Monday 6 November marked the start of UK Parliament Week (UKPW) 2023, the annual event that aims to remind people what the UK Parliament is, and how people can get involved. As a long-time partner of UKPW, The Open University (OU) has produced free learning resources and research projects that inspire and mobilise citizens to be “active”, to understand how to make change, and to help clarify political systems on local and national levels.
Dr Donna Smith, Senior Lecturer in Politics, explains the ongoing relationship between the OU and UKPW, now in its fourth year: “The OU’s partnership with UK Parliament Week is part of our wider work as a member of the UK Parliament Participation Network. Over time we have built up really good relations with UK Parliament to the benefit of our students. We have been able to work with Parliament on things like webinars, Changemakers: A guide to making political and social change, and an Open Learn course – aimed at both students and the wider public.”
The OpenLearn course ‘An introduction to making political and social change’, which has seen over 1000 enrolments in the last year, was endorsed and branded by UK Parliament, as well as the Welsh Parliament, Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly. All four administrations also provided some content for the course:
Research shows that young people are more likely to be dissatisfied with democracy, and less likely to participate in formal politics. A new OU research challenge has set out to change that, with a pilot in Wales designed to help policymakers and educators learn about cost-effective ways to increase understanding of, and participation in, politics of young adults.
Building on the OpenLearn course, the research team are developing more educational resources that inspire, demystify, and promote “active citizenship” – the idea that anyone can try and make, or indeed prevent, change if they know where to start.
Working closely with young people in Wales to first explore what their understanding is of political and social change, it is hoped the project will eventually yield a package of best practice to be rolled out across the rest of the UK. More broadly, the project will help educate and empower more young people into civic engagement and enable more representative decision-making.
The Changemakers project is funded by the OU’s Open Societal Challenges Programme, which aims to tackle some of the most important societal challenges of our time through impact-driven research.
The Programme’s focus on the themes of Tackling Inequalities, Living Well and Sustainability aligns well with the OU’s mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.
The Programme’s aim is to apply excellent research by OU academics to some of the most pressing challenges facing people across the UK and worldwide to transform lives and drive societal change.;