Show FACE your Grit
It was during a coffee break, under a gazebo, on the lawn outside the FACE conference at the University of Southampton back in June, that Grit ran into Vice Chair Deirdre Lynskey. She suggested we might join FACE. But, before I go any further, let me make a confession: we were only dimly aware of what FACE is and what it does. Although we’d done some networking online, this was the first HE conference anyone from Grit had been to in person, and we’d only gone after being persuaded to by several of our university partners. It was a revelation. We found a whole set of people passionate about WP and social inclusion – as a charity this is in our DNA. And, more importantly, these were people prepared to do different, to challenge the orthodoxy, to take a risk in the search for new solutions. This, I thought, is just where Grit should be.
This, I thought, is just where Grit should be. You see, Grit is different. Grit is about self-reflection: examining your own behaviours, attitudes and expectations. It is about challenging your assumptions and biases, your limiting beliefs, doubts and fears. Grit is about inspiring and challenging. We demand a lot of the students and the staff on our personal development and coaching programmes. Grit is about resilience, self-efficacy and community, about belonging and wellbeing. We don’t deal with behaviours or skills. We don’t teach, we don’t advise. We believe that when you change your thinking, you change your world. Over the last 15 years Grit has been getting results in universities across the UK. We impact retention and performance and, in particular, work on inclusion and belonging with non-traditional students: Foundation Year, first-generation, commuter, international and mature students. We work with students and staff; with Black student leaders; with mentors; on access and engagement programmes; and on enterprise and employability. Almost 30 years ago we started out delivering programmes with some of the most ‘at risk’ young people in some of our most marginalised communities. We worked with young people involved in crime and violence, young people subject to substance abuse, homelessness and poverty. Over the years we developed expertise around building communities, resilience and self-efficacy. From here we bring insights and expertise to work with the students from underrepresented, harder to engage groups – insights we want to share across the sector. So, for Grit, FACE is a place to share and to learn. The curiosity and generosity we found in Southampton struck a huge and deafening chord. Grit is all about co-design, about sharing our experience and working together to find solutions with EDI teams, Student Success and Community Engagement Teams, academic and professional services colleagues and, of course, with students. It is most certainly not off-the-shelf. Recently we’ve established the Grit University Network where we bring together senior colleagues from across our partner universities to exchange learning, experiences and ideas as we develop our work. Joining FACE is a chance to take this to a new level. We can’t wait to get to know you! Drop me a line at email@example.com.