Student Changemaking and Advocacy: What and How?

Last term we updated you on how LCC are working with students towards racial and climate justice. In this post we aim to unpack the processes and practices of Changemaking and Advocacy and offer further guidance to staff on working with our LCC Changemakers and Climate Advocates. 

London College of Communication currently employ eighteen students and recent LCC graduates to work in partnership with staff to embed racial and climate justice into our curricula and teaching practices. LCC Changemakers have been employed to do this since the spring of 2020 and Climate Advocates since the spring of 2021. But what does it mean for students to be advocating for racial and climate justice? And how can academic staff work most effectively with them on this?  

1. Advocating for change  

By definition, an advocate is ‘a person who argues for or supports a cause or policy’ (Merriam-Webster). The Changemakers are arguing for and supporting the cause of racial justice and the UAL Anti-Racism Strategy and the Climate Advocates are arguing for and supporting the cause of climate justice and the UAL Climate Action Plan

LCC Changemakers and Climate Advocates are not there to necessarily make the changes that are needed but instead to prompt and promote change, and to hold the institution and its staff to account on the changes that we have pledged to make as an institution and as individual staff members. The Changemakers and Climate Advocates are there as living breathing reminders, using their voice, their knowledge, their lived experience and the insights they’ve gained from the student body, to ensure that the necessary changes happen. 

2. Change in diverse forms 

We know that racial and climate justice cannot be achieved overnight or with one single change. These urgent issues are deep-rooted in the society that humankind has created. We also know that consistent, ongoing effort is required to tackle them, and UAL have good foundations for the Changemakers and Climate Advocates to build on, with the ground-breaking work of Shades of Noir, and transformative Inclusive Teaching and Sustainability units on the PgCert Academic Practice (to name a few examples).  

Change happens in different ways, at different paces, through diverse means. This is something the Changemakers and Climate Advocates discussed when they met as a group for the first time in October 2021, and the image below includes examples they identified on a spectrum between radical activism and organisational change processes.

Changemaking/advocacy spectrum – notes from joint session, October 2021

3. Pressure in the right places

The Changemakers and Climate Advocates are there to put pressure on the institution and others employed at the institution, to take the action required. But it’s important that the pressure remains on the institution and us as staff, and not on the Changemakers and Climate Advocates. They are not the answer to all our problems and such pressures and expectations of them can be counterproductive and unrealistic. Within the power hierarchies of the institution they have relatively little power as students and graduates, so they need us (staff) to empower them and elevate them, to enable them to do the work and for their voices be heard.

The Changemakers and Climate Advocates are currently employed for only a few hours each week, to not interfere too much with their studies or outside employment. So we need to be tactical and strategic with the hours and capacity they have and think carefully about the kinds of work they are doing and the support they are getting. Part of this can be maximising opportunities for them to join forces, working together in their own teams, and working in pairs across their teams for their programme or school, as some have already started to do.

In their own words…

Some of our current Changemakers and Climate Advocates have offered the following reflections on their work so far:

“It has definitely felt like there has been an open and non-judgmental forum for discussion and that our ideas and experiences are taken seriously.”

“I find the fact that we can make long-lasting changes, that benefit the POC students who choose LCC rewarding.”

“The most challenging part is to find ways on how we could motivate tutors and students to incorporate our ideas.”

“Continuing the conversation is a necessity!”

“The climate emergency is the biggest problem that humanity has had to face. My generation has spent most of its life watching inaction in the face of this crisis. Now we have very little time to avoid the worst consequences, and everything must change to adapt to this scenario, including the university. With the Climate Advocates program, a tool is created to promote this change, while at the same time empowering young students to lead this transformation.”

If you would like to find out more or arrange a discussion with a Changemaker or Climate Advocate, please contact us:

Lucy and Adrienne

Lucy Panesar

I work in partnership with students and staff across LCC to enhance educational practice in relation to inclusivity, student continuation and attainment through project leadership, educational development and scholarship, aligned to the priorities of UAL Continuous Monitoring and the Academic Enhancement Model (AEM).

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