By Craig Bateman, President and Founder of Model Westminster Society
On 9th October 2017, Durham University Model Westminster Society will celebrate its five-month anniversary. As founder and president of this new student group, I am delighted by the significant impact that the student group has already had and equally excited about what we have planned for the next academic year.
At the heart of Model Westminster Society is empowering student voice in social policy making. Through a broad and diverse programme of activities and events such as focus groups and keynote speakers, we hope to provide an alternative platform for students to directly shape and impact decision-making.
We have also created tangible development opportunities for student leaders to gain first-hand experience of leading events, attracting sponsorship, and building valuable policy networks. As the Society has subscribed to Step up to Serve's double benefit of social action, this experience gives students both useful life skills as well as the chance to give something back to the wider community.
The Society's unique participatory model immerses students and young people directly into the world of social policy making. Our launch event, which was held in partnership with St Chad's College Durham, in June saw almost 100 students turn out to quiz and challenge Durham City's parliamentary candidates at a special General Election Question Time. We were delighted to be made Durham Students’ Union Student Group of the Week in recognition of this event. We also surveyed participants on their top issues for the next Parliament, which saw students become 'citizen researchers', relaying their experiences to local politicians. You can read the report in full here.
Ultimately, our goal at Model Westminster Society is to co-produce social policies that are representative of a much wider audience than those traditionally included in political decision-making. We endeavour to do this through equipping students with the skills, resources, and experiences that they need to be active, informed and engaged citizens.
As we look to expand our reach, we are now looking for organisations to team with us as our corporate sponsors. This is a great opportunity for a business or charity to show its commitment to corporate social responsibility. As we are based at one of the highest-ranking universities in the UK, we will also be able to effectively promote an organisation's brand image among a bright, energetic and talented community of students and young people. In turn, we believe that this will forge strong links between students and relevant sectors, opening access up to a large pool of future graduates.