Elections and co-production

This past week has seen the University of Salford Students’ Union run the voting process for their annual elections. Kicking off with gusto in January, the election process has slowly built up to this week, with the week itself ending at 5pm on a Friday with the live streamed and twitter saturated announcement of the winning candidates – four sabbatical officers and a union president. Check out their blog on the results here.

Its been an exciting campaign which, pleasingly, has had a record number of candidates step up to the plate – we even had a candidate put forward from across the seas – hailing from a programme of study in Malaysia. It’s great to see this level of engagement, which has also been mirrored in a record voter turn out, beating the record of last year, which was a significant jump in engagement from the year before – a positive engagement trend emerges, something that, as PVC Student Experience, I’m delighted to see. The USSU team have surpassed themselves and earned rest and wine (those would be my choices) in equal measure this weekend…

And so we now have a new sabbatical team waiting in the wings to step into office in the summer. I’m looking forward to working with them.

I think we (both the colleagues at the Union and those at the University) have moved our relationship forward leaps and bounds in the last couple of years. Whilst there’s always more to do, the dynamic between the two entities gives me cause for excitement because I see it becoming at once more focused and yet messier – essentially, I see it moving more and more into co-productive space. It’s a space/ way of working that really chimes well with the development of our Industrial Collaboration Zones. These zones, like the relationship with the USSU, work best when all parties involved in an idea or project bring their relevant expertise and perspectives to the table in order to build and develop something greater than the sum of its constituent parts. The process is always messier and inevitably takes more conversations, more iteration and more to-ing and fro-ing, but what comes out at the end of things is a product or position which is co-owned by all involved. And it works – it really works – one only has to look at our recent library development, (I blogged about it here) to see the value of co-creative thinking and practice.

There’s also something about pro-active personal responsibility within the act of co-creation – again I’m delighted to be working with the USSU as we further develop this expectation of our students and constituents, so that even before they arrive at the front door, there is a clear, shared understanding of what it means to be learner at UoS – what students can expect from the university and the USSU, and what the University and the USSU expects from them. Co-creators or co-producers in any project are jointly responsible for the outcome – there is no room for the passive participant or the passenger here – all co-creators who are recipients and owners of the outcome have to be able to proudly say – ‘I did some of that, and its bigger and better than had I tried on my own’. In a learning sphere (I mean learning in the widest sense here) this means the student taking up the position not of a spectator but of the Boalian ‘spect-actor’ – a proactive agent, actively required to play with the other agents in the production and play with the script to change it, to alter and improve the outcome; to shape the narrative or journey as it unfolds for the better, with ripples of impact spreading beyond the framework of the performance event itself – this engagement fosters a far more exciting, rewarding (and sometimes unpredictable) learning journey in which knowledge is not a commodity – something one comes to university to get or receive, but rather it becomes an experience – something one has, something living and breathing…

So that’s why I’m excited so see a great election come to fittingly fizzing fruition on Friday, (the end of that thought was irrationally pleasing) with increased engagement and passion demonstrated throughout the campaign and the voting period. And now we’re already heading headlong into the next academic cycle with the USSU and the new team (actually, the new president is a sabbatical officer from the year before this one). With the ICZs firmly at the forefront of thinking, we’ll be working together with our students to be the ‘hearts and lungs’ of an excellent, holistic student learning experience – without either organ, things just wouldn’t work, and each organ is dependent on the other to function properly. The possibilities within this genuine co-creation of coproduction are truly exciting as the USSU brings perspectives, positions and and expertise to the table we, as a University, simply can’t grasp by ourselves (and visa versa) – it’s a symbiotic partnership and I can’t wait to push it further.

See you next week.

 

 

 

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Author: samgrogan

I am many sided; Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Experience at Salford University, Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, driven Tough Mudder runner, and a lover of the outdoors. I live in the heart of the beautiful Peak District with my wife and our pets. On weekends, you'll find me out in the countryside with the dog, running or walking up a hill, or typically cooking for friends (I'm getting better, so they say) My role at Salford is one I cherish. I'm one of the fortunate few who wake up excited about the day ahead. It's really not work when it's this much fun. As part of the Vice-Chancellor's Executive Team I work alongside a gifted and dedicated team of creative educationalists passionate about being better tomorrow than we are today. As PVC SE at Salford I hold executive responsibility for both the assurance of quality and standards of our institutional academic portfolio, and its strategic direction and character. Intertwined with this facet of my role, I am responsible for strategic leadership and enhancement of the wider student experience and the development of a distinctive Salford learning environment. My overall purpose, driven by these two key parts of my role, is to develop a bold, playful learning landscape at Salford which delivers holistic sustainable success, preparing our students for life. I'm fascinated by how people learn, and how we might collectively make that experience result in a profound expansion of personal and professional horizons and an extension of possibilities for all parties involved. My greatest reward comes from seeing thresholds crossed, barriers broken, new habits formed and changes made. To this end, I'm also endlessly absorbed in considering how we might develop better, more useful ways of integrating the digital landscape and other technologies, emerging and present, into the act of learning. I think we're just beginning - a brave new world awaits... My background is in performance - Before undertaking my PhD and before spending the first half of my university career as a lecturer, programme leader and head of department, in my early career I acted, danced and made theatre across the world. This ten year experience continues to be fundamental in shaping the way I think about teaching and learning. At its best I see it as a facilitated journey of discovery, play, risk and adventure anchored in 'reflective doing'. Not 'knowing' in this context is often a signal that a useful path is being trodden - Thinking on its own is just rehearsal...

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