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A Look Back on Community Action

Last week, members of our Yorkshire Feast Collective made the journey east to Sheffield, where they used surplus and seasonal ingredients to cook up a storm for 100 hungry students. The meal, which marked the third occasion that our volunteers have catered for the University of Sheffield, was a roaring success - but it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the relationship between our TimeBank and the prestigious centre of learning.

Back in 2020, you see, we joined forces with researchers from the University of Sheffield on the Mobilising Adaptation: Governance of Infrastructure Through Co-production (MAGIC) project. Headed up by the Department of Urban Studies and Planning’s Professor Liz Sharp, this project ran for 30 months and sought to explore new ways of managing surface water in urban areas. At the TimeBank, we helped the researchers to engage with the local community in Hull, facilitating real-world solutions.

According to the UK government, more than five million properties are under threat of flooding across the UK. But at the same time, experts predict that demand for water in southern England may outstrip supply within the next 20 years. Traditionally, our leaders have sought to address these issues via large-scale, industrial solutions. But what if we could change our relationship with water from the bottom up, creating a more sustainable future in the process?

The team behind the MAGIC project argued that small, community-led interventions can have a big impact on water management as a whole, reducing risks such as flooding and pollution. In fact, everyone who keeps a water butt in their garden is a part of this system on a small scale. So how can we take things to the next level?

In Hull, which has the second-highest number of properties at risk of flooding in the UK after London, the MAGIC project worked with local communities to design a number of small scale Sustainable Drainage Systems, or SuDS. Consisting of rain tanks and rain garden planters, these systems were installed with the aim of inspiring residents to take a similar approach in their own gardens. To this date, Priory Baptist Church in Derringham, Bilton Primary School, Sewells Garage, Cottingham Civic Hall, and Thorpes Resource Centre continue to benefit from this initiative.

But the scope of MAGIC - and our collaboration with the University of Sheffield - goes much further than just these five sites. Working alongside the WEA, members of our TimeBank co-designed a rainwater management course, giving students from all walks of life the opportunity to learn more about water management, flooding, the benefits of community action, and how the blue-green infrastructure can impact our wellbeing. Our members also worked with Community Action for Water - the interdisciplinary group behind the MAGIC project - to establish Susdrainable, a workers cooperative specialising in small-scale SuDS design and installation. 

As climate change continues to wreak havoc on our natural world, it’s difficult to predict what the future may hold. But in cities such as Hull, where rising sea levels pose a serious risk, communities are pulling together in new and innovative ways. Moving forwards, we are in conversation with the University of Hull to expand our training programme across the city, exploring new ways to educate residents on waste management and community action.

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