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CESI and Market Development Association Sign Community Engagement Charter (October 2020)

Professor Kathy Higgins, CESI Director, is pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with the Market community in Belfast.

(L-R) Prof Brendan Murtagh (CESI Sustainable Cities and Communities Lead), John-Jo McGrady (MDA CTI Support Worker), Fionntan Hargey (MDA CTI Manager), Prof Kathy Higgins (CESI Director) and Niki McKnight (CESI Centre Manager).

Professor Kathy Higgins, CESI Director, is pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with the Market community in Belfast. A close neighbour of the University, the community has a rich history, spanning more than 200 years and despite proximity to the university, city centre,  and large commercial enterprise, it continues to face ongoing inequalities in education, health, housing and employment.  Months of ongoing consultation with the community, led by the Market Development Association, have coalesced around the production of a Community Engagement Charter.  Assisted and supported by QUB’s Public Engagement Team, our charter cements our relationship and operates as a formal agreement of how we will work together.

Alistair Stewart, Head of Public Engagement at QUB, signalled strong support for the new relationship,  “I very much welcome the Community Engagement Charter which has been agreed between CESI and the Market Development Association and I look forward to the work that emerges from this partnership. This is another important step in the development of a strong partnership with the MDA which I have no doubt will bring great benefit to the Market Community and the University.  This is a perfect example of the University’s Social Charter in action, as we work collaboratively to positively impact society through our research and education.”

We will be co-developing work packages to action new ways to produce positive, collective impact on the challenges faced by the community in key areas such as educational underachievement, employability, mental health issues and addictions.  The partnership will also look at the potential of the social economy in the regeneration of the Market. Taking an asset-based approach, it will explore the potential of a range of sectors including heritage tourism, access to meaningful work and developing key sites and buildings in the interests of the communities that live in this part of the city.

Fionntán Hargey from the MDA said “We welcome the formalisation of our relationship with CESI. A 2018 community survey illustrated the stark structural inequalities faced by the Market community in education, health, employment and housing; it also demonstrated how each of these are compounded by the nature of the built environment within and around the community. The strategic, evidence led approach adopted by the Market Development Association mirrors CESI’s own methods.  One of our ambitions when launching the survey findings in our 2019 report, We Must Dissent: A Framework for Community Renewal, was to establish a relationship with the University. The Community Engagement Charter makes that ambition a reality, and lays the foundation for a relationship built on trust and mutual aid. The ambitious programme of work that lies ahead will write a new chapter in the history of the Market, and our renewal as a prospering community that places education at its heart.”