Community outreach

Cornwall is central to ESI’s mission. And the heart of Cornwall is in its communities. Within the ESI we are extremely proud of the work we do with local communities whether that is supporting local businesses, informing policy makers, collaborating with local artists, spreading education on environmental and sustainability issues, hosting visits for community interest groups or inspiring the next generation of researchers.

Sustainable economic development

Dr Joanie Willett's research looks at sustainable economic development in peripheral regions. For development to be sustainable and to improve the lives of people living in these areas, it is essential that local people get to say what they think and feel the problems are, and what might be the potential solutions. Strategic decision makers also need to understand the lives and experiences of people that live in peripheral regions. This is where local councils are extremely important. As formalised representative democracy in the UK, councils provide an essential interface between decision makers and ordinary people. This is really evident in Cornwall, where European Structural Funding has given us a wonderful opportunity to regenerate the economy. The task is for the right investment decisions to be made, and this is where Cornwall Council, and town and parish councils play a very important role.

Over the past few years I have worked with Cornwall Council and some of the towns and parishes to make sure that we communicate each other’s ideas well. This has included projects such as the Citizens Take-Over of Cornwall Council; Penrynopoly – where some of my students devised a version of Monopoly in order for Penryn town council to have better conversations with the community; On the Throne, looking at how people would like to be able to shape their communities; and Draw Your Councillor, examining what people think about town and parish councils and how councils can engage them better.

Tour de Maths

In June 2014 a team of four mathematicians (Chris Guiver, Steph Lloyd, Markus Mueller and Stuart Townley), based at the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute, Cornwall, got on their bikes to promote mathematics across the county. The team worked with over 400 pupils, from 14 schools in west Cornwall across nine towns, cycling a total of 100 miles over the three days. The emphasis lay on sharing mathematics with everyone – every secondary school in west Cornwall was invited to participate – as well as providing a taster of higher education, and all as part of a carbon neutral journey.

The tour was also motivated by our conversations with teachers from schools and colleges. We sought to start (and in several cases, continue existing) relationships between mathematicians at the University of Exeter and schools in Cornwall. Mathematics is often perceived as a ‘dry’ subject and quite difficult to make exciting, when compared to, for example, more immediately practical and visual subjects such as biology. The act of cycling a considerable distance between schools and incorporating the mathematics created along the journey, made the whole experience memorable to the students and teachers. A teacher at St Ives School said ‘… the students really benefitted from the experience and were buzzing afterwards!’ Cycling to schools is a great ‘icebreaker’ and sparked an interest in both us and what we had to share. Collaboration with teachers and students at the schools we visited continues to flourish with individual workshops, masterclasses and Higher Education taster days.