Increasing economy in East Birmingham

We signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Birmingham Anchor Network (BAN) members in July 2023. The Birmingham Anchor Network (established 2019) consists of six anchor institutions across Birmingham: Aston University, Birmingham City Council, Bournville Village Trust, The Pioneer Group, University Hospitals Birmingham, and University of Birmingham.

With combined budgets of over £4bn and a workforce of over 40,000, the Network aims to maximise the impact of their employment, spend and physical assets on the Birmingham economy, using a community wealth building framework, particularly in the city’s neighbourhoods of significant disadvantage.

Some of the joint projects and initiatives we have undertaken with Birmingham Anchor Network include:

Working with BAN and the East Birmingham Growth team at Birmingham City Council to achieve transformational change and economic growth in East Birmingham.
Piloting a template to establish current procurement and spend across the Network partners.
Working alongside Anthony Collins solicitors to prepare for the new Procurement Bill which is due to come into practice Autumn 2024.
Supporting the ICan project, which facilitated opportunities for those furthest from the labour marketing into NHS entry-level job opportunities.
Designing a new procurement policy for the University that will enable greater local spend.
Transformational projects in communities

As a strategic partner, Aston University works closely with Citizens UK Birmingham, which is an independent membership alliance of civil society institutions acting together for the common good of the city.

Aston University is a member of Citizens UK Birmingham and has signed a Membership Agreement to establish Citizens UK Birmingham as a strategic partner. Senior Aston University staff are on the Citizens UK Birmingham leadership group and work collaboratively with the alliance to further their priorities, which were developed through listening to citizens and are themed around: work, housing and safety.

As all members sign up to support each other, working with Citizens UK provides the University with meaningful links to local community groups, enabling us to engage with diverse groups of people on issues that matter to them and projects that will achieve local and transformational impact.

Some of the joint projects and initiatives we have undertaken with Citizens UK include:

‘Health Inequalities in Birmingham: Barriers encountered in underserved wards in East and West Birmingham’ (link here)
‘Tackling Health Inequalities’ discussion with Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, Cllr Mariam Khan (link here)
‘Productivity from Below: Addressing the Productivity Challenges of Microbusiness’ (link here)
Supporting refugees into work

We work with Enactus – an international organisation promoting entrepreneurial action – as part of our commitment to entrepreneurship, inclusivity and sustainability.

Enactus Aston works specifically to promote and achieve entrepreneurship, sustainability and youth empowerment, and partners with ACH (formerly Ashley Community Housing) to support refugee entrepreneurs.

The student-led group have designed and sold recipe books that contains recipes from expert chefs and refugees. The profits from the recipe book have been invested in the refugees by supporting them with English classes and licenses for building their own food business. There have been two iterations of the book so far, with a third planned for 2024.

In the academic year of 2022-23, the project:

Sold 330 books
Benefiting 29 families
Supported 7 refugees with their business setup
Obtained licenses for 2 refugees who sold their food at a 2000-people FoodFest in Coventry.

To support, Aston provides three university advisors that support the project all year round. Advising on the running of the group but also on the project and linking them with businesses and individuals for further advice and advancement. In this way, the University works closely with Enactus Aston to support their events and sales of the book. The university provides the venue and introductions to corporate buyers who may distribute the recipe book further. 

Inspiring young female leaders

For the third successive year, Aston University - in conjunction with Birmingham City Council and the US Embassy - hosted the international YouWIL summit on behalf of the City of Birmingham (July 24th - 31st 2023). Participants comprised of 14–16-year-old girls from schools across Birmingham alongside international participants from North and South America, Europe and China.

The summit themes comprised of: Women in Politics, STEM, Business, Politics, Sport and Culture. Women who have carved out successful careers in these fields presented each session, providing inspiration, advice, guidance and interactive opportunities for the 73 participants.

Dame Denise Lewis, Dr Helen Pankhurst, Aphra Brandreth to name just a few of the speakers involved. Also speaking was Olympic Ice Dancer Jayne Torvill, who (together with her partner) won a Gold Medal on behalf of Great Britain at the 1984 Winter Olympics, and a Bronze Medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics.

Numerous Aston female staff were involved in the summit assuming chairing, presenting and mentoring roles, with the STEM day exclusively delivered by colleagues from within the University.