We are delighted to announce that for a week this summer, a group of Y12 pupils from widening participation backgrounds will visit Churchill College to take part in an innovative pilot residential programme.

‘Sustainable Urban Futures’ aims to inspire young people about many aspects of sustainable development. This will bring together 40 participants from across the UK to work in teams designing and building temporary “homes” based on an informal settlement shelter design. As explained by the project lead and CORE Fellow at the College, Dr Rachel Thorley, the teams will work within budgets, design and innovate to optimise the space as comfortable, practical spaces to live and work. The residential will culminate in a public showcase where teams will present their creations, alongside talks from design, making and sustainable development role models.

The College has been awarded around £25,000 in funding by the Isaac Newton Trust, Widening Participation and Induction Fund for tackling educational disadvantage to develop the Sustainable Urban Futures project. This fund was established with a donation from Trinity College, to work with prospective and incoming undergraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds and those under-represented in UK universities.

We met with Rachel to find out more! You can also watch a video explaining the concept below.

Where did the inspiration for this project come from?

The start of this idea came out of from several discussions with people around college, including with the master, Athene Donald, and Tom Boden, head of estates, about Churchill College’s focus on sustainability. For example, as the College is renovating student houses, each is becoming effectively off-grid, with solar PV and heat pumps to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Yes, we can tackle sustainability here in College, but we are in a very lucky position in the UK. Looking globally, a billion people, 25% of the world’s urban population, live in informal settlements. Many have substandard infrastructure or lack basic amenities, culminating in low quality of life. To truly make a difference, we need to think more broadly, which is why we are designing outreach around UN Sustainable Development Goal 11, to build inclusive, safe and resilient homes.

The initial outline then took shape, incorporating ideas from our entire community. In the fellowship, there is a lot of expertise in all aspects of sustainability: in architecture, energy, construction, cultural considerations and data. Following exams we will be joined by a team of talented students to design and test activities. These students will also be fantastic role models for the Y12s who join us this summer.

What will be the impact of this outreach work on those taking part?

This an exciting opportunity for pupils to explore how university study could allow them to contribute in meaningful ways to global sustainable development.

Many existing outreach programmes are limited to either arts and humanities or STEM subjects. We aim to encourage Y12 pupils from widening participation backgrounds to consider cross-disciplinary courses often not taught in schools, and where there are many misconceptions. These include engineering, architecture, design, social sciences and biochemistry.

What are your plans for the future?

After the event, the homes will be deconstructed and form a lasting legacy. Resources can be re-used as part of a roadshow, taking Sustainable Urban Futures into schools and communities.

What opportunities exist for those who support or fund this new programme?

If you are interested to support this programme, we would welcome sharing expertise either for programme design, or as role models to present at the public showcase on 25th August or longer-term with different age groups. Areas we are particularly interested in are: design, making, sustainable development or energy.

Those who support the scheme will have the opportunity to meet with participants at the residential at Churchill College, and share their expertise on sustainability in their area of interest. If you are interested in supporting Sustainable Urban Futures, please get in touch with Rachel using the button link below.