Students as Change Agents

This programme brought out the best in me and gave me the opportunity to work with teams from diverse backgrounds. In addition, I had the chance to sharpen my critical thinking skills and presentation skills

Students as Change Agents participant – February 2020

Created by the Careers Service and the Data Driven Innovation Programme Office, Students as Change Agents is an experiential learning programme that brings students from different academic disciplines together to tackle real-world complex challenges. Across Flexible Learning Week, 22 students volunteered to spend time working in interdisciplinary teams using data and creative thinking to address some real-world challenges set by external partners.

In just five days, four teams addressed huge questions on women’s financial equality, reducing youth homelessness, and helping the construction industry contribute to the circular economy. On day five they each presented a short video and written report to their industry experts and hosted a Q&A on their findings.

It was a whirlwind week which started with students meeting each other for the first time, quickly followed by an introduction to Team Dynamics delivered by the Social Enterprise Academy Scotland. A key element of the Change Agent programme is about helping students understand themselves better and how they best work in a multi-personality team. Facilitated conversations about teamwork undoubtedly help foster mutual understanding with students and acts as a catalyst for collaborative learning – which is essential in such a tight timeframe.

Following a session led by EFI’s Cat Magill on Defining Problems with Data, students met their industry partners for an introductions to their challenge question. Having external partners meet with and present to students is an integral component of the programme. Not only does it allow students to build their professional networks in a way their traditional HE learning doesn’t tend to, it is also a fantastic opportunity for external partners to meet students outside of a recruitment setting and to witness how they think and engage with challenges.

In the subsequent days, groups also received further training from EFI and Edinburgh Innovations on good ideas, pitching solutions and developing positive attitudes. There was also the opportunity for peer-to-peer feedback as groups tested their thoughts with each other and shared suggestions on how to improve.

Following successful presentation events to industry experts, students shared their thoughts on the programme. Every participant in the end programme said they would recommend taking part to other students and others highlighted that although it was a challenging experience it had ultimately been extremely rewarding.

The Students as Change Agents programme showed me I’m capable of so much more than I thought. I had fun every step of the way but also pushed myself to work harder than I am used to and the whole experience taught me so many valuable lessons

Students as Change Agents participant February 2020

The week turned out to be a great experience and I learned about the challenge as well as developed myself much more than I had anticipated

Students as Change Agents participant February 2020

The programme was friendly to students from any backgrounds and allowed students to develop a notion on what their future career team work is going to be like

Students as Change Agents participant February 2020

Flexible Learning Week 2020 Challenges & Video Links:

1) How can the construction industry use digital technology to contribute to the circular economy?

Partner: Robertson are one of the UK’s largest family-owned construction, infrastructure and support services businesses.

Circular Economy Challenge Video – SAChA February 2020

2) How can Scotland change to reduce youth homelessness?

Partners: Clan Childlaw is a unique legal and advocacy service for children and young people delivering free, confidential legal advice and representation in Edinburgh, the Lothians and Glasgow. They are partnered in this challenge by Shelter Scotland, a campaigning organisation helping over half a million people every year, who struggle with bad housing or homelessness, through advice, support and legal services.

Youth Homelessness – Rural Community Bus Scheme
Q24 | Introduction

3) How can society fairly support women in the UK to develop long-term financial resilience and capability?

Partner: Part of Lloyds Banking Group, Scottish Widows have been helping people plan their financial futures for over 200 years. This challenge question builds on work by the Chartered Insurers Institute which is a professional body dedicated to building public trust in the insurance and financial planning profession.

SACHA Challenge Feb 2020 – Financial Equality

This was the third delivery of Students as Change Agents and only the second to run across Flexible Learning Week. We are still learning and making continuous improvements. If you would like to learn more about the programme or receive copies of the written reports, please email or visit our web pages

Art and Science on a Postcard 2020

by Jack O’Shea

I think it is safe to say that one of life’s great pleasures is meeting someone who is interested in your passions. Putting hard work and effort into something can often feel unrewarding, but when your enthusiasm is reciprocated there is arguably no greater feeling. 

On a windy Thursday behind the curtain of the Forest Café that artists and scientists alike enthused about their work. Mixers are always scary.  What if nobody likes each other and there’s nothing to talk about? However it soon became clear that the artists and scientists were more than compatible, and no matter how hard we tried we could not get anyone to participate in the mixer questions. The conversations were simply flowing too well. There were clay sculptures and fish bones being passed around as well as copious amounts of coffee being consumed. The art forms ranged from clay to AR programming and the fields of science showed similar diversity. That night there was truly a collection of crazy, brilliant minds sitting at the small tables of the Forest Café.  The artists had been matched up with a scientist each, based on the feedback given after the speed dating mixer and given a week to prepare ideas for their postcards. The week passed and we met at the ASCUS lab to put those ideas into practice.

The ASCUS lab was packed with paints, felt, clay, hairdryers, glue, card and many other materials. A video of one artist performance played quietly in the background as colourful pieces of card were painted and stuck onto a black piece of paper, representing amino acids. One pair made an AR postcard, that when you held your phone up, became alive with fish and turtles, a gentle marine themed tune playing. Charcoal was smeared all over the hands of one pair and another team pressed shells and rocks into clay to make stamps. Despite all the hard work that was being out into the postcards the conversation still flowed, everybody talking about their current work together. However it could be said that everyone in the lab bonded over a particularly difficult to open bottle of medium; it remains unopened to this day. As the session came to close the postcards were dried and photographed, ready for the exhibition.

We returned a week later to the Forest Café for the exhibition and panel discussion. The panel was made of 2 scientists and one artist, all coming to the conclusion that science and art require the same creative mind set, and that working together felt very natural. There was no sense that the artist had done all the work in creating the postcard and the overall experience was one of great fun. The conversation drew people from around the café in and audience members asked the panel questions.

 A satisfying end to a wonderful project.

LLC Blethers 2020 – An Evening of Academic Storytelling

By Elisa Teneggi

And so, we made it (again). LLC Blethers 2020 happened on February 20th, upholding the time-honoured tradition started a long time ago, in a land far far away, by a group of reckless PhDs who had the revolutionary idea of bringing together university-related students outside class and working hours. That magical fairy land was called School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh. And its members greeted that intention voraciously.

Thus, Blethers – An Evening of Academic Storytelling, was born.

Blethers revolves around a PechaKucha competition, in which presenters from the LLC community discuss topics which are related to their area of interest – or that are just a lavish praise on their pets’ adorableness. A judging panel of academic staff members is then asked to deliver a verdict and pick the most inspiring presentation – the most cheered at, the most academic one, or maybe just something very odd and funny we never thought about.

Blethers is all about creativity, interactive learning, and community-building; that’s why the party goes on to a pub quiz, which has been carefully written by one of the members of our organizing team. Throughout the night there are prizes to be won, nibbles to munch on, and a batch of free drinks to be enjoyed by lucky early bird attendees.

Whereas drinks, venue, and catering have been paid for with the help of FCL – Festival of Creative Learning, all the prizes have been proudly sponsored by local business and US-based Barton Studio.

Blethers has been growing steadily during the years, and we’re excited to announce that we’re considering applying for bigger grants for next year’s event.

Her East Coast Vibe: Notes on an Album Launch

Stolen Voices (Dr Rebecca Collins and Dr Johanna Linsley) invited Dr Owen G. Parry to write about their experience of the Stolen Voices Album Launch in London. The Stolen Voices Album Launch forms part of ‘The Sonic Study Series’ and is a pop-up event as part of ‘The Festival of Creative Learning 2020.

A conceptual raffle it is! Your pre-paid ticket gives you free entry into a game where no one knows the rules but everyone’s a winner, baby. The prize – a gorgeous piece of 12 inch vinyl – an album – also conceptual.

Somewhere between medieval lore and tabloid pun these women decoded monopoly and made the sun come up via non-charismatic rituals for the broken hearted. They had carefully managed a cosmic summoning: an organised act which would render a new definition for a people on the brink of an embarrassed island – a people in decay. To manifest this act they took several trips to The Edge with some funny looking sticks, but without ever letting on about their intention: to trespass The Private Area; to linger for too long in hotel lobbies with basement spas drinking her favourite alcoholic infusion – a G&T with star anise. This act of lurking combined with their mastered style of ambient attention seeking became an embodied methodology, a concept cocktail which they casually referred to as her east coast vibe – all directed through one single inconspicuous ear. “Lets take it in turns to be me”, she whispered. And they did. And stuff happened.

Okay, this is all very good, but we have some questions: Are these women listening or being listened to? Are these women summoning or being summoned?

Here’s what we found:

There are multiple women with binders – multiple binders – and they all show up all tethered together to perform a single action at the sea-edge. They are not anonymous per se. Like, you’ve seen them before on the TV, or you’ve read about them in an Agatha Christie novel. They are coastal figurinas with binders – multiple binders – that climb into the bath with you in that moment when you just close your eyes. Shut. It’s a podcast. No. it’s your tin ship freight crate cargo sail bathtub. No. It’s the log flume at Wet n’ Wild you rode as a kid. The one where the log once “de-railed” or so they all told you over and over and over as you queued for the ride.

“So, what I’m saying is… A photo souvenir is not enough to help you forget the voices in your head”. It’s a murder mystery, guys. And yes, it’s true, it’s not clear what crime has been committed, but it’s almost entirely certain that one has.

There are objects in their mission worthy of a thicker description. Long dangly ones with arms. Not terribly useful ones, and some binoculars made of jello. Their sole purpose: to divert attention away from the four-eared detective instrument with multiple arms – there in the room – poking around, lifting-up bin lids, listening to The Clean Surface Areas of artificially constructed show homes with no real plumbing intact. Google it! These women are on a blinking mission.

She takes a stethoscope. Now here’s the thing… And lifts her top up to listen to her own heartbeat.  Ears plugged, tuning in to her own inner radio, she feels the cold metallic surface against her warm rising pecho. Her arm hairs engage causing a prickly-tingle-effect. She raises an arm up with limp intention. It’s breezy. She looks out to sea.

“What we need to do, is we need to send out a signal, and if we do this we should hear something back… within two weeks, and if we don’t hear back, we are to assume that unfortunately we were not successful this time round”.

We actively listen and wait for something that can’t ever be heard to make itself heard. Something ferocious. This could be a storm in a harbour, a corporate hack, or a territorial uprising – actual bits of land in pieces – a splitting of an island in two… let one part sink and please God let the other part float off into the North Sea like a good egg.

It’s a modest thing really. Just swarms of bees making cloud shapes over The Audience Area. Like, we know that this is just the beginning of something timed, but also pushing against time. Like, it’s not like this thing is “timely” (as in of this time), or “timeless” (as in forever relevant to the past, present, or future); but rather it feels like it’s “out of time” – by which I am referring to that feeling or tendency toward exaggeration and incretion that structures every good story.

They burrow, the women, as they drum and hum, not holes but patches in The Dry Skin-Area. Bruises appear and disappear like memory flashes.  She holds her breath and they all do. It’s quite powerful really.

For more come to CCA Glasgow on 8th February 2020 6:30pm. Tickets available through the CCA Box Office:

The Sonic Study Series brings artists, interdisciplinary scholars, students and any other interested individuals together to share current research on sound and listening. Sound, vocal acts and listening are of vital importance in today’s political climate when the use of language (e.g. hate speech), affect and atmosphere require urgent attention. This series aims to address issues of care, community and companionship at a time of crisis.

Further events in the series include The Sonic Study Series hosts Lisa Busby 6th February 2020. Tickets are free but places are limited:

Sharing Stories From #FCL18

by Mihaela Bodlovic

It is seven weeks today since the curated week of the Festival of Creative Learning (19th – 23rd February) started and we are already well along with planning for the 2019 Festival. Jennifer and I are still processing the feedback and evaluations from the week and aiming to refine our processes and resources over the summer, but early indications suggest it was a great success! Compared to last year when we spent a whole week in ‘Festival Decompression’, locked away in a quiet room getting our heads round our first year at the helm, this year we only spent a half day planning our summer work priorities, suggesting we have now found our feet.

One of the creative outputs we commissioned for this year was a new Festival Film, expertly crafted by Archie Crofton. We are absolutely delighted with the result and strongly encourage you to watch and share widely as a celebration of one of many great initiatives at the University of Edinburgh. The full film is available on Mediahopper. Alongside the film, we also invested in a full portfolio of photos from many events, captured by expert photographer Mihaela Bodlovic. A selection of these photos have or will be shared on our social media channels over the coming weeks. View the first album of day one on our Facebook page.

 Organiser Stories

It is always a pleasure to read the stories that appear in various creative formats from our Event Organisers. Some of them will be sharing with you directly over the coming months via this blog, so stay tuned. Below are some examples of records that are available for your reading pleasure, providing an insight into some of the events and activities that took place during the week.

Finally, in our organiser survey this year one of the questions was ‘If you were to tell a friend about what your most memorable experience was over the course of preparing for and delivering your event, what would it be?’ These are some of my personal favourites:

  • Running around University campus carrying ice-cream mix, dry-ice and a large stand mixer.
  • The event itself and the pleasant interaction with people, those who attended our event really were passionate about the topic, and that was great to see.
  • The creation and strengthening of the community.
  • It is very refreshing to be involved in academic dynamism and get to know people from different backgrounds.


Monitor our website for pop-up events taking place during the rest of the year.

Internet of (Community) Things: an upcoming design thinking workshop

Iot-event-1 (002).png


What is it? Dr Jeremy Knox and Dr Michael Gallagher, both of the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh, are running two workshops for faculty and students on Internet of Things (IoT) technology and how this might be designed to bridge distance for the University across campuses (there are several discrete campuses within the city) and between distance (about 2600-3000 currently) and on-campus students (≈30,000). Imagine technology built-in to the campus environment that could use light and sound to represent distant student communities. We are looking to generate ideas around how IoT can be used to build community, a sense of belonging, a functional, aesthetic, cognitive, or emotional connection to the university. This workshop (student event link here) is a part of the Festival of Creative Learning at the University and linked to the Near Future Teaching initiative.

Why should you come? We will be doing design thinking around what kind of future we hope the University will have with technology, and provide you with an opportunity to make your ideas a part of that. It is a great opportunity to get outside your own subject area, do some interdisciplinary work, and perhaps come up with an idea for your own future project, capstone, dissertation, or even your own business idea. Your ideas will remain yours. It is a great opportunity to explore some links between data, IoT technology, and doing more than setting your smart thermostat. Both on-campus and digital education students will be participating simultaneously, feeding their ideas to one another. There will be coffee and tea, of course. It is in the uCreate Studio, a maker space for the University complete with tons of kit. There is a beautiful view over the Meadows. Jeremy and Michael are fun to talk to.

How will we do it? We will be designing around a set of four personas representing four students. Different subject areas, countries of origin, some distance and some on the physical campus. We will identify, if it exists, how IoT (specifically the underlying data being generated by the larger university community) can provide a sense of connection to the larger community. No need for previous skills or experience with IoT or technology, this session is purely about design and creative thinking. Our personal interest is in identifying and engaging underrepresented (or underserved) populations, particular regions, non-native English language speakers, domestic deprivation, those from first generation university families, and the like. If IoT gives us a mechanism (in tandem with other systems, of course) to reach these groups, we want to explore it. But beyond that is the potential of using data and technology in tandem in largely aesthetic and emotional ways. Beyond merely offsetting loneliness or isolation, there is work to be done here on how it proactively builds community, redefines these connections between student and student, university and student, and so on. You can be a part of that. Do join us.



Dr Jeremy Knox and Dr Michael Gallagher

Centre for Research in Digital Education

Pop-Up Event | Law and Artificial Intelligence Hackathon

Artificial Intelligence by GLAS-8, under a Creative Commons license

Is the future here? Not a long time ago when one came across a term “artificial intelligence”, one’s first thought about it was probably a sci-fi kind of concept where human-like machines perform mundane tasks. In the last decade, the technological developments, such as the use of smart technologies in the era of the Internet of things, have proved that once unimaginable hi-tech solutions can become a usual affair of our everyday lives.

Likewise, the development of machine learning and artificial intelligence has steadily influenced many industries. The approaches and methods of indexing and analysing information have advanced to the point that machines are potentially capable of replacing humans.

The legal field has not escaped the influence of advancement in technology.

The legal landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade with advances in technology, the launch of new types of law firms and more international firms than ever before. Notably, while there is still much to develop, artificial intelligence may be a game-changing innovation in the legal market.

Even though questions about the potential of artificial intelligence in the legal field have received a significant amount of academic attention, there is a still a lack of discussion among stakeholders. When practical tools that use artificial intelligence are developed, the questions of ethics and liability arise. Moreover, these developments mean that we already have entered a phase where machines do at least some work of lawyers.

Are we ready to accept the future and do we know what the full potential of artificial intelligence is? Will data scientists be employed along with lawyers by law offices in near future? This would mean that both lawyers and data scientists would need to learn to speak one language. Therefore, it is crucial to bring future professionals – Law and Informatics students – together to think about how artificial intelligence can transform the legal industry.

The event – Law and Artificial Intelligence Hackathon – which take place on Friday 31st March 2017 in the Outreach Centre basement, Holyrood campus, will deal with some of the questions discussed above. The event is open to Law and Informatics students, but anyone can join in for the panel discussion.

There is an opportunity to take part in the panel discussion with three distinguished speakers from the field. David Halliwell is Director of Knowledge and Innovation Delivery at Pinsent Masons LLP. Akber Datoo is the founder and managing partner of the legal data consultancy, D2 Legal Technology (D2LT). Jimmy Vestbirk is the founder of Legal Geek, the biggest LawTech startup company, and the co-founder of F-LEX, an on demand paralegal service.

As an added value, students will have an opportunity to develop some practical ideas at the workshop and pitch their ideas in front of a jury. The workshop has already been sold out but Law and Informatics students are encouraged to join the waiting list.

Get your tickets for the panel discussion or join the waiting list here.

Liva Skolmeistare

Edinburgh Law Connections


Pop-up Event | Human Rights Objects & Photography: Looking at Human Rights Practice from New Angles

20th Genocide Commemoration at Camps Kigali, 2014, Rwanda, by Astrid Jamar

This Thursday 16th March, Astrid Jamar (Political Settlements Research Programme (PSRP), Law School) and Laura Martin (Centre for African Studies) are pleased to invite you to a workshop which will be experimenting with creative teaching methods that involve the use of objects, photographs and academic texts to explore human rights and transitional justice. It will encourage participants to combine artistic and analytical skills to look at these disciplines from new angles.

Extensive human rights and transitional justice research underlines frictions between policy and practice. Many institutions are unable to assist individuals most impacted by these violations. Our innovative workshop aims to impact on students’ learning experiences by encouraging them to think beyond normative discourse and consider what human rights violations really are, what they mean to different individuals and how to engage with conflict-affected societies.

By using photographs, the workshop will encourage participants to think beyond standard learning practices. The participants will discuss issues raised in these pictures and how the selected academic quotes connect to the images. Throughout these discussions, the use of objects and images will underline ethical issues often obscured in traditional text-based teaching methods. It will encourage students to think critically and pragmatically about their future professional environment.

Registration is required so please sign up here. Priority will be given to students whose studies are related to transitional justice and human rights.

The workshop is a pop-up event which is part of and supported by the Festival of Creative Learning.

Astrid Jamar