The Social Ideas Podcast: beyond Black History Month

posted in: Social innovation | 2
Young student looking at a glass beaker with teacher standing by.

The Social Ideas Podcast

The Social Ideas Podcast shares the impact of social innovation, its necessity and its capacity to challenge the status quo. Throughout this series, highly committed change makers in business, civil society, policy and academia will talk about their work, their ideas and their motivation to strive towards to a more equitable and sustainable world.

Beyond Black History Month

Richard Akerele is a busy man. Not one to sit idly by and wonder why change isn’t happening, he is the type of person who likes to face a challenge head on. He is the founder and CEO of East London Connect; and a student of the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation’s MSt in Social Innovation.

Richard Akerele, founder & CEO of East London Connect, and MSt in Social Innovation student

Richard studied German and Business as an undergraduate; the former because he loves the language, and the latter as a compromise to appease his Nigerian mother who had a more culturally traditional attitude towards the purpose and benefits of higher education.

Having worked in Germany for a number of years, he came back to the UK. After a while, Richard realised that many of the young people in East London were not even attempting to apply for Russell Group universities.

Beyond educational elitism

Twenty-four of the UK’s elite universities form the Russell Group, all of which have a shared focus on research; and, all of which have a reputation for academic rigour and achievement. However, despite recent attempts, this group of elite universities hasn’t been able to significantly increase applications from BAME students.

Enter (again) Richard Akerele! His charity – East London Connects – works with Year 10 pupils in East London schools providing workshops, mentors, and career days, all designed to encourage these young people from ethnic minority and/or disadvantaged backgrounds to aspire to attend the UK’s elite universities.

(left) Richard Akerele, Founder/CEO of East London Connects & (right) Dr Michelle Fava, Head of Knowledge Transfer, Cambridge Centre for Social innovation

For his MSt in Social Innovation research dissertation, Richard is exploring different ways to understand black history education within the established history curriculum. He hopes to gain insights into institutional change and challenging institutional logics.

At the beginning of November, as part of his research, Richard invited two of the schools he is currently working with to take part in a workshop on Black history. In partnership with the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cambridge and Stronger Stories, a storytelling organisation, the students had the opportunity to learn different ways of learning about Black history.

In his interview for The Social Ideas Podcast, Richard discusses why young people from BAME communities seem to think high-ranking UK universities are not for them, and how he’s changing that one student at a time.

Pam Mungroo

Pam Mungroo

Pam Mungroo

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2 Responses

  1. Oxbridge Formula - Paarul

    East London connect is a huge step in the right direction. Thanks for the great work you are doing, Richard.

    “If I don’t apply, I won’t get in” – so powerful coming from someone the student could relate to.

    So agree that teachers and parents have a vital role to play in this.

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