The University for Bristol?

Josh Lamyman is an undergraduate at the University of Bristol, studying economics and philosophy. Before joining AskingBristol, he gained experience in the third sector as a volunteer at Shout’s mental health text service and his local food bank. AskingBristol is transforming the Third Sector by connecting Bristol-based charities with individuals, organisations and businesses. Professor Martin Parker from the Business School has been involved since 2019, supervising students who have been employed through the Professional Liason Network in the Faculty of Social Sciences. Here Josh reflects on how the University of Bristol connects with organisations and businesses within the city.

Since taking over as Vice-Chancellor in September, Professor Evelyn Welch has made no secret of her ambition to transform the University of Bristol into a civic university; one that engages with local communities as opposed to withdrawing onto campus.

In her interview with Epigram, she affirmed that “We are a community… we need to have that collective conversation about how we really support each other”.

Professor Welch’s actions support her words. With projects such as the Barton Hill Micro-Campus and the community-focused Temple Quarter campus well under way, our institution is edging closer towards becoming “the University for Bristol, as well as the University of Bristol.”

This vision, however, will remain incomplete until students have their own role to play. Our undergraduate and postgraduate students make up half of the 60,000 people that Bristol universities contribute to the Bristol community. Can a university truly be called ‘civic’ in the absence of a network that connects such a huge part of its identity to local communities?

A new project called AskingBristol has a lot to offer in this regard. At its core, the project aims to give small charities and community groups better access to support from our city’s generous givers. At the moment, much of this support is directed towards large charities, and smaller groups like Barton Hill Amateur Boxing Club are feeling the squeeze.

By creating a bottom-up matching service, we hope to give all charities, regardless of size, an avenue to request support from individuals and businesses in Bristol.

The asks submitted by charities need to be in a certain format in order to be routed efficiently through the network to potential givers, and this requires individuals to volunteer to work with charities to define their ask. We think students are the perfect candidates for this.

Many students already devote their time free of charge to causes they’re passionate about, whether it be running the Quidditch Club or volunteering at their local cat shelter. The real challenge will be recruiting enough of these students for AskingBristol to work at scale – potentially 1,000 AskAuthors (each of whom would work with a number of groups) would be needed to meet the demand from charities across the city.

This sounds like a big ask, which is why it’s important that students are aware of what AskingBristol can do for them.

James Brown, a recent Bristol graduate (and producer of the fantastic video above) worked on the project for six months and has said that “In that time, I learned more about Bristol than I had in those previous three and a half years.”

Likewise, Hannah Jusu-Sheriff, who worked on the project at the same time, has said “I am eternally grateful to AskingBristol for enabling me to really immerse myself in the fabric of the city.”

Both of these undergraduates had taken advantage of what AskingBristol has to offer; it has enabled them to meet a diverse range of individuals and communities, as well as forming closer ties with individuals and businesses on the giving side of the network.

Find out more about Asking Bristol or follow them on LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *