VCSE organisations and academics call for universities to engage with them in taskforce and research roadmap

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23 July, 2020


More than 550 Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations and academics have signed an open letter to Research England and to UK national newspapers, calling for a review into VCSE sector engagement with universities in the emerging UK Research & Development (R&D) Roadmap

The open letter was created following the recent announcement of a new taskforce by UKRI and the National Centre for Universities and Businesses, to explore how universities and businesses might be helped to collaborate by the R&D Roadmap. However, there is no equivalent taskforce for universities and the VCSE sector.

Signatories of the open letter include:

  • Sandra Meadows, Chief Executive of Voscur.
  • Dr Zubaida Haque, Interim Director of Runnymede Trust.
  • Tony Armstrong, CEO of Locality.
  • Dame Julia Unwin, Chair of Civil Society Futures.
  • Mustafa Rampiri, Director of Quantum Technologies Innovation Centre at the University of Bristol.
  • Dr Steve Sayers, Chief Executive of Windmill Hill City Farm.
  • Maria Viner, Chief Executive of Mothers for Mothers.
  • Joanna Holmes, Co-Director of Wellspring Settlement and Trustee of Voscur. 
  • Subitha Baghirathan, of Wellspring Settlement. 
  • Shelagh Hetreed, Business Officer of Nilaari.
  • Dom Wood, Chief Executive of 1625 Independent People and Deputy Lieutenant of Bristol.
  • Dr Carolyn Hassan, Director of Knowle West Media Centre.

As the open letter describes, the VCSE sector has ‘profound local knowledge and real expertise in what it will take to address entrenched and long term challenges and patterns of behaviour’ around ‘problems of health, wellbeing, prosperity and security’.

If universities only engage with large businesses and ignore civil society organisations’ knowledge of society’s problems, they risk ‘embedding already existing racialised, disablist, classed and gender hierarchies into university knowledge exchange policy’.

The letter has proposed that the existing University-Business Taskforce focuses on social enterprise and community businesses, that an equivalent University-Civil Society Taskforce is established, and that there are clear links between the two task forces for parity of esteem.

If you would like to share your views on the R&D Roadmap and call for more VCSE sector involvement, please complete the government survey, which closes on 12 August 2020.