Projects

The University of Manchester is committed to making a difference in the social and economic well-being of the world’s least advantaged groups through our teaching, research, public events, and activities.

A significant amount of research is generated through cross-disciplinary teams of researchers, involving working with academic colleagues from elsewhere in the world and also with non-academic stakeholders.

Commute-flow

Commute-flow is a brand new geodemographic classification of commuting flows for England and Wales based on origin-destination data from the 2011 Census that has been used to analyse the spatial dynamics of commuting.

This toolkit presents data outputs to help policymakers use the data to support transport investment decisions and understand patterns of commuting.

There is a lot of untapped potential for this data to be used to evaluate transport policy and investment decisions so resources are more effectively and efficiently targeted to places of need.

Detail from map

This toolkit includes a series of new classifications of commuting flows from the 2011 census.

The toolkit allows you to explore levels of commuting and compare the level of connectivity of each neighbourhood to major employment centres.

The underlying rationale for the research is that the toolkit will help deliver efficiencies in public and private sector investment.

Full explanations of this new geodemographic classification can be found in our website's classification section.

If you want to find out more about the underpinning research and read further details about how we developed the classification, this can be found in our website's research section.

Food Futures Gwent

The food system in Gwent faces great change and uncertainty.

We might see more rural small-holdings, more intensive at-scale production, and more rewilded forests, and while climate change is starting to kick in, food prices are simultaneously on the rise.

Can food systems in Gwent adapt? Can local nature-friendly food projects work on a larger scale? Ultimately, how can we work together to transform the food system, to deliver sustainably for current and future generations?

In addressing nature and climate emergencies, partners across Gwent must work together to understand and undertake a systems approach.

The Food Futures Gwent pilot is about transformation in action, turning visions into practical reality with all key players involved.

There are political, ecological, and technical challenges across the food system in Gwent.

All these call for radical policy changes and collaborative, integrated planning between the public sector, private sector, and civil society.

At the same time, there are emergent and creative opportunities for public services to build renewed relationships with communities and ecosystems, and tackle the barriers in the system.

These challenges and opportunities are not only applicable to individual facets of the food system but to the system as a whole.

The University of Manchester is working closely with Natural Resources Wales and its public sector partners on the Food Futures Gwent pilot.

The pilot will take a 'synergistic' approach to transforming the food system, focusing on the findings and recommendations of the State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR2020) and the evidence identified in the Gwent Well-being Assessment.

What will the project achieve?

The project will give those involved the opportunity to work differently, taking a systems approach collaboratively.

The lessons learned through this project can then be meaningfully applied and built upon; in other geographical areas, in relation to other planning functions, and in other ‘systems’ (e.g. transport, energy).

A suite of outputs from the project will be used to inform well-being planning and future delivery. These include:

  • Challenge mapping of food systems in flux, with sense checking from different points of view, building on the evidence base of the Gwent Well-being Assessment;
  • Synergy mapping, identifying visions and opportunities; and where different parts of the food system can be joined up and integrated;
  • Pathways mapping, identifying strategic actions for transformation in both the production and consumption aspects of the food system. This will provide models for planning, delivery and governance, and policy recommendations for long-term transformation.

The outputs from the Gwent Food Futures pilot will feed into the Gwent Well-being Plan.

How can you get involved?

Transforming the food system involves all stakeholders in creative strategic thinking, and we need your help to do that. You are invited to join this unique and creative project over the coming months in two ways:

  • individual or group interviews to help in challenge mapping and sense-checking the current evidence base;
  • two half-day workshops, to undertake collaborative synergy mapping and pathways mapping, using interactive methods for creative thinking.

The Gwent Food Futures pilot marks the start of ways of working together to address cross-cutting well-being challenges, using a stakeholder-led systems approach. We are looking forward to working with you.

Check back regularly for details and updates.

For more information, please contact joe.ravetz@manchester.ac.uk (The University of Manchester) or Rae.Baker@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk (Natural Resources Wales).

Aims

Generally, the project aims to demonstrate practical pathways towards more sustainable food systems in the pilot area of Gwent.

These will aim to connect each of the four domains – resources, ecosystems, social and economic.  

  • ‘Production side’ pathways for transformation: farming, land use, food industry, exports.
  • Consumption side pathways for transformation: retail, catering, households, health, education.
  • Pathways for transformation on the overlap: where Welsh produce goes directly to Welsh consumers, with social economic, and environmental benefits.

Starting point

Generally, we start with the most topical questions for Gwent, its food systems, and its natural resources.

We look at the forces of change, disruption, risk, and opportunity. 

Then we look at the possible synergies between key players and map out likely pathways.

This works at two main levels.

First, we work with farmers, the food industry, retailers, health and education, consumers, etc.

Working through the Public Service Board, and initiatives such as the Food Safe Wales, this mainly involves on-site interviews and workshops.  

We explore the potential transformation needed for the sustainability goals and the net-zero and environmental land management agendas.

In particular, we focus on the following key questions.

  • Who are the key players and stakeholders?
  • What are the main issues and challenges?
  • Where are the key problems and priorities?
  • When are the horizons for action – now, soon, later?
  • What are the visions and options to be followed up?
  • How can action best be taken, or at least enabled?
  • How many resources might be needed and found?

Secondly, we take this to the national level of dialogue, with government, public agencies, businesses, civil society, and community bodies, working with Natural Resources Wales, with a focus on the carbon budget and the forthcoming Food Bill.

Scope

We are working on four main domains of activity, based on the NRW Sustainable Management of Natural Resource programme.

  • Safeguarded Natural Resources
  • Resilient Ecosystems
  • Healthy Places
  • Regenerative Economy

In this short project, we focus not so much on technical detail, but more on the bigger picture of transformation:

  • from short-term opportunities to longer-term systems change;
  • from local examples to national policy to global impacts;
  • from jobs and incomes to communities and livelihoods;
  • from sectoral risks/opportunities to what value-chain step-change.

What is a food system?

A ‘food system’ covers all aspects.

In material terms, it spans from land/energy/water to production, processing, distribution, consumption, pollution, and waste/recycling.

In social/economic terms it covers health and education, industry and services, livelihoods, lifestyles, cultures, and communities. In practical terms, there are two distinct systems, with an important area of overlap:

  • Food production: farming, with land, energy, and water, for domestic and export.
  • Food consumption: via retail and catering, to feed households, visitors, and other organisations.
  • The overlap, i.e. local production for direct local consumption is, at present, a minority part, but could well increase. 

Who is involved?

We aim at dialogue and engagement with stakeholders across the board.

  • Public sector: government, agencies, public services in health, education, housing; 
  • Private sector: farmers and landowners, food industry, visitor economy;
  • Civic sector: professions, food interests, academics, social and cultural organizations;
  • Citizen sector: consumers, social enterprise, community initiatives

Our synergistic toolkit

In the Food Futures Gwent project, we connect environmental management with social, technological, ecology, economic, political, and cultural issues. 

Meanwhile, ‘grand challenges’ such as climate change or social inequality, are ever more inter-connected and controversial. What can be done?   

‘Synergistics’ – the science and art of working with synergies – has been developed for such challenges.

It provides practical methods and tools, to help explore and enable the ‘collective intelligence’

This can work in organisations, institutions, supply chains or value chains, business/enterprise models, networks, or communities. 

To mobilize such a collective intelligence calls for creative and visionary thinking.

For this, we use the synergistic approach and the Climate-Wise Toolkita flexible box of techniques, with four main stages.

  1. System mapping: the baseline syndrome and issues on the table;
  2. Scenario mapping: the drivers of change & alternative futures;
  3. Synergy mapping: design of opportunities, synergies, and innovations;
  4. Strategy mapping: design of practical pathways, road maps, policies, and projects.

The scheme is very flexible: it can take hours, days, weeks, or months, depending on time, people and resources.

The cycle can be more interactive, or more about desk-study, data-mining, expert debate, or stakeholder interviews.

Overall, these tools help to explore ‘grand societal challenges’, to identify ‘what kind of problems’ we are talking about, and then explore ‘what kind of solutions’ are most useful.    

Visual thinking is at the centre of the synergistic methods and tools.

The various practical guides provide a series of templates and questions to be explored.

Forces of change and opportunity

There are many forces of change and disruption for food systems in Gwent, in Wales, and the UK – along with new opportunities for a renewed relationship of communities, ecosystems, and landscapes.

These all call for ‘systems change’, i.e. transformations of social, technical, economic, ecological, policy, and cultural systems.  These are some of the agendas on our table.

  • Food and farming: the agricultural landscape post-Brexit is highly uncertain, and much depends not only on local designations but also on international trade policies and markets. One likely effect is further polarization between intensive production and extensive farming with ecosystem management, however, the policy regime to support this has yet to emerge. 
  • Climate change impacts and adaptation: the Welsh landscape is set to change in the coming decades. There will be greater extremes of temperature, precipitation, storm, and sea level rise: together with indirect effects such as pestilence, invasive species, ecosystem dieback, and disruption, both on land and in water. 
  • Climate change emissions mitigation:  the current UK policy goals of net-zero are replicated in Wales with its unique situation.  There are far-reaching implications for transport, housing, commercial buildings, industry, waste management, and energy systems. 
  • Landscape as a matrix: a growing realization of the unique resource of the Welsh landscape, with challenges and opportunities coming from many sides. In particular, there is an agenda not only for the protected landscapes and ecological areas but also for everyday landscapes in the urban and peri-urban areas.
  • Urbanization/gentrification/globalization: the current debate on housing and planning is indicative of a wider challenge, with new pressures for peri-urban or peri-rural housing, decentralized lifestyles, and the typical conflicts between local and global lifestyles and infrastructures.
  • Economics and livelihoods:  as the national geography continues to restructure around urban and global economies, the policy agenda for levelling up increases.  The effect of inequalities in housing markets, local jobs and livelihoods, rural communities, demographic changes, and public services and infrastructure, will bring added pressures. 
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and perhaps accelerated some of these trends and pressures, whether or not they can be contained soon. As more work from home or remotely, or taking more ‘stay-cations’, rural housing has jumped in value, and many landscapes and natural resources are under new levels of pressure.

Manchester Urban Observatory

Inadequate infrastructure costs the nation £2million a day, and extreme events can cost hundreds of millions more.

To plan for the future, UKCRIC will provide evidence to de-risk, help prioritise and provide evidence for investment.

UKCRIC will understand how to make the system of systems that constitutes the nation’s infrastructure more resilient to extreme events and more adaptable to changing circumstances and contexts, and how it can provide services that are more affordable, accessible, and useable to the whole population.

Integrated urban infrastructure labs

The UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC) is establishing a network of interlinked urban infrastructure ‘observatories’, at sites across the UK, for the digital capture, mapping, sensing, monitoring, and testing of real urban infrastructure systems over the long term.

The key objective is to capture the complex interrelations and interactions of real systems with the environment, people, and society.

The research will be enabled by close collaboration with local government and industrial partners.

A national network of urban laboratories

Research laboratories, and modelling and simulation facilities, are supported by a network of observatories, which will help understand long-term performance and wider interactions of infrastructure within the wider urban system.

Deploying sensors across a variety of urban sites, this national ‘observatory’ will enable the digital capture, mapping, monitoring, and testing of real cities and infrastructure at a variety of scales, over time.

World-class national infrastructure research capability

This is a collaboration between many of the UK's leading universities that is supported by a £138million investment from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills to develop new state-of-the-art research laboratories.

Multilingual Manchester

Multicultural women eating a meal.

Language and cultural diversity is a permanent feature of all major cities around the world, and Manchester is no exception.

Over 150 languages are spoken in the Greater Manchester area. Almost half of school pupils in Manchester have a home language other than English. Communities cherish and cultivate their language heritage. Multilingualism is part of our urban landscape of public signs, posters, and banners.

Many among Manchester’s workforce have excellent foreign language skills, enabling them to communicate directly with business partners around the world.

The city’s commercial sector includes services that specialise in international customer services, translation and interpreting, and consultancy and advertising in other languages.

At Multilingual Manchester, we promote awareness of language diversity in the city region and beyond. We study the practical challenges and the immense opportunities that language diversity brings. We explore how it shapes people’s language repertoires and practices.

Find out more

Stories from the Road

In 2015, Manchester writer, Sarah Butler, mapped Manchester’s 'Corridor' using the stories of people who have lived, worked, and travelled along Oxford Road.

Funded through a Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), awarded through The University of Manchester, these stories generate a layered picture of this rapidly changing part of the city and what it means to the people who experience it.

Stories from the Road offers an alternative map of The Corridor.

It celebrates the individual stories that inform, create, and question our cities and their production and reproduction day in and day out.

Locations

Oxford Road is home to a huge range of stakeholders, users, and organisations.

Activity in the 'knowledge economy' is double the regional and national average with Oxford Road home both to The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, as well as Manchester Science Park, the National Graphene Institute, and the Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The road and the surrounding district are also shared by multiple cultural institutions including Whitworth Art Gallery, the Manchester Museum, Manchester School of Art, HOME, the Palace Theatre, and Manchester Central Library.

The institutions, businesses, and attractions of Oxford Road bring thousands of commuters, students, residents, and visitors along what is reputedly the ‘busiest bus route in Europe’ every day.

Stories

From academics to booksellers, bus drivers to commuters, curators to cyclists, medics to scientists, contributors to Stories From The Road include a varied cross-section of Oxford Road’s population, those for whom it has figured in the makings of their lives in Manchester. 

The Manchester Urban Institute is grateful to the School of Environment, Education and Development (SEED) and to Manchester Metropolitan University for financial contributions towards the design and production of the Stories from the Road books.

Find out more

The Carbon Landscape

Little Woolden PGR fieldtrip

Led by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, The Carbon Landscape aims to restore more than 130 hectares to nature, train more than 1000 volunteers, and offer free education to 40 schools, and spearheads the latest Government thinking on the environment.

While work has already been happening to create green areas, the project aims to connect these areas - and to get local people involved in the restoration work.

Aims and objectives

  • Restoration – To continue restoring a derelict landscape connecting wild areas to offer a better chance for wildlife.
  • Access – To reconnect people to the land.
  • Understanding – To raise awareness and remind residents that this is your landscape.

Approach

The project features the RoundView - an accessible and positive approach to sustainability - which has come from research by Dr Joanne Tippett, Lecturer in Planning, Property and Environmental Management at The University of Manchester.

She found that offering guidelines for what a sustainable future might look like, rather than focusing on problems, leads to greater motivation and capacity for action.

Working with the Great Manchester Wetlands Partnership, she has used RoundView to interpret the landscape innovatively.

Collaborators

The Carbon Landscape is part of the Great Manchester Wetlands, a partnership of local authorities, statutory organisations, environmental charities, and community groups.

It was established in 2011 to deliver improvements to nature and wildlife for the benefit of local communities.

Find out more