'Unsung hero' of Reading community gets honorary degree
06 July 2022
A key figure in a research project seeking to improve prospects for the Reading community she lives in has received an honorary degree from the University of Reading.
Trisha Bennett was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters in a ceremony on Friday 1 July in recognition of her contribution to the community. This includes eight years of work alongside University researchers on understanding and tackling complex issues surrounding well-being and social exclusion in South Reading.
As part of the Whitley Researchers team, co-run by the University and the Whitley Community Development Association, Ms Bennett has been delivering a Big Local National Lottery-funded project in Whitley, where she has lived for 41 years. She has worked to deliver workshops and surveys that engage members of the community in the regeneration of the area.
The Whitley Community Development Association won Charity of the Year in the 2021 Pride of Reading Awards for continuing this work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Bennett said: “I am committed to genuinely community led regeneration of left behind neighbourhoods using a Community Development approach underpinned by the building of trust with those who feel marginalised and forgotten.”
Ms Bennett is currently working with the University as Community Lead on the UKRI-funded FoodSEqual research project, ensuring people in communities affected by food security issues are involved in finding solutions.
After completing a Diploma Community Education Worker in Dundee in the 1970s, Ms Bennett took on a distance learning post qualifying BA in Professional Development in 2006, balancing this commitment with a full-time job and raising a young family.
She has worked in local authorities, been a freelance Community Development Consultant and Trainer, and has volunteered in various roles locally, including in playgroups, parent teacher associations and as a school governor. She has also co-authored a local government association report on community buildings.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony before Ms Bennett received her honorary degree, Professor Carol Fuller, Head of the Institute of Education, said: “For Trisha solutions are always best when they are arrived at in collaboration, when approached as a partnership and with the clear and profound belief that absolutely nothing is impossible. Regardless of your background, your goals and ambitions can be achieved.
“Trisha Bennet is a clear example of the ‘unsung hero’ – the hero who devotes her life to the well-being of others, who strives hard to give voice to the voiceless and is unapologetic in reminding us all, that there is no such thing as one group of people who are better than another.”