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The research project Connect2Aspire. Cultural engagements and young people’s professional aspirations is carried out as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council ECR Leadership Fellowship and UKRI Innovation Fellowship awarded to Amalia Sabiescu, Lecturer in Media and Creative Industries at Loughborough University London, mentored by Prof. Jo Tacchi, Professor and Associate Dean for Research at Loughborough University London. The study is conducted in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the charities The Roma Project and Coventry Boys and Girls Club in Coventry, and the multidisciplinary team from the Centre for Excellence in Media Practice at Bournemouth University.

Connect2Aspire explores new approaches for mobilising cultural, creative and community resources to provide skills development and lifelong learning opportunities for UK’s young people. The study will pioneer an interdisciplinary approach to examine the interplay between cultural participation, socio-economic conditions and skills development, drawing on a holistic communicative ecologies framework. This affords a generative way to look at skills development, shifting the focus from the triangle school-youth-employers to concentrate on young people’s information and communication practices and the interest-driven pursuit of learning opportunities distributed across the community, schools, peer groups and cultural spaces.

The programme of research includes ethnographic research focused on young people in Coventry and a study on engagements in cultural sites and museums, having as main case study V&A’s Programme for Young People. Findings will shed light on how young people’s aspirations and initial professional choices are shaped by the cultural and communicative practices and networks they are engaged in, and how these are embedded in broader socio-economic structures. On this basis, Connect2Aspire will provide recommendations on new structures that connect among the educational, community and cultural sectors in a locality, aligned to young people’s interests, needs and their information seeking practices.

This Fellowship is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), grant number AH/S004424/1.

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