Hub President: through the looking glass

Posted on: 12 November 2014

It’s been almost a year since I was given the opportunity of being Oxford Hub president, though I’d been vice president for 2 terms previously. It’s raced by, but as we begin the recruitment of new faces for the committee next term it seems like a good time to reflect a bit on the experience.


“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” – The Red Queen, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

It often feels like Oxford Hub (or perhaps just Oxford generally?) is through the looking-glass, as students pass rapidly through the university, our team changes so rapidly, and terms are so short. But once you’re used to it, running twice as fast is pretty fun! As well as ‘maintaining’ our activities, Oxford Hub is always looking to do more (and there’s always more to do!). 

I’ve been lucky enough to do a huge variety of things such as coordinating an incredible and dedicated committee, organising speaker events, building relationships with representatives of local and national third sector organisations, and running a litter pick. Coordinating (and attending) our Series of weekly events and helping to shape our longer-term strategy have been highlights, as has the publication of our first ethical guide to Oxford. The role is malleable and has ensured I’ve been able to put my energies where I’ve felt them best applied.

Of course, Oxford Hub being awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service was a great boost for us as an organisation, and I’m confident will give us the energy to run even faster as an organisation.

141111 QAVS event

The team 

Almost everything I’ve been a part of at the Hub as been as part of a team of students and/or staff; working collaboratively is in the DNA of Oxford Hub. I’ve learnt incredible amounts from everyone I’ve worked with, and consistently been amazed by the concealed/unnoticed talents of the team.

Though I believe we’re moving decisively in the right direction in terms of the number of students that engage with social and environmental issues at Oxford University, it’s certainly true that a large amount of the behind-the-scenes work (inside and outside of the Hub) and organisation is done by a surprisingly small cohort of students (usually working with several different organisations). I’ve come to see a key, and underappreciated function of the Hub as bringing these people together for mutual support and encouragement, partly by allowing a sense of being part of a larger movement.

By turns I have been on the edge of, or outside of my comfort zone in terms of skills and capacity. Putting your own time and energy into causes you care about means that when things go against you from time to time it’s not a pleasant experience. Again being part of our team has provided me with the support, technically and personally, to stay excited about making positive social change happen.

Being around the Turl Street Kitchen/Hub building exposes you to so much more than just Oxford Hub and Students Hubs events, and put me in touch with a huge amount of great things going on around Oxford (such as House of the Commons, MakeSense, and Get Up and Dance). The people you meet are movers and shakers in the social action scene in Oxford, but also much further afield. It’s a lively, humbling, and inspiring place to be.

What’s next? (All aboard the social action express)

My experience with the Hub gave me the confidence to become a trustee of Transition Network, an incredible organisation whose role is to inspire, encourage, connect, support and train (sound familiar??) communities as they self-organise around the Transition model, creating initiatives that rebuild resilience and reduce carbon emissions.  In the next few years I plan to focus my efforts on working with Transition, though I’m sure I’ll stay in touch with the Hub and be continuing some work around Project Soup. Most importantly, I’ll be staying in touch with many of the people I’ve met and volunteered with, and I’m sure will be making a bigger difference as a result.

Henry Owen

Henry is the President of Oxford Hub, coordinating the activity of its stellar committee. He has set up a community micro-funding dinners project in Oxford, Project Soup, and sits on the advisory board of Oxford Hub, as well as the board of trustee for Transition Network. He’s studying for a degree in Biomedical Sciences at University College, Oxford.

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