Insights from our National Teaching Fellow and CATE award winner, Haleh Moravej, Manchester Metropolitan University
This month we are focusing on “Building a winning team” as our theme. This week I was lucky enough to speak to Haleh Moravej to find out more about the CATE award winning team behind MetMUnch at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Can you give a summary of the work that led to your CATE award success?
MetMUnch is a global award-winning student-led social enterprise based at Manchester Metropolitan University. At our heart is a passion for healthy, sustainable, and nutritious food.
MetMUnch (@MetMUnch) www.MetMUnch.com is a unique enterprise consisting of on-campus nutrition and sustainable food education, outreach platform, and training delivery; this helps students lead and develop action-led projects with local social impacts. Its extra-curricular enterprise model, enables students that take part to enrich their university experience with entrepreneurial and creativity skills, all with sustainability at the core.
I conceived MetMUnch in 2011 to provide real-life experiences and promote sustainable, nutritious lifestyles. ‘Celebrity Chef’ auditions recruited 25 nutritionists who have enthused audiences to adopt healthier lifestyles. Ten years later, MetMUnch has more than a thousand students who have been part of MetMUnch’s journey.
To date, 400+ different engagement activities have led to over 80,000+ individual interactions with staff, students, communities, and external organizations, building the reputation of Manchester Met as a civic university with a deep connection to the community.
Six students have set up enterprise/social ventures ranging from sustainable cake companies to ethical fashion supporting gorilla conservation.
In the academic years of 2019-2021, we have had an impressive number of active ‘MetMUnchers’ from different faculties, making food fun, connecting with the curriculum, working in GROW Café in collaboration with the Catering team, and running authentic and budget friendly cook-along session for students in lockdown. We have also been running health, wellness, and sustainability Instagram live sessions for schools, writing sustainable diet blogs, running social media channels and providing tremendous opportunities for inter and cross-faculty peer-to-peer engagement, as well as working with our Widening Participation team in supporting local youth.
MetMUnch team consists of academic staff (Haleh Moravej) and students from various levels and faculties, enterprising graduates, and professional services staff from the Manchester Metropolitan University Environment Team.
Our CATE award was a true celebration of our cognitive diversity, distributed leadership, and an academic road less travelled but travelled with a creative tribe of extraordinary people.
Our team, especially our graduates and our students, have been delighted and are still celebrating! The actual value of a CATE award is the opportunity to personally and collectively grow despite any visible or invisible external barriers.
We have been overwhelmed by how other universities have acknowledged and celebrated our ‘cabbage’ creativity and innovation and we have presented at various conferences since winning. The highlight of our CATE award was presenting our work alongside Professor Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas, EdD FRSA SFHEA NTFHEA CMBE, with our students from our respective institutions, showcasing a series of creative vignettes linked to Education for Sustainable Development in fashion and food at the first Advance HE sustainability symposium in March 2021.
MetMUnch has always been about freedom to be truly creative and respond to global and local challenges with passion, energy and clarity with very little money. We have not done “painting by numbers”; we have been food, nutrition and sustainability entrepreneurial activists who have created bespoke paint, brushes, and painted student-cantered masterpieces that students needed and wanted. One of our best examples is the GROW wellness Café that we set up in 2019 with our Catering Team.
Winning a CATE award has been about celebrating an entrepreneurial way of doing things and implementing impossible concepts and ideas by creative and fearless teams with tiny budgets.
The fact that we won our CATE award in the middle of a global pandemic meant a great deal more than regular times. It was not an award; it was a golden Willy Wonka ticket that wonderful academic judges rewarded us for ten years of teaching with passion, purposeful fun, pedagogy that broke the traditional boxes and built a ladder to space, student growth that cannot be measured, and community impact demonstrating how universities can be at the core of great social change.
What would you consider the essential ingredients for building a winning team?
Trust, respect, diversity, purpose, leadership, authenticity, mentors, freedom, and, should we dare say, fun are the essential ingredients of any sustainable and effective team. Winning or losing is just a perception.
Doing and action are what matters. Not being afraid to be measured against the best of the best nationally and internationally is how we grow as teams and individuals. As a team, it was important for us to do a ten-year self-reflection and self-awareness exercise, which happened as we developed our application and received constructive feedback and endorsement from a variety of individuals within our institution.
Diversity in knowledge, views, perspectives, age, gender, and race has always helped us be more creative and avoid groupthink as a team. We have many heated disagreements and debates that lead us to appreciate our creative diversity!
We have a lovely blend of cosmopolitan members, people who have lived in multiple countries and speak multiple languages, and people with deep roots in Manchester. Cosmopolitan members have brought us global perspective on food, nutrition, and sustainability and their technical knowledge, skills, and expertise that apply in many situations, while Mancunians have brought us wisdom and insight into the local food politics, culture, tastes, and rich history of Manchester.
We did not set out in 2011 to win any awards but to make sure our students were creatively nurtured to become the most passionate entrepreneurial, sustainability aware, nutritionally focussed, and enthusiastic global citizens that go on to change the world.
We have been truly fortunate to have worked with exceptional mentors and creative leaders internally and externally to push forward with our ideas. Leadership and innovation go hand in hand and creative people need leaders who support them in creating a safe and experimental environment in implementing untested ideas and concepts. In a nutshell it takes a team or tribe to support a “successful” team.
Moving forward, looking at the next ten years, we are not concerned with what happens with our fluid and ever changing “team” as the most important education we will take away from our adventures and many awards we have humbly received is all the human kindness, love and fun we have shared with each other, Manchester and the world.
If you want to find out more about Haleh’s CATE team’s activities, why not have a look at this video that explains more about the team or this video from 2014 when the team won national and international EAUC Green Gown awards.