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Healthy progress - Edinburgh Uni's Social Impact Pledge update

July 25, 2019

The University of Edinburgh has provided a really helpful progress update on its 2018 Social Impact Pledge.

The Social Impact Pledge is a Scottish Government initiative a asking public sector organisations across Scotland to commit to increasing their social impact by making a public commitment to changing three aspects of their current operations or policies.

The University of Edinburgh Social Impact Pledge

Updates on Implementation of Pledges made in 2018

Commitment 1: We will establish a Centre for Homeless and Inclusion Health.

The Centre for Homeless and Inclusion Health is a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and local partners in Scotland to improve the health and wellbeing of people who experience homelessness. Development of the Centre began in 2016 and it was formally launched in 2018.

Social Impact Pledge logoThe Centre has established the first course in Scotland on Homeless and Inclusion Health. This is a Masters course aimed at individuals from a range of organisations, including the NHS, local authorities, housing providers, the third sector and policy bodies, as well as University of Edinburgh students. Participants taking the course as Continuing Professional Development occupy a range of roles in their daily work, from CEO to support worker; the University has provided 23 bursaries to enable them to take part. Students taking the course are primarily medical, nursing and health care students – the workforce of the future – who wish to develop their knowledge and interest in health inequalities.  Particular strengths of the course are that:

  • The course has been developed in collaboration with senior colleagues working in the Cyrenians, Turning Point Scotland and NHS Lothian, so external partners really feel that they 'own' the course as a joint venture.
  • People with lived experience are also teaching on the course and involved in course assessment. In this way, they are contributing their experiential knowledge and developing their own skills in presentation and teaching/learning.

The headcount of the Centre is growing, with a PhD student exploring LGBTQi and youth homelessness in Scotland and a researcher working on alcohol use with migrants who are experiencing homelessness; the latter is also developing funding bids with community partners. Also in place is a member of University of Edinburgh staff, Catriona Grant, who provides legal advice and advocacy to patients at the Edinburgh Access Practice; the service supports 6-10 clients each week. Nursing, medical and law students are currently shadowing Catriona’s clinic to learn more about the lived experience of homelessness, including the acute problems that can ensue for individuals on discharge from prison or hospital. In the future it is planned that students will provide the advice and advocacy service under appropriate supervision.

Ewan Aitken, CEO, Cyrenians, and member of the Advisory Group of the Centre for Homeless and Inclusion Health, said:

A one-stop-shop to tackle homeless and inclusion health] is not a new idea – it’s been bouncing around a number of third sector and academic conversations for at least ten years– but this group has finally been able to make it happen. […] As we learn more about the issues faced by those in tough realities, what they see as the causes and the solutions, we will evolve our thinking and our choices about what next.


Commitment 2: We will enhance our infrastructure for the support of Student Social Enterprise with the aim of increasing the number of start-ups and ensuring their sustainability over the longer term.

A commitment to develop an eco-system to support Student Social Enterprise was one of the University’s first Social Impact Pledges. In 2018, we implemented a pilot programme aimed at improving this infrastructure. The pilot was led by the Edinburgh University Students’ Association in collaboration with Launch.Ed. It involved a set of new services including: banking; insurance; marketing; provision of office space; a bespoke mentoring programme involving the local business community; and workshops on how to write a business plan, how to pitch, sessions about assertiveness, problem solving, accounting and finance.

We also set up a £2,000 Social Enterprise Start Up fund, and a showcase, where student entrepreneurs had the chance to highlight their work to, and connect with, pertinent CEOs of local organisations. Four new student social projects are in development with a view to progressing into the University’s formal social enterprise support. One of the projects currently supported by the University, Enactus Edinburgh (https://www.enactusedinburgh.com/), won the Enactus national competition, where they were judged by a panel of 80 senior business leaders, and went on to represent the UK at the Enactus World Cup in California in October 2018.

Commitment 3: We will expand our Digital Ambassadors Service to promote digital inclusion and enhance employability amongst community groups.

In year two, the University established links with two new delivery partners for its digital skills outreach programme: the Edinburgh arm of the Amina Muslim Women’s Resource Centre, whose mission is to empower, inspire and support local Muslim Women; and People Know How, a community centre, which works with local people to identify their needs and the solutions that will help them fulfil their potential and solve social issues.

The six-week digital skills course delivered by University student volunteers has become a regular part of Amina’s employability skills suite of courses. The course focuses on teaching tablet computer skills that fit the SCVO’s definitions of Foundation and Essential digital life skills. Using the SCVO’s Essential Digital Skills toolkit, observable improvements in learners’ digital skills are now being recorded. Friendships and community are also being created through the course, with one learner returning for all four deliveries of the course. Since the sessions began, 24 different women have been through the course at least once and approximately 140 student volunteer hours have been given.

People Know How reviewed its digital outreach provision in 2018 with a view to better meeting the needs of its users and the University will be working with this community centre to develop a ‘digital befriending’ service.

The University has continued to work with Edinburgh’s Central Library to deliver the Friday afternoon Digital Drop-In Service. This is now a well established and popular service. Between late September and early February 2019, 81 one-to-one consultations were held delivered by 20 individual student volunteers. Feedback from our 2018 Central Library users includes:

[I] can now travel the world from Maps!

Excellent help with Kindle.

Excellent tutor.

Specific issues at moment resolved & written down ready for use.

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