Manchester’s Making a Difference

Tue, 08 May 2018 11:20:00 BST

On 1 May we held our 4th annual Making a Difference Awards. We invited Megan Ritchie, a first year Politics and International Relations student, to come along and give us her views about the evening.

When I was a prospective student of The University of Manchester, I found that one of the many things that made Manchester stand out from the rest was its proud commitment to social responsibility. It was a reason as to why I picked the University as my first choice – the opportunities seemed vast and something that would add an extra spark to my time at Manchester. Thus, when I was asked to attend the annual Making a Difference Awards Evening on 1May, I was delighted.

The Making a Difference Awards takes place every year at The University of Manchester and this year there were award categories to celebrate and recognise the efforts and achievements of numerous individuals and teams from across the University. Despite the variety – from students to staff with a range of backgrounds and different areas of expertise - they all have one thing in common: they are dedicated to making a positive change no matter how, what or where that may be.

The North West Community Stroke Choir sang before the ceremony got underway. Including them in the event was a lovely addition, emphasising Manchester’s strong focus on the importance of social responsibility right from the start of the evening. The University’s commitment to social responsibility is formally recognised as one of the three main University goals but it has been entwinned through the history of the University, as proudly acknowledged by Dame Nancy Rothwell who made reference to the likes of Pankhurst and Stopes in her opening speech. Lemn Sissay, Chancellor of the University, then took to the stage to present the awards. Lemn spoke of how the commitment to social responsibility is the reason he put himself forward as Chancellor and how he is “consistently inspired by the work that happens here”.

Listening to and admiring the achievements of so many wonderful people, I felt exactly the same. Initiatives ranged from projects that aimed to improve the mental health of young people; providing healthcare to the homeless; addressing dental health inequalities and so on. The focal points of projects ranged from the promotion of STEM, the impact of austerity on our local communities, support for vulnerable youngsters in Uganda and the remembrance of the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 just to name a few.

This year, for the first time, the public were given the chance to vote for the winner of the Outstanding Contribution to Environmental Sustainability award which saw “Give It Don’t Bin It” take the top spot for their collaborative campaign that aims to encourage students to donate unwanted items. The campaign helps promote reusing and recycling across Manchester and has even raised over £1.3 million for the British Heart Foundation during the process!

Overall, it was a great evening and I left feeling truly inspired. The facts and figures speak for themselves when it comes to showing how dedicated the University of Manchester is to being socially responsible: during 2016/17 748 students volunteered in the community, 3000+ staff have been supported by equality networks, £230k was raised for charities by students and 3,226 local residents were supported back into work following long-term unemployment saving £47m to the region since 2011. Yet attending the event provided a more personal insight. It showed the passion and the stories behind the individuals and teams that dedicate their time and effort to making a difference.

When I got home from the event I found myself thinking about the future and how I could get to be sat at one of those tables one day for my own work. I asked myself “how can I make a difference?” I don’t know exactly how yet, maybe I’m still waiting for that lightbulb moment, but one thing I do know for certain is I’m in the right place to make a change.

Megan Ritchie

1st Year Politics and International Relations student