) when he returns home, praised the Xchange: “Coming to Northampton for the xChange has widened my perspective, giving me a global view of how to help people. The programme has helped me sculpt my ideas and I feel free to seriously develop them.”

Kate Robinson, Changemaker Hub Coordinator at University of Northampton, said: “It’s been a full-on but productive and rewarding week of workshops, discussions, learning and discovery across Northamptonshire.

“The whole aim of the SocialxChange was to get students to think about how they can go out into the wider world to do real, long-lasting and sustainable good, either in their home communities or further afield.

“The next step in the programme is for us to take our eight students over the pond to Toronto to spend time with Canadian experts who will give a fresh perspective on their social enterprise ideas, so we look forward to working with our Ryerson peers.”

Dr. Melanie Panitch, J.C.Eaton Chair in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, added: “Ryerson is excited to welcome students from the University of Northampton for this transformative learning opportunity.

“The SocialxChange is beautifully designed to promote collective engagement and build the capacity for students to emerge as leaders destined to take action to change the world for the better.”

* The University of Northampton was recognised for its commitment to social innovation and entrepreneurship in 2013 by being designated a ‘Changemaker Campus’ by Ashoka U. The global association of the world’s leading universities supporting social entrepreneurs – and was the first in the UK to be awarded this honour.

**Changemaker is a University of Northampton-wide initiative which focuses on staff and students finding solutions to environmental or social problems to improve people’s lives, either at home or abroad.