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A Word On... having much to be thankful for

(3 June 2019)

Hannah admires the view of Durham City

Hannah Shepherd, our Community Liaison Officer, reflects on her first year in post and looks ahead to what’s to come. 

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since I became Durham University’s first Community Liaison Officer. I have had such a warm welcome from so many people and it really means a lot to have this support. The learning curve has been steep: adjusting to a whole new sector, as well as the ebb and flow of the academic year. I’m happy to report that I finally feel like I am getting there!

Looking back, I couldn’t have done what I’ve done over the last 12 months without other people’s help, support and input. Here are a few of my highlights…

Highlights of the year

Firstly, I am more than a little in love with just how active and passionate you all are about your City. It is fantastic that countless people have been ready and willing to give up their personal and professional time to contribute to building better community relations. It also strikes me how wonderful it is to live and work somewhere that so many people really care about, look out for and want so much to be the best place it can be – even if we sometimes have differing views on what that looks like.

Second, I have really enjoyed working in partnership with everyone from residents, students and local businesses, Durham Students Union, Durham University Residents Forum, and the Community Engagement Task Force to the PBSA Liaison Group, Durham Area Action Partnership, City Safety Group, elected members and many, many more. As I put the finishing touches to this blog post, we have just held the fourth Community Engagement Task Force meeting. It was good to see that, after a lot of effort from all involved, we have built something to be proud of and which hopefully will be of benefit to all involved over time.

Thirdly, to Colleges. It just wouldn’t be right to write this without acknowledging their support, friendliness and guidance. With new initiatives launching in the coming academic year, like the Student Pledge, this has been invaluable. As communities go, Colleges are pretty wonderful places and while I don’t think I fully appreciated the value of the collegiate system when I was a student here, I find I have a new found love for it now.

Much achieved, much still to be done

I can see a lot has changed since I first landed back in June 2018 and I am encouraged to see the momentum that is being gained towards tackling some of your biggest areas of concern.There’s a long road ahead and this coming academic year will bring its own challenges. I feel confident we are all building an environment in which concerns are heard and, where we feel we can make a difference, we get on with addressing them.

It would be remiss not to mention how sad I am that my colleague from Durham Constabulary, Rebecca Carey (Police University Liaison Officer), will soon be leaving us to take up an exciting new role. She will be a huge loss to us and she leaves behind some big shoes to fill! You only have to see this year’s figures around Community Protection Notices to see the impact her work has had. It also goes without saying that I owe her a debt of gratitude for all the guidance she has given me on local policing this past year.

I hope you feel, as I do, that it’s important that we take responsibility to do everything we can to maintain good community relations, while acknowledging that we often need the support of partners like the police to achieve this. There’s no one answer to some of the problems we experience in the City but, safe to say, it’s easier to find those answers when we’re looking for them together.

And so to finish, as we come to the end of the academic year and summer approaches, I really do feel that the future for community engagement is bright. We are not just in this City; we are working to make it a better place for all. So, whoever you are, keep being that thing that makes Durham such a special place and I look forward to travelling this path with you.

Best wishes,

Hannah

P.S. don’t forget you can get in touch with me at community.swceoffice@durham.ac.uk