Pathways for sustainable livelihood through female leaders in artisanal fishing communities in the Dique Channel, Colombia

This was a project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund aimed to empower women leaders from fishing communities in the Dique channel area of Colombia. Women play a pivotal role in the foundation of family structure, social stability in Colombian coastal areas. Here, subsistence fishing sustains family and community cohesion, however, severe environmental (e.g. erosion, overfishing) and social (e.g. violence, displacement and gender inequality) pressures have resulted in destabilisation and impoverishment of all living communities.

Research on sustainable development suggests that success of implementation is linked to community participation, empowerment, self-organisation and context specificity (Butler et al, 2017).  The Colombia National Development Plan 2014-18 and international policy frameworks suggest women are pivotal for sustainable development and emphasise gender equality. However, as research on sustainable development around vulnerable communities in Latin America (Bertola and Williamson, 2017) and developing countries through feminist lenses (Jaquette, 2017) is relatively rare, this new participatory research is timely.

Research questions:

  1. How ready is the community to live within sustainable development principles?
  2. Which are the elements of female leadership that facilitate pathways to sustainable livelihoods?
  3. What are the possible pathways to creation of sustainable livelihoods in an artisanal fishing community?

This followed from a project called FISHING FOR LIFE ( ) where 5 women and 22 men were trained as leaders in the area.

Manchester Met’s Dr Lina Barrios, herself a Colombian national, was part of the original team and saw that the women were a minority who were largely ignored when it came to taking decisions as a community. She thus resolved to return with a team to work with a similar group of women.

School columbia

So, a team from Manchester Met, including Valeria Vargas (also a Colombian national), Lina, and myself, Alicia Prowse, ran a 6-day residency at the Granja Lismar acquaculture farm near Santa Lucia, Atlantico region. The farm has a training room (below) with attached dormitory which housed the 25 participants.  An outdoor classroom provided space for yoga, reflection, more formalised learning and discussion…as well as dancing and partying on the final night.

My experience both with learning and teaching for adult learners (I work in CELT) and with global citizenship – a thread that ran through this project – was the basis for my participation.  Soft global citizenship is a term sometimes used to describe a process where the global north see the global south as poor, needy and helpless, prompting responses which tend to reinforce the status quo, preventing more searching questions being asked. A more critical global citizenship might instead prompt questions around the reasons for injustice and poverty and to seek for solutions that include all voices, not just those more privileged ones.

Hand painting

The outdoor classroom was challenging and lively as the women engaged in learning more about their own networks, their potential for leadership and entrepreneurship and their ideas about empowerment, all set in the context of livelihoods for sustainable development. There was also input around technical aspects of aquaculture such as injection of hormones to stimulate spawning.  Sometimes, classroom work was interrupted as the aquaculture tanks hummed and growled with the sounds of spawning fish.

group hand photo

Facilitating workshops in this environment required a focus that ignored the eagles, woodpeckers and other wildlife that regularly floated past the wall-less classroom, and an ability to work with the passionate commitment of the participants many of whom would stand up to give clear and heartfelt speeches about their own views.

round wall chart

Personally my own challenge was my unrealistic expectations about my linguistic facility in Spanish – my colleagues helped me out with translation but I was very disappointed not to be able to join in all the discussion.  It was humbling that my expertise (in teaching and learning) felt so inadequate in this context and it made me feel renewed respect for colleagues who teach in languages that are not their first.

At the beginning of the residency the women talked a lot about their ‘lack’ – of resources such as land, or finance or support. Towards the end of the week, they began to recognise the power of their own networks and their abilities to rely on their own resources.

We were on the border between two administrative areas: one area had a women’s minister (who we invited to come) and the other did not. In preparation for the visit, we asked the women what they might want to ask of a women’s minister. By this time, at the end of the residency, they decided that they had all they needed to get started on an entrepreneurial venture.  So, instead, they decided to ask for a more ‘political’ kind of support.

participants photo

When they did so, her response was to immediately collect together the women leaders from the adjoining area and to make a phone call, there and then, to a political colleague using the women’s voices as evidence of grassroots support for the initiative. Two days later some of the women met with this colleague and began the process of formal lobbying for a women’s minister in their area.

hand poster

We envisage that this will be the beginning of a process that will take some time to come to fruition but we hope to continue working with these women through our partners  at the University of Cartagena.  In the meantime, we have a thriving WhatsApp group that we have been added to that helps all women to sustain and grow their networks.

If you would like to hear more. Here is the link to a short podcast


Pedagogies for Sustainability, Responsible Enterprise and Innovation: 11th July 2018

seeg event full

On the 11th July research group SEEG in partnership with Centre of Excellent in Learning and Teaching (CELT) are hosting a joint workshop: Pedagogies for Sustainability, Responsible Enterprise and Innovation.

The workshop draws together in-house MMU expertise, recent CELT-funded research , and good practice from external and international case studies to look at how new and innovative pedagogical approaches, including Problem and Enquiry Based Learning (PEBL) short training courses (Carbon Literacy) and online-technology facilitated learning can help us stay at the forefront of enhanced student experience and pedagogical innovation. We will hear about case examples from Nottingham Trent University, and internationally from colleagues from Arizona State (USA) and Aalborg (DK) Universities.

The whole schedule for the workshop is now fully confirmed, please click the Eventbrite link to book your place:

If you have any questions about the event, please direct them to Valeria Vargas ( or Sally Randles (


Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal – new issue

Volume 2, issue 1 of the Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal,the journal of the RAISE network,  has just been published. The longer articles focus on promoting effective relationships between staff and students, whilst a series of case studies looks at the practical implications of various techniques for enhancing student engagement. We also have an opinion piece critiquing the appropriation of the term ‘student engagement’ and an article from a student reflecting on the value of her engagement

SEHEJ is an Open Access journal edited in CELT and is part of our contribution to the international community of scholars of teaching and learning. We see it as an open, inclusive, community which provides opportunities to novice authors and reviewers, but a lot of generous contributions of time are needed to make this work. We welcome both experienced and new reviewers and authors, so please get in touch if you are able to participate in the journal activities. If you know of any students who would like to write for the journal, we do offer a developmental route to publication, so please encourage them to consider this.

Full list of articles in Volume 2, issue 1:

Angera, J., et al. (2018). “Launching an Interdisciplinary Network for Understanding Student Engagement (INFUSE).” 2018 2(1): 93-98.

Bramley, G. (2018). “How to help engage students in flipped learning: a flipping eventful journey.” 2018 2(1): 78-85.

Bryson, C., et al. (2018). “Proceedings of the RAISE International Colloquium on Partnership.” 2018 2(1): 99-136.

Davies, M. K. (2018). “‘The SLL Resilience Programme: The Route to Success’: Implementing Wellbeing Skills at the University of Reading.” 2018 2(1): 55-60.

Dyer, J., et al. (2018). “Field trips, friendships and societies: Exploring student engagement in the School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds.” 2018 2(1): 30-54.

Fotinatos, N. and Sabo, E. (2018). “Impact of centrally coordinated higher education pre-commencement of teaching student support initiative (FedReady) on student engagement: A regional university case study.” 2018 2(1): 86-92.

Lowe, T. (2018). “Data Analytics – A critique of the appropriatisation of a new measure of ‘Student Engagement’.” 2018 2(1): 2-6.

Marie, J. and Azuma, F. (2018). “Partnership support for departments with low student satisfaction.” 2018 2(1): 71-77.

Mercer-Mapstone, L. D., et al. (2017). “Breaking Tradition Through Partnership: Navigating Identities and Dissonance in Student-Staff Partnerships.” 2017 2(1): 12-30.

Simpson, C. and Clark, T. (2018). “Reflections on the development of a model of partnership designed to enhance the ‘digital curriculum’ of Sociological Studies programmes.” 2018 2(1): 61-70.

Sum, K. (2018). “Growing from a Seed” 2018 2(1): 7-11

Research seminar: Moderation of dissertations and project reports: an alternative approach

On Wednesday 24 January, we were visited by Dr Ender Özcan and Dr Carmen Tomas from the University of Nottingham for a research seminar about moderation. Ender is an assistant professor of Operational Research and Computer Science with the Automated Scheduling, Optimisation and Planning (ASAP) research group in the School of Computer Science at the University of Nottingham, and the level 3 and level 4 undergraduate project coordinator for the School. Carmen is the Assessment Adviser for the University of Nottingham and works on the Teaching Transformation Programme leading on the area of assessment.

Ender and Carmen explained about their implementation of a novel approach to moderation of dissertations and project reports. Carmen explained the background to the project, which aims to ensure consistency and confidence in determining final grades. Like all the best projects, the assessment advisor and the head of computer science found that they were thinking along the same lines and were able to combine forces to create a new approach. I may be over-simplifying here, but the process goes something like this: the supervisor first-marks the assignment and submits a grade. At the same time, three colleagues read the submission in less depth. Each allocates the assignment to a grade band and submits this. Ender then compares the median marks. If the grades are in the same band, as 79% are (16% were identical), then the supervisor’s mark stands. If there is a wide gap, then the project is systematically referred to a full second marking. If there is more than six marks of difference across the markers, then the panel meets to discuss the final grade.

Student submissions are 15,000 words each. Each panel member reviews around 28 submissions and reported that they took between 10 and 30 minutes to review each one, compared to 90 minutes for a full, detailed, grading with feedback production.

Following the seminar, we had a lively debate about the pros and cons of introducing such an approach at Manchester Met. We talked about how this approach would mitigate the risk of single/bilateral marking groups. We also talked about whether it would mask weaker supervision, because the extreme grades may get removed during the process. Ender and Carmen said that there are now more first class marks than there used to be, but that this may be because of the simultaneous introduction of an analytic rubric.

Our thanks to Carmen and Ender for coming over to present to us and for engaging in a stimulating and robust discussion.

New Publication: An analysis of the factors that affect engagement of Higher Education Teachers with an Institutional Professional Development Scheme


Kathryn Botham, who is the CELT PSF Lead, recently had an article published in the ‘Innovations in Education and Teaching International Journal’ re. captioned subject.  Please see a short brief below:


An evaluation project was carried out to consider the factors that influence university teachers engagement with an institutional professional development scheme. Data was collected via an online questionnaire followed up by semi-structured interviews. This paper will consider those factors that encourage and act as barriers to engagement. The influence of six cross-thematic factors: Time; Institution; Culture; Management; Individual and Mentorship, on engagement will form the focus of the discussion. The report concludes that the key factor influencing engagement was the presence of intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation was a less effective motivator for HE teachers lacking intrinsic motivation.

If you would like to read this article further please click here:




MMU launches film to aid students from ‘non-traditional backgrounds’ step into HE

The QAA have just published the report on a project they funded: Student Induction and Transition: Reciprocal Journeys, carried out by Alicia Prowse and Penny Sweasey from CELT. The project, described in an earlier post,  took academic staff from MMU to a local sixth-form college, and invited staff and students from the college back to the university. Their impressions and expectations were recorded and are summarised in the accompanying video, produced by Eleanor Hannan.

Do the experiences of these staff and students match your own? What actions do you, or might you, take to support transition into Higher Education? Do let us know.

Source: MMU launches film to aid students from ‘non-traditional backgrounds’ step into HE