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Sustainable Societies

Many countries across the world face significant challenges in developing sustainable societies. Many countries are riven by war and conflict; energy, food, water and other resources are being rapidly depleted weak governance and economic models have led to corruption and stark inequalities.

The academic theme of Sustainable Societies will support growth in economic, political and relational well-being for current and future generations through innovative research and teaching and knowledge transfer programmes.

See examples of our global impact in sustainable societies >>

person filling a cup from an outside tap in Africa

Reducing inequality in Western Australia

The cumulative body of research on ethnic relations by Professor Charles Husband formed the basis for a significant contribution to the creation of equal and inclusive services for the ethnically-diverse population of Western Australia: addressing the on-going quality of service delivery by all government departments.

Previous research at Bradford into the dynamics of service delivery and professional practice in multi-ethnic societies; working with, for example, midwives, nurses, social workers and journalists resulted in innovative work on inter-ethnic relations with government departments and professional bodies. This research led to an invitation to collaborate with the Equal Opportunity Commission of Western Australia (WA) where, in 2005, the Substantive Equality Unit (SEU) was established to challenge discrimination, and develop a policy framework to address the issue of culturally sensitive service delivery across all government departments.

image of ayers rock in Australia

Challenging discrimination within the Australian setting meant that sensitivity towards the distinctive history of Australian identity and politics had to be considered when addressing inequality. Professor Husband’s previous practical and academic work in Australia provided a background to his work on this initiative. Working with a small team of colleagues, and with critical political backing at key moments, a carefully staged programme of work was developed.

This included a phased development of education, evaluation of current practice, innovation and monitoring of changed practice. Operating with the slogan: ’If you want to treat me equally you may have to be prepared to treat me differently.’  This major policy innovation presented a challenge to pre-existing conceptions and modes of practice; and was rolled out across state government departments.

Among the issues addressed by the SEU was the experiences of Aboriginal and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people when accessing the private housing rental market. Recommendations were drawn up to remove the barriers for Aboriginal and CALD people by the provision of training, guidelines and legislative regulation for industry operators.

The SEU continues to impact positively on the lives and opportunities of minority groups living in WA, influencing government departments to increase the accessibility and use of services by people from minority backgrounds.

Recognising diversity in prisons

Prisons in England and Wales now respond to equality and diversity issues in a way which benefits both the staff and prisoners, following the introduction of a national equalities framework influenced by University of Bradford research in Psychology.

Following the racially-motivated death of an inmate in a young offenders’ institution in 2000,  policy and practice in prisons had focused almost exclusively on race and ethnicity, without addressing the need to recognise the breadth of inequalities experienced by other diverse minorities. Bradford academics collaborated with the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), the Race Equality Action Group, the Diversity Manager of a high security prison as well as with prisoners representing diversities including age, sexual orientation, disability, transgender, religion/belief and race/ethnicity. The knowledge generated through these collaborations has impacted directly on NOMS national policy development as well as local policy and practice.

photo of dark prison cell

The resulting NOMS national equalities framework adopts a key recommendation of the research which is greater prisoner consultation when developing guidelines for prison staff regarding diversity. Implementation of these guidelines means that staff benefit from improved support and confidence in responding appropriately and effectively to diversity issues, and prisoners benefit indirectly through their improved experience of staff responses. For example, in one prison guides have been developed to assist staff in respecting diversity when searching prisoners, particularly transgender, and also clarifying the rights and responsibilities of both staff and transgender offenders.

Based on other research findings, NOMS commissioned good practice guidance and a national training package for prisoner equalities representatives, and developed mediatory rather than adversarial methods for dealing with complaints relating to diversity issues. The research found that prisoners prefer to resolve issues of diversity and inequality in a non-confrontational way, confirming the importance of face-to-face interactions between staff and prisoners to ensure fairness in prisons.

Victoria Lavis and colleagues research has transformed prison policy and in 2015 their research received national recognition for continuing work in this area in prisons in England and Wales when they awarded second place in the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) prestigious Celebrating Impact Prize 2015 for Outstanding Impact on Public Policy.

Uncovering Shetland's iron age past

For over a decade, Bradford archaeologists have worked in Shetland, to reveal one of the best-preserved iron age sites in Europe. The Old Scatness Project has had public access at its heart right from the start of the dig, with the team winning the British Archaeological Award for its public presentation.

Today, guided tours of meticulously reconstructed houses inhabited by ‘living history’ demonstrators give visitors a superb experience of what iron age life might have been like. Researchers worked in partnership with the Shetland Amenity Trust to excavate a broch, or roundhouse, surrounded by an iron age village. Specialist craft workers now demonstrate iron age skills to visitors, including metal and jewellery working, pottery, textiles and rope making. Elsewhere in Shetland, manufacturers have created products – including an Old Scatness Ale – based on the findings at the site that have contributed to the cultural identity of the islands, as well as to its economy.

The research carried out by the Bradford-led team is also enriching education in Shetland. Education packs based on the site, which include replica artefacts, have been developed for 32 schools and schoolchildren visiting the site participate in traditional craft activities.

For the archaeologists themselves, a priority was to share knowledge and best practice. A centre for field training was established at the site for students from many different universities. Local volunteers were also involved in the project from the beginning and took the opportunity to train at the centre alongside the students. These approaches have since been adopted as a standard for archaeological work across the region.

The quality of the work carried out at Old Scatness has made a significant contribution to Shetland’s heritage and its tourism trade and has also enabled the site to be considered for World Heritage Site status.

Ariel image of old scatness in shetlands showing iron age settlement University of Bradford

Geoprospecting our historic landscapes

Geoprospecting 'the science of finding features and sites hidden beneath the earth's surface' has become a commonplace archaeological tool, and is familiar to the public via TV programmes such as Time Team.

Bradford researchers in Archaeological and Forensic Sciences were early pioneers of technologies used in geoprospecting which are now used widely throughout the world. The techniques offer a way of uncovering important archaeological finds while minimising damage and disruption to potentially sensitive sites.

academic doing prospecting for achaeology

The university has built long-term partnerships with leading surveying and manufacturing companies and helped develop new technology and strategies for low-impact survey - Bradford Centre for Archaeological Prospection. These are used by heritage management organisations to inform planners who need detailed archaeological information prior to development work. One of the partners, Geoscan Research, currently supplies these geoprospecting systems throughout the EU.

The wealth of geophysical data produced through geoprospecting presents challenges for archiving and storing. Bradford’s research into this area has influenced the development of new guidelines, including those by the Institute for Archaeologists. It has also underpinned guidance on geophysical survey drawn up by English Heritage, which is recognised worldwide as a benchmark for evaluating sites.

The technology developed at Bradford has not only benefitted large scale surveys, but it has also enabled smaller community-based groups to get in on the act. Thanks, in part, to programmes such as Time Team – to which members of the Bradford geophysical group have been a long-term contributors – public understanding of geoprospecting has grown. Since 2008, the Heritage Lottery Fund has provided more than £1 million to community-led projects that are using geophysics – that’s a great shift away from watching to doing archaeology.

International investment and trade

A model developed by researchers in accounting at the University of Bradford which aims to accelerate international trade for developing countries has been adopted by the G20 group of finance ministers.

Successful international investment and trade is viewed by the United Nations as a main driver of growth in both developing countries and countries with transitional economies. The research carried out at Bradford has led to the development and adoption of international policy tools in two areas of foreign investment – agriculture and value chain – helping build successful, long-term business relationships between foreign enterprises and developing countries.

The Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) model captures the complexity of the effects of foreign investment in the short, medium and long term on developing countries. The FDI model was used in the formation of international policy tools adopted by the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors in 2010.

bloge paperweight sat on graph charts

The model has been used in various contexts, including in the formulation and research on Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (PRAI) - a framework aimed at ensuring that investment in agriculture in developing regions, such as Africa and South East Asia is beneficial overall. Similarly, a methodology to Measuring and Maximising Economic Value Added and Job Creation from Private Investment in Specific Value Chains (IMMEV) is being used to support the G20’s development ‘pillar’ and has been implemented in six countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Laos, Mongolia and Mozambique.

Professor Hafiz Mirza in the School of Management is currently seconded to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) as Chief of Investment Issues Research - a culmination of the long-term engagement between Bradford researchers and transnational policy organisations. The UNCTAD motto is ‘Think, Debate, Deliver’ and Professor Mirza’s role includes work on economic development impact, linking to related work throughout the UN system including its sister organisations such as the World Bank.

TUC engagement with minority communities

University of Bradford research in the School of Social Sciences has directly influenced changes in TUC national policy, leading to an increased engagement with - and recruitment of - black and ethnic minority (BME) and migrant workers.

The national and regional Trades Union Congress (TUC) recognised that developing alliances between unions and community groups of all kinds was the key to increased recruitment. Building on an established reputation with the TUC, the researchers undertook various projects to find out how this could be worked towards and achieved. In the first instance, survey findings showed that trades unions were not viewed negatively amongst these communities, thereby opening up the possibility for collaboration and community engagement.

migrant workers on a roof

The Bradford researchers presented the TUC with five recommendations to effectively engage and build alliances with a diverse workforce, which were disseminated via presentations and collaborations with individual unions. As a direct result, UNITE employed a full-time community co-ordinator based in the Yorkshire and the Humber region and the GMB recruited a part-time officer to implement recommendations throughout this region.

Presentation of the report findings were made to the General Secretary of the TUC which has resulted in the researchers’ recommendations being incorporated into a national policy document, ‘Swords of Justice and Civil Pillars’. This policy is designed to change unions’ approach to engaging with minority ethnic communities and to recognise the skills, qualifications and experience of migrant workers, leading to increased and improved participation.

Further research identified and publicised examples of best practice where unions were already working with community groups. The resulting report recommended continued support for anti-fascist groups, community advice centres and community learning centres. A third project, commissioned by Yorkshire and the Humber TUC, aimed to identify the benefits that trades unions were already generating by providing, for example, training or language skills to migrant workers.

Improving global biosecurity

Since the mid-1990s, the School of Social Sciences has been influencing global biosecurity through a portfolio of research reports and briefing papers used by the 170 State members of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) to continually strengthen the treaty.

The BTWC was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the development, production, stockpiling of an entire category of weapons that could be used to generate disease in humans, animals and crops.  Funded by major international charitable and governmental bodies, Bradford’s research portfolio has incorporated insights into new biology applications, such as genetic weapons to target ethnic groups, and highlighted how poor biosecurity practices could lead to accidental misuse of life sciences research, with catastrophic consequences.

Biological chemicals in a laboratory with protective clothing

The Disarmament Research Centre now informs key recommendations and agenda items for the regular meetings between the Convention’s member States. Staff from the Research Centre have been invited to participate in and deliver presentations at virtually every workshop, briefing and expert working group since 1996 and individual member States regularly cite Bradford’s research in their own proposals and discussions relating to the Convention.

Bradford has further underpinned the aims of the treaty by developing training resources for life scientists around the world. Twenty lectures exploring issues around ethics, best practice responsible conduct and the potential threats posed by technologies developed through life science research  are accessible online free of charge in a variety of languages.

In 2010 Bradford launched the world’s only university-accredited module for scientists to train their colleagues in bioethics and biosecurity, a programme completed by life scientists from 14 countries. Recent funding has enabled the Bradford team to tailor the online resources to specific issues and needs of individual countries where biosecurity training is particularly pertinent, with the US Department of State commissioning the team to deliver training in Iraq.

Building community resilience in Bradford

Since the Bradford riots in 2001, research at Bradford has helped to defuse underlying tensions between deprived, multi-ethnic communities, and also between these communities and the local council and police. The aim is to strengthen community participation and engagement in building resilience throughout the city by encouraging dialogue and partnership between previously disparate social groups.

Building on earlier research into civil society and social movements in Latin America, Bradford academics founded the Programme for a Peaceful City (PPC) in 2001 to apply research findings to real community issues. The International Centre for Participation Studies (ICPC) was established in 2004 as a research hub, bringing together community and institutional partners to share knowledge, build connections to a range of community groups and enhance the community ‘voice’.

row of police with protective shields

Researchers found that grassroots-based organisations are instrumental in influencing the effectiveness of policy, extending its reach and widening community participation. Widening participation is essential in building the community’s resilience when faced with external pressures. For example, in 2010, the PPC drew on learning from the 2001 Bradford riots to undertake peace-building interventions in advance of potential external provocation from an English Defence League (EDL) rally in the city. By taking part in over 20 discussions between activists, Bradford City Council and the police, the PPC created open and successful communication channels and also negotiated the use and training of ‘street mediators’ to reduce the rally’s impact on the city and its inter-community relationships.

The ICPS/PPC has helped change the culture of policing potential unrest in Bradford by securing support for grassroots peacekeeping and encouraging youth engagement with community resilience efforts. In July 2013, a community university was launched as ‘Comm-Uni-ty’, bringing local activists together to learn with academics about power and participation – a model which could be used in other cities.