Community champions

Celebrating extraordinary people supporting communities.

Delegates listening to speaker at Digifest

We put out a call looking for individuals who bring people together and share learning for the good of our communities.

These extraordinary people go above and beyond to support colleagues across the sector by facilitating communities, sharing learning and being advocates for good practice. Our selection panel considered impact, reach and passion for each nominee. We were particularly looking for individuals who see the bigger picture and strive to support colleagues across the sector.

Our categories were:

  • Community advocate: an individual who is the beacon for their community, who publicly supports the cause
  • Community tech guru: an individual with a high level of technical skills and knowledge who can break down complexities to help others
  • Community unsung hero: an individual who is always working in the background, getting things done and supporting others
  • Community pioneer: an individual who is at the forefront of change, an early adopter who helps open new lines of activity or thought

We were thrilled by the quality and quantity of champion nominations we received. Our champions will have a special VIP trip to Digifest, 12-13 March 2024, with their UK travel and accommodation paid for and an opportunity to meet and celebrate with other champions.

Announcing our 2024 community champions

Community advocates

Hannah Crago, University of Essex
Nominated for advocating for the digital research community and driving forward the open access agenda.

Constance Henry, Gower College Swansea
Nominated for bringing energy and enthusiasm while sharing her knowledge and experience in the Digital Diamonds community.

Kirsty Ingleson, Kirklees College
Nominated for helping foster an AI culture that educators can harness AI's power via the AI collaboration group.

Dr Estelle King, Nottingham Trent University
Nominated for chairing HESPA's statutory returns special interest group acting as a beacon for the community.

Paul Napleton, University of East Anglia
Nominated for driving crucial conversations in the Salesforce community around student engagement, AP, change management and data utilisation.

Community tech gurus

Dr John Bustard, Ulster University
Nominated for his work at the MarTech Laboratory and the #6SCommunity makes transformative impact, adopting a real-world approach to learning.

John Fairgrieve, Cardiff, and Vale College
Nominated for developing an empathy VR module and helping train Welsh teaching staff and students on neurodiversity to better support autistic students within the Wales extended reality community.

Phil Whitehead, DN Colleges Group
Nominated for sharing expert knowledge to enhance digital skills via the Teachblend YouTube channel and more.

Community unsung heroes

Carolyn Fearn, Sheffield Hallam University
Nominated for rebuilding and refocusing activity for the Learning Analytics community. She was the driving force for the community's relaunch, supporting members with queries and sharing her extensive knowledge.

Gary Steele, Glasgow Caledonian University
Nominated for being a SHEDL (Scottish Higher Education Digital Library) representative who has diligently worked though complex negotiations to achieve a new content licensing agreement.

Libby Wilkins, The Oaks Specialist College
Nominated for helping young adults use assistive technology and excel in their lives beyond college.

Puiyin Wong, Lancaster University - community unsung hero
Nominated for organising and sustaining the renowned #TELresearchers and #HEresearchers groups while also supporting ALT.

Community pioneers

Dr Isobel Bowditch, University College London
Nominated for developing resources to tackle AI's impact on assessment.

Jacinta Jolly, NPTC Group
Nominated for being a tremendous asset to the FE library LRC community of practice with her willingness to step up as the new chair. She has helped keep momentum with activities and events.

Piers Wilkinson, Diversity and Ability - community pioneer
Nominated for being able to draw upon extensive policy experience and work with education providers and students to support the assistive technology network.

Jisc’s 2024 community finalists

  • Conrad Taylor, City of Wolverhampton
  • Laura Hoare, NPTC Group of Colleges
  • Liam Green-Hughes, University of Kent
  • Lilian Joy, University of York
  • Rik Weightman, Edinburgh College

Our selection panel 

  • Chair: Natasha Veenendaal, head of community engagement, Jisc 
  • Co-chair: Carolina Barnes, community engagement apprentice, Jisc 
  • Jo Fletcher-Saxon, assistant principal, Higher and Adult Education & Practitioner Research Lead and 2023 community champion
  • Lisa Charkiewicz, learning resources manager, South Essex College and 2023 community champion
  • Kelly Edwards, executive director of quality, Harlow College and 2023 community champion
  • Michael Norman, regional relationship manager, Jisc
  • Stuart Lawton, senior relationship manager, Jisc

Past champions

Our past champions included a coach, mentor and advocate for integrating technology and supporting others' development and someone who extensively shared resources and ideas to support teachers. We also had advocates of the accessibility community, the FE Library community and FORRT, among others.

2023 community champions

Alison Harvey, Cardiff University
Nominated for her transformation work helping to develop computer vision tools and work as co-chair of the global IIIF Archives Group.

“I'm passionate about demystifying all things digital, and building bridges to help cultural organisations with minimal resources support learning, teaching, research, and creativity.”

Chris Banks, Imperial College London
Nominated for moving effortlessly from strategic to practical thinking and support negotiations for the needs of the sector. Also, for chairing the content expert group and tackling issues to save money.

Chris Price, Swansea University
Nominated for helping link members, Swansea University, and suppliers by answering queries and ensuring members, staff and learners have the best possible learning experience.

Erika Neck, The College, Merthyr Tydfil
Nominated for inspiring FE LRC community peers through engaging and inspiring presentations and sessions.

“Sometimes as a librarian I feel our services and skill set are often overlooked via a misunderstanding of what our role entails, so this reward brings about much recognition and validation of our work and its importance to the community.”

Dr Flavio Azevedo, University of Cambridge
Nominated for being the driving force behind Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Training (FORRT). This interdisciplinary community aims to integrate open scholarship principles into higher education and to advance research transparency.

Geena Vabulas, Karten Network/Policy Connect
Nominated for working with infectious enthusiasm for changing lives with assistive technology by using research to push boundaries of what is possible for disabled people in the Assistive Tech community.

Jo Fletcher-Saxon, Ashton Sixth Form College
Nominated for empowering practitioner research in FE with the FEresearchpodcast and the Learning and Skills Research Network, as well as supporting peers and amplifying their work.

Joy McLean, West College Scotland
Nominated for playing a vital part in the FE library LRC leadership team, delivering workshops and sharing knowledge on how a library can use freely available digital tools.

“Being recognised as a community champion is amazing!  It brings recognition of the importance and value of the community amongst not only its own members but within the wider education sector.”

Kelly Edwards, Harlow College
Nominated for leading digital and quality teams to improve practice for teachers and students from conception to full implementation. Also for supporting colleges across the country to review their strategies and develop new approaches for the use of tech.

Lisa Charkiewicz, South Essex College of Further and Higher Education
Nominated for being part of the FE LRC leadership team. Lisa is committed to the community by sharing knowledge, encouraging peer-to-peer support and participation.

“I can only hope the community expands, opening opportunities for Learning Resources colleagues to be recognised for their continuous development and amazing work. Being in a community with others alike is reassuring, encouraging and helpful.”

Niamh Tumelty, University of Cambridge
Nominated for being a constant source of invaluable support, helping the Digital Research community grow while shaping policy.

Rachel Öner, Öner Consultancy
Nominated for being an advocate for the NATECLA community and helping it excel by setting up online events, a working group, easing concerns, and providing unwavering support.

“Being nominated means so much. NATECLA is a unique organisation run by volunteers and supported by its members. Without this community, the organisation would simply not exist.”

Seima Mahmood, Bradford College
Nominated for constantly researching, testing, and inspiring other teachers. Seima created the Global Learning Project to enhance digital skills with participants from Bradford College, Wales, and Poland.

Susan Robbins, University of Sussex
Nominated for being an unsung hero by bringing people together to share best practice for the University of Sussex professional development events and termly symposia.

Valerie McCutcheon, University of Glasgow
Nominated for being a community pioneer and leading developments in open research by being quick to share community outputs and bring people together for (ARMA) Open Research Group Special Interest Group and the Open Research Scotland community - and many others.

“It is a genuine belief that working together we can reach solutions more efficiently.”

2022 community champions

Angela Dynes, Northern Regional College
Nominated for being a great advocate for the library sector and her dedication to making a difference and improving the overall experience of students and staff

Andrea Quantrill, Kirklees College
Nominated for providing invaluable support through convening a group of TLA managers on LinkedIn and a Teams site

Ben Haddock, Sandwell College
Nominated for giving up his spare time to provide live sessions for people across the FE sector to join at the end of a working day, to support teaching on a wide variety of platforms

Chloë Hynes, Cc Consultancy
Nominated for developing PDNorth, a vibrant online community helping practitioners in FE and Skills

Chris Melia, University of Central Lancashire
Nominated for his leadership, influence and facilitation in the DigiLearn Sector Community

Dawn Green, Karten Network
Nominated for working tirelessly to promote access to technology to support inclusion, opportunity and enhanced quality of life for students who have the most complex and profound disabilities

Jamie Giarraputo, South Thames Colleges Group
Nominated for sharing resources and ideas extensively to support teachers using various platforms during the pandemic

Jane Daniels, Cardiff Metropolitan University
Nominated for being a passionate advocate for the value and impact of good quality metadata in libraries including chairing the CILIP Metadata and Discovery Group and involvement in others

Joshua Vicente, University of Exeter
Nominated for aiding in the career development and learning of hundreds of early career learners as a volunteer mentor in the Prospects Discord Virtual Careers Fair

Kelly Herbert, Harlow College
Nominated for leading the Harlow College Coding Club, offered to the local community of primary and secondary schools

Louise Pratten, Weston College
Nominated for extensive work as a coach, mentor and advocate for integrating technology to enhance teaching and learning, including leading an AoC action research group for digital technology

Malvika Sharan, The Alan Turing Institute
Nominated for building a community of open science contributors called the Turing Way and training others to adopt community building approaches to their work

Matthew Deeprose, University of Southampton
Nominated for his commitment to accessibility excellence and inclusion including forming and supporting communities of practice and ensuring resources are shared widely

Richard Beggs, Ulster University
Nominated for a range of impactful work “as a driving force for digital change” in particular as a member of Active Learning Special Interest Group

Samantha Ahern, University College London
Nominated for her work as a sensible and rational voice advocating for technology-enhanced learning

Sim Barbaresi, Bangor University
Nominated for his passionate and enthusiastic chairing of the Higher Education Wales Information Technology

Tracey Stanley, Cardiff University
Nominated for playing a leading role in bringing together the Wales FE Libraries Forum annual conference and (in response to Black Lives Matter) the Excluded Voices conference

Supporting communities

The community champions programme is helping highlight fantastic communities across education and research. Find out about the additional support we can provide to your community group.