Last week, I delivered training to this year’s Social Impact Internship Scheme cohort, in which we discussed the importance of quantifying your impact if you’re a not-for-profit organisation. What the students didn’t know is that when I started working at Student Hubs three years ago I found everything about impact measurement, from the surveys to the spreadsheets, deathly boring. These days, I feel positively affectionate about it; those spreadsheets are what tell me in hard, undeniable numbers that we’re creating a tangible and positive change through our work.
At Student Hubs, we’re hot on impact measurement. We know that our work with universities meant that last year 92% of students were more motivated to engage with social and environmental issues. This term alone we supported 239 students to act as consultants to local charities and social enterprises across the UK through our Social Innovation Programme. Still, as a young charity, our potential to measure our long-term impact is only now becoming a possibility. Over the past 9 years we’ve built up a critical mass of Hub alumni. Now we are at the point where we can start measuring whether the impact our activities has on students at university carries on in the years after graduation.
We believe that students who engage with social action whilst at university are more likely to continue to be active citizens once they graduate. This can manifest itself in a number of ways, such as pursuing a career with social impact, continuing to volunteer, being more likely to give to charity or even more likely to vote. In collaboration with Social Incubator East, Cambridge Hub recently commissioned Third Sector Futures to conduct an analysis into the long-term impact of Student Hubs’ work in Cambridge. We collected data from our alumni to measure the influence that engaging with the Hub has had on their career and life choices post-university.
Through surveying Cambridge Hub’s alumni, we found that there is a strong sense that the Hub cultivates a motivation in graduates to turn their passion and desire to do good into action. Our report showed that 88% of our alumni felt that they had a better understanding of the social impact sector as a result of their engagement with the Hub, and 71% felt that they had a better ability to take action on the issues they care about. One graduate stated that the Hub “gave me a chance to try new skills and work in new structures… The Hub refined my experiences and improved me as a campaigner”. Significantly, we also found that 71% of our alumni continue to volunteer, compared to 47% of the general population.
I was gratified to see that the report proved that Cambridge Hub is helping students to establish meaningful careers after graduation. Over 70% of Hub alumni felt they had significantly or fairly significantly improved their employability skills, and over 83% of graduates felt that their CV or job applications had been significantly or fairly significantly enhanced as a result of their time with the Hub.
We know that engagement in social action has always been about much more than just CV points. However, we also know that now, more than ever before, graduates are reporting that they need to believe the work they are doing has social purpose, and that this is a bigger motivation that starting salary when seeking employment. This was reflected in the views of our alumni. For example, a graduate now working at UNHCR told us that their time at the Hub “massively enhanced my CV. It showed me what a person working all out for a cause really looks like, and certainly that intelligent and motivated people do choose social impact careers over money!” I’m proud that Cambridge Hub is playing a pivotal role in supporting students to find worthwhile careers that make a valuable contribution to society and the economy.
The students that we work with at Cambridge Hub are an amazing bunch. Not only are they pursuing full-time degrees in a very demanding academic environment, but they also recognise the value of carving out time to contribute to the community and inspire other students to do the same. As one alumnus noted; “in the midst of the madness of a full on Cambridge degree it was a fantastic experience to be encouraged to look beyond ourselves, out into our local and global communities”.
I am confident that as our alumni numbers grow, we will see more and more examples of inspiring social and environmental leaders emerge. Our alumni are achieving brilliant things, both in their careers and outside of work. It’s wonderful to know that Cambridge Hub has such a positive impact in supporting young people to achieve their goals. Cambridge Hub is only 8 years old, but we are already seeing the long-term positive impact that we are having on young people as they establish themselves in their careers. I can’t wait to see where our alumni are in another 10 years’ time.
Read the full report here and look out for further news on Student Hubs’ Alumni Network soon.