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Connect2Aspire Symposium

June 30th, 2023, 10.30 – 15.30 with lunch break 12.30 – 13.30 & afternoon tea from 15.30

LDN1.04 & Online [Live stream link available for registered attendees]

Register via EventBrite here

This symposium will share the outcomes of the AHRC-funded ECR Leadership Fellowship Connect2Aspire. Cultural Engagements and Young People’s Professional Aspirations(2019-23) contextualised in current research on the role of media, communication and culture in shaping choice and catalysing change for young people from underrepresented communities. Dr Isabella Rega (Global Research Director at Jesuit Worldwide Learning and Associate Professor at Bournemouth University) will hold the opening keynote on youth engagement through the arts. This will precede the sessions on Connect2Aspire findings, informed by the views of 285 young people from all walks of life, and including: an empirically-grounded conceptual framework on how cultural engagements and communication shape aspirations (Explore); a creative research methods toolkit that offers three distinctive modes of engaging young people in playful, reflexive explorations of emerging life and career aspirations (Engage); a nuanced understanding of the role that social connectedness plays in developing aspirations and self-efficacy (Connect); and insight into the actual and potential role of socio-cultural assemblages for providing support to young people at critical life stages (Support), featuring a talk by artist researcher and Roma scholar Dr Rosamaria Cisneros (Coventry University), on the role of co-created books for generating environmental awareness among Roma children. Prof Julian McDougall (Bournemouth University) will hold the closing keynote which will draw attention to critical components of media literacies as conduits for change, encompassing situated capability development, critical awareness of key societal issues and full acknowledgement of the consequences that media ecosystems bear in our connected societies.

Header image based on photograph by participant in a participatory photography workshop held in Coventry, October 2022.  

Event Agenda

MORNING SESSION | Explore & Engage | Chair: Professor Thomas Tufte | 10.30 – 12.30

WELCOME NOTE | 10.30-10.45

Explore, Engage, Connect, Support: Concept Map of Outcomes and Day’s Schedule, Professor Jo Tacchi & Dr Amalia Sabiescu (Loughborough University London)


Youth Engagement through the Arts, Dr Isabella Rega (Jesuit Worldwide Learning & Bournemouth University)

Abstract: This keynote stems from the experience of the AHRC International Network eVoices: Redressing Marginality. It explores how the Arts, and in particular, animation, can be used as tools through which young media activists and artivists in the Global South can initiate dialogues for fostering more sustainable connections between Global South communities and as an essential step towards promoting global social justice. In this session two experimental animations celebrating two black female activists will be presented: “Portrait of Marielle”, produced in Kenya by young artivists within the AHRC eVoices project and a sister animation produced by N’gendo Mukii with Brazilian artists with support from the Goethe Institute in Salvador de Bahia, “Homage to Wangari Maathai”.

EXPLORE |11.30 – 12.00

Culture, Communication & Aspirations: An Empirically-grounded Theoretical Framework, Dr Amalia Sabiescu

ENGAGE | 12.00 – 12.30

The Connect2Aspire Aspirations Mapping Toolkit, Dr Amalia Sabiescu, Dr Noémi Zajzon (LU LDN) & Maria Polodeanu (Reel Master Production, Coventry)

Lunch break | 12.30 – 13.30

AFTERNOON SESSION | Connect & Support | Chair: Professor Jo Tacchi | 13.30 – 15.30

CONNECT & SUPPORT | 13.30 – 14.15

Assembling Socio-cultural Support Structures for Young People, Dr Amalia Sabiescu. Featuring an online talk by artist researcher and Roma scholar Dr Rosamaria Cisneros (Coventry University), on Roma: Recycle Reuse Reimagine. Discussing Climate Justice through Children’s Books

MUSEUMS IN FOCUS | 14.15 – 14.45

Museums and Young People’s Creative Careers, Dr Amalia Sabiescu


Beyond Solutions – to Consequences: What do we Mean when we Talk about Change?, Prof. Julian McDougall (Bournemouth University)

Abstract: This presentation will focus on a group of linked projects through which a theory of change was developed, refined and applied. Whilst the focus of the projects is media literacy, the contribution the research makes is transferable to any context where the nature of an intervention with participants is framed by aspirations for positive change. What this theory of change helps us to understand better is how motivations and intentionality in research are context-bound, subject to the dynamic configurations of partnerships and relations (both between people and epistemologies) and how such things as ‘media literacy’ are more about situated capability development than neutral competences.


Dr Amalia Sabiescu, Prof Tacchi & everyone

Speakers and moderators (in alphabetical order)

            Dr Amalia Sabiescu is a Senior Lecturer in Media and Creative Industries at Loughborough University London, specialised in interdisciplinary communication research with a focus on the integration of digital media in cultural and creative practice, international and community development. She conducted qualitative and participatory research in diverse socio-cultural contexts in Europe (e.g., UK, Switzerland, Italy, Romania, Spain) and South Africa, where she examined communication practices among communities at the margins and intersections with issues of socio-cultural change, voice, participation, and social inclusion. As an AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellow and UKRI Innovation Fellow (2019-2023), she explored new approaches for mobilising community, cultural and creative resources to provide lifelong learning opportunities that align to young people’s aspirations. 

Dr Isabella Rega is Associate Professor in Digital Media for Social Change at Bournemouth University (BU) and Global Research Director for the charity Jesuit Worldwide Learning: Higher Education at the Margins (JWL). Isabella has led several research projects funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the British Council, the Swiss National Fund for Research and the Swiss Agency for Cooperation. At JWL she leads the research efforts of the global charity on the impact of Higher Education on marginalised communities around the globe and on the effectiveness of digital media for delivering high-quality educational experiences. Her latest book is Media Activism, Artivism and the Fight Against Marginalisation in the Global South South-to-South Communication, co-authored with Andrea Medrado (2023, Routledge).

            Prof Jo Tacchi is Associate Dean (Education & Student Experience) and Professor of Media and Creative Industries at Loughborough University London. A media anthropologist with a record of research collaboration with academic, commercial, government and community partners, she has led a number of complex, multi-country research projects and developed ethnographic and action research approaches and methodologies that have been taken up globally. Her research is mostly concerned with media, communication and social change. She also has a long-standing interest in media and affect, participatory content creation, and the role of radio and new audio technologies in domestic spaces. She has developed methodologies that combine ethnographic principles with action research cycles (, and recently published Communicating for Change: Concepts to Think With (2020, Palgrave), Digital Ethnography: Principles and Practices (2016, Sage).

            Prof Julian McDougall is Professor in Media and Education at Bournemouth University, Principal Fellow of Advance HE and runs a Professional Doctorate in Creative and Media Education. He is co-editor of Journal of Media Literacy Education and Routledge Research in Media Literacy and Education. In the fields of education, media literacy, media, communications and cultural studies, he is author / editor of a wide range of books, articles, chapters and research reports and has provided numerous research projects for research councils, media industry, charities and non-profit organisations.

            Maria Polodeanu is a videographer and photographer based in Coventry. Her socially engaged projects have an educational and heritage focus. She has extensive experience in screen dance, artistic activism, and community documentation and maintains an active record of research collaborations with universities including Coventry University’s Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE), Birmingham City University, The University of Warwick, and Centre for Equity & Inclusion, Sheffield. Her work has been used at the Herbert Art and Gallery Museum in Coventry. Maria also develops work for art and dance companies, including Horizon Showcase – Performance made in England (Coventry); BE Festival and Birmingham Dance Network (Birmingham) and TAVAZIVA Dance Company (London). Maria prides herself on working with Daniel Lismore for the documentary “How Coventry Made Me” for his first UK Solo Exhibition.

            Dr Noémi Zajzon, MA (Narrative Environments) PhD (Design Innovation) has a background in Visual Arts and Design and is currently a researcher on the Connect2Aspire (Institute of Media and Creative Industries) and Counter-Framing Design (Institute of Design Innovation) projects at Loughborough University in London. She researches the politics of participation in design cultures and the artefacts emerging from their experiences and histories by combining her expertise in design, art and media history with social movements and science and technology studies to inform critical research into design and counter-cultural practices. She has worked with grassroots collectives, citizen initiatives and community organisations in the UK, South Tyrol in Italy and East-Central Europe.

            Dr Rosamaria Cisneros is a dancer and choreographer, Dance Historian and Critic, Roma Scholar, Sociologist, Flamenco Historian and Peace Activist who graduated from UW-Madison and went on to complete her Master’s in Dance History and Criticism from UNM-Albuquerque (USA). Rosamaria brings conceptual grounding in debates around decolonising dance, archives and practice research and through her consultancy work for the International Council on Archives, leading their ethical archives project, and chair of the Equality and Diversity Task Force for Europeana Foundation, Rosamaria is well placed to discuss EDI-related tensions. She has taught throughout Europe and the US at places like UW-Madison, UIUC, Boston Conservatory, Brown University and at various other places in Germany, Spain and Turkey. 

            Professor Thomas Tufte (Loughborough University London) is an internationally leading scholar in the field of communication for social change. A cultural sociologist by training, Professor Tufte also holds positions as Extraordinary Professor at the University of the Free State and as Senior Research Associate at University of Johannesburg, both in South Africa. His expertise and experience lie in critically exploring the interrelations between media texts/flows/genres, communicative practices and processes of citizen engagement and social change. He has for the past many years focused on citizen engagement, often in the context of social movements, and inquired into the condition of communication in everyday life and how it relates to processes of social change and democratic development.

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