Student Hubs share how they are integrating their values to adapt to a changing situation.
Sorcha Young & Sophie Ford
Community, Impact, Social Action, Third Sector
“A highlight for me has been engaging with people I otherwise would not have, such as the highly motivated student volunteers; people involved in the project from Cambridge Hub and Cambridge Housing; and the residents at the house. Working with all of them to find ways to build a socially engaged community at Ellis House was a challenging yet fulfilling task. I am happy to have accepted various challenges it involved. I have multiplied the number of friends I had in Cambridge.”
“Through volunteering I feel more able to lead groups of people. Making choices for a group is a huge challenge for me, and through this I’ve realised that my voice matters. It’s had such a significant impact on me and my confidence has grown, so much so that even my friends have noticed! I’m not afraid of new challenges and I can stand up for myself. It’s encouraged me to do my final University project based around schools. This whole experience has given me an insight into what I want to do after University, I intend to help other people and share my knowledge with them.”
“Since volunteering with Southampton Hub, I really think that it’s beneficial for students to get involved with the community so they feel more of a part of their University city. I love seeing the impact and difference that can be made when you give a little of your time, love and encouragement to the place you’re living. Getting involved whilst I was at university has given me the motivation to make the most of creating change and make a difference wherever I am.”
“Impact Labs is an opportunity to learn about impact measurement and use your skills to the benefit of local charities in a six-week timeframe. You receive training and as the term progresses you learn about impact measurement in non-profit organisations, do the relevant research and present an impact report to the community partner. For me, the best thing about Impact Labs was teamwork. From day one our team was communicating, cooperating and sharing responsibilities really well. Presenting the final report, the product of our joint efforts, was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my term. I can’t recommend Impact Labs enough if you want to get an insight into the charity sector.”
“We had a fabulous experience working with the Impact Labs students last year. They were very personable, easy to work with, had clearly done their research beforehand and asked insightful questions. Within a short space of time, they had produced an amazing piece of work, with key findings and recommendations of particular use for us. They also produced a very useful media template for us to use. The students looked at the impact of the charity’s work from a different angle and an added bonus was that it didn’t involve much time investment on our side. We are still singing their praises and would thoroughly recommend the scheme to other charities!”
“We were asked to build a system using augmented reality that would show the visual disturbances dementia patients have for carers, family and friends of dementia sufferers. It actually helped me understand dementia and I learned new technical skills I hadn’t used before. It encouraged me to explore and read more. I think opportunities like this is are good way to help students think about getting a job after university. It exposes students to a workplace mindset, which you can only get on a real life project. It shows you how to work in a realistic timeline, like you would with clients, but you have access to a staff mentor too. Now I already have a job lined up. I talked about this project in interview and they seemed excited about it.”
“Oxford-based start-up EcoSync has developed a retrofit smart heating system which avoids empty rooms being heated. In trials one large Oxford organisation had 70% of its heated rooms empty, wasting 40% of their energy. The new system makes heating far more controllable, responding to people’s presence or to room booking information.”
“Cambridge University Careers Service is pleased to both work with Cambridge Hub, and fund two of its projects, the Social Innovation Programme, and Impact Labs. Both of these programmes provide a wide range of Cambridge students with the opportunity to build useful skills for the job market, explore their career interests, connect with the wider Cambridgeshire community, and deliver positive social impact.”
“Working in partnership with the team at Southampton Hub has been of great benefit, both to the University and the wider range of young people we are able to reach through working collaboratively. Having the opportunity for students to be directly involved in the shaping and delivery of activities to support young people in the city ensures that the student voice is at the heart of our programme of activities.”
“On the first year programme 2017/2018 we were delighted to support 16 different community partners over 6 months by recruiting and training Burges Salmon mentors to each support a student team acting as consultants on a current project. One of the highlights for us was working with Bristol Hub to successfully build a collaborative framework for this to happen by hosting the first launch and celebration showcase events, which enabled a total of 140 students, community partners and business mentors to come together. We couldn’t have achieved this without working closely with Bristol Hub to make it a success.”
“I wanted to interact with younger people because I think it’s good for us older folk. I think the whole idea of the Hub and the skills swapping is great. The students teach us about IT and we teach them things like sewing, knitting and crocheting, while having a good chat and a cup of tea. I have very much enjoyed it.”
“I started volunteering with Schools Plus at the start of my second year of university, keen to gain experience in the hope of one day becoming a teacher. My role involved helping a class of year two students with their literacy and supporting pupils who were struggling with reading.
Schools Plus has allowed me to gain classroom experience and build relationships with students and staff that have reminded me why I decided to go into teaching. The school welcomed me with open arms and it was tough to walk out of the gates at the end of the year. I am so excited to start my new role as Coordinator of the Schools Plus programme for my university. I hope to help others to enjoy their Schools Plus experience as much as I have.”
“I would like to encourage other students with disabilities to get involved in the Social Innovation Programme. Embrace your disability – your disability is not you. When you take part in opportunities like the SIP, you’ll find that you are capable of so much more than you thought. There is support from Hub staff throughout and they are more than happy to help out on an individual level.”
“Kingston Hub has plugged into what lies beneath our diverse student body and that is the desire to find out more about how they can make a difference and a passion to make change in their University, local community and essentially their own lives and future beyond Kingston.
Schools Plus has offered many students with a thirst to teach or support young people the chance to realise this in a school that is in their local community. Social Impact Careers offers the chance to get behind the scenes of a sector that many of our students want to know more about and with Kingston Hub we are now able to grow the information around social entrepreneurship and offer real life insights into what this means whilst showing our students that they may already be working in their community as a real change maker and a social entrepreneur in the making!”
When I joined the Cambridge Hub committee I didn’t really know what sort of ethical activities were going on in the university, so writing The Week was a great way to get involved with only my enthusiasm, and no real expertise to bring to the table.
Over the following year, the responsibility of putting together the newsletter every week gave me a good reason to stay on top of it all, which I’m sure I wouldn’t have managed otherwise, and because of this I ended the year with a much clearer picture of all the good things students get up to. On top of that, being part of the Hub committee meant I also learnt a lot about what it takes to organise things like talks, voluntary projects and even national conferences, and this definitely opened my eyes to how much is possible.
“I left university in my first year due to social anxiety, but coming back and coordinating Just Eat It has boosted my confidence massively. It has completely turned my university experience around. It has opened so many doors for me too, even resulting in some paid work. I would recommend working on a Bristol Hub project to anyone!”
“Volunteering with LinkAges has set me up for my master’s. I’ve always had a passion for neurological science, but actually seeing people with conditions like dementia is different. I’ve got even more passion now. If one day I could work out a cure for these types of conditions, volunteering will have been the first step.”
“My child is a friendly, outgoing and sociable young man. Branch Up has always helped facilitate this. He looks forward to every session. He loves the fact that he has 1-1 contact with his mentor. He has expressed his wish to go to university and wants to be a pianist. He is already working towards this.”
“We had heard good things about Student Hubs and thought getting involved with some bright young sparks was a no brainer. The SIP allowed our small start up the capacity to look in depth at a piece of work we needed to do but wouldn’t have time to do otherwise. Working with Kingston Hub was also attractive because we hoped to recruit students as mentors for the people on our programmes.
Overall, it was a very positive experience. The students brought great energy and the process was tailored to our needs. Their report was insightful and we learned a lot from our team about the apprenticeship levy in a national context. The students’ research has already helped us to pitch to Teach First.”
“The SIP gave me the confidence to continue with the initiative which until that stage had only been an idea in my head. By explaining my problem to the student team, I gained a better understanding of what I was hoping to do, even before I was presented with their findings.
After the SIP, I worked with a professional coach who mirrored the information provided by the SIP team. I have now re-organised my business into two halves, applied for charitable status, am currently recruiting, and have my first corporate client.”
“I worked with Transition Cambridge to revamp their food-related website pages. This involved learning to code websites, visiting lovely community gardens to collect information and presenting this in an engaging way.
The Internship Scheme allowed me to do something worthwhile for the organisation and advance my abilities. I learned how to take initiative, deal with setbacks and restructure my plans. The support from the Cambridge Hub and Transition Cambridge has been brilliant.”
“Emily has made a significant contribution to the work we do at ARM, developing resources that will have a long-term positive impact in local communities. Emily has needed little support during her six weeks with us and her capability has enabled her to work independently, using her own initiative.
Emily is bright, ambitious and personable. It has been great to see her confidence improve as she has adapted to the team and culture at ARM. Emily has been able to bring ideas and different insights to the projects that she has delivered with us. Emily has completed her work with thought, care and within timescales provided. We have found Emily’s support invaluable.”
I was somewhat interested in ethical internships before I interned with Student Hubs, but it was from there that my social action journey began in earnest. In the two years that followed I interned with a small social enterprise, sat on numerous conference committees, helped set up a volunteering project in local schools, organised the International Development Conference in Southampton, and took on the none-too-small task of co-ordinating the Southampton Hub committee for two years. Being co-president was really hard work but I was supported so well by the Support Officers, and it helped that I agreed strongly with the Hub’s values. I made fantastic friends, learnt so much, developed my views and ideas on the world, and had a genuinely brilliant (although sometimes exhausting) time doing it.
My experience definitely changed my career path: I realised that developing citizenship in others and encouraging them to learn is as important as being on the front line of social action.
Since leaving the Hub committee, I have been a committee member on other societies such as VP of the Paediatric society and have helped fundraise for medical based charities such as Sick Children’s Trust and EACH (East Anglia Children’s Hospices). Writing The Week helped enhance my written communication and organisation skills. Being on the committee improved my team working skills, and travelling to the Hubathon weekend in Bristol alone, for the first time, made me more independent and confident!
Being Schools Plus Coordinator in Southampton in its piloting and establishing year meant I learnt vast amounts rapidly. I leant quickly what a force dedicated people who worked hard could be; when I left we had over 50 volunteers on record and were working with multiple schools – such a quick change in the city!
I am currently Programmes Coordinator for Teach First, much like as Schools Plus Coordinator, my role is to design and implement the Leadership Development Programme for our South East Cohort of teachers. I discussed Schools Plus and my motivations for educational inequality in my interview and am convinced this passion secured me my current role. Being Schools Plus Coordinator not only taught me crucial technical, organisational and practical skills it also enabled me grow my desire for educational change to a level where I could progress, It gave me an insight for which I will always be thankful for.
Student Hubs has greatly impacted my last year and a half at university. I have become more involved in life on campus and can see the benefits in being involved in such socially aware initiative. I joined because I wanted to make a difference but didn’t really know how. I’m passionate about challenging educational disadvantage and through this I knew that Schools Plus was something that I could really get behind because it holds the belief of equality.
The experience that I have had through the Hub will stay with me throughout my career as my awareness has grown of how important it is to be an active citizen. I can see that I will choose to make future decisions based on the ideals that I have come to believe so strongly.
I set up Schools Plus because although I had volunteered for several projects, I didn’t feel any of them had used my specific skills fully. That so many young people in Oxford faced educational disadvantage, while lots of university students really wanted to use their time in a way that was useful to the community, seemed like an obvious opportunity to start a volunteering project that really fulfilled a need while utilising students’ skills. In the first year we worked with a small group of pupils preparing for their GCSEs, mostly on the C/D grade boundary.
My involvement has helped me later on in ways that have surprised me and I that I didn’t predict. The experience of initiating, growing and leading a project from an idea has been empowering; it changed my ideas about what I could achieve as a person and taught me how fulfilling that process could be. I’m certain that leading the project gave me confidence and strategic skills that have really helped me in the working world.
Since I left the Hub committee I became a trustee of a charity in Zambia called the Lazarus Project, and have headed up several fundraising campaigns for them and ran teacher training workshops for their teachers in Zambia. Being involved with the Hub particularly helped to open up the world of international development to me. It was great to be connected to relevant organisations, events and other people who share similar passions.
It was a really good experience to be part of a team with lots of inspiring people in it, who encouraged me with their dedication to making a difference.
Whilst studying for my Masters I acted as Project Co-ordinator for LinkAges, a student-led project, supported by Student Hubs, that encourages young people to volunteer with Oxford’s elderly in order to help combat loneliness. Volunteering with Oxford Hubs taught me the value of communities, and the influence that collaborating with like-minded people can have in achieving social change.
I hadn’t previously considered a career in the third sector, but after my experience with Student Hubs and LinkAges I decided to apply to Hubs’ graduate scheme, Worthwhile. I wanted to learn more skills relevant to working in the social impact sector and meet more inspiring people. I’m now working as Projects Officer for Oxford Hub, and am really enjoying working with a family of people dedicated to social change.
For me, the Hub is the best thing ever. Taking part in the opportunities which the Hub offered affirmed my previously ‘idealist’ belief that communities can be the leaders in social change. I have learnt that even the small projects can make a big difference. With the support of Oxford Hub, an impossible idea to launch a student-led social enterprise on Hogacre Common suddenly seemed possible. With their help I applied for grant funding, and won a grant of £5,000 to get my idea off the ground.
The Hog Roast is attracting more and more people every week and we’re growing a real sense of community around it. Working with the Hub on this project has definitely developed my skills, but most importantly, I’ve become a ‘yes’ person. If someone has an idea I think, ‘that’s awesome, let’s make that happen’.
After university I was unsure what career path to follow. A friend told me about Student Hubs’ Social Impact Internship Scheme, which was a perfect fit for me: I’m passionate about youth-led social action, and wanted to be part of an organisation where I could feel like my work was having an immediate impact ‘on the ground’.
My internship with Student Hubs allowed me to develop new skills and take on lots of responsibility. I did have experience elsewhere in the sector, however it was attending the Emerge Conference that gave me real confidence and clarity of mind to know that I wanted to pursue a career in research and impact measurement.Student Hubs is particularly good at taking individuals and supporting them to develop themselves. The new ideas and challenges with which they inspire students like me really prepare them for jobs in the not-for-profit sector.
During my fourth year I applied for several consultancy jobs, but I knew that I wasn’t really motivated about working in the business sector and ultimately preferred to pursue an ethical career, so I decided to apply for the Social Impact Internship scheme. At my placement with the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS), I wrote a policy consultation about the minimum wage and apprenticeships and carried out research on environmental youth work. I really enjoyed my work and it helped me realise that working on youth policy was something I could see myself doing longer-term.
I have Student Hubs to thank for giving me the opportunity, which undoubtedly contributed to my later taking on a permanent position at NCVYS. I’m now the Policy Manager, representing the youth sector to government and other organisations. I’ve been here for four years and I still can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing!
Before my third year I did an internship at READ International through the Hub’s internship scheme and I also did a communications internship at the Humanitarian Centre throughout last year.
For me, student volunteering has been an opportunity to act on my political and social beliefs. The transition from thinking to doing has brought me into contact with wonderful, dynamic people and shaped my future career plans.
The Hub gave me my first leadership opportunity at university. I think it was really valuable that I got so much support from a staff team, otherwise I might have found it too intimidating to lead a society in such a high pressure, demanding university environment. For me, this really developed my confidence and I want to go on to lead my own charity of business one day.
“The University of Winchester is world leading in values-driven higher education and our mission is: To educate, to advance knowledge and to serve the common good. Our motto is, in Old English, ‘wisdom ond lar’ which means wisdom and learning. The work of the Hub therefore is right at the heart of this institution.
The Hub has been invaluable in engaging with the community, in inspiring volunteering, in raising aspirations among young people, and challenging educational disadvantage. It is our ambition that our graduates will leave us as responsible citizens with the inspiration to make the world a better place. The projects of the Hub are such an important part of that aspiration, and the support that the Hub has given to our students is helping to broaden their horizons and equip them with the experience and outlook they will need in both employment and in public life, whatever they go on to do.”
It’s easy to feel isolated at university. The Hub linked me with a community of like-minded people: not only students, but also others such as the Transition Cambridge group. The town sometimes seems dominated by the university, so it’s great to form links with the local community.
It was definitely important having the staff there to be a constant for when heavy studying commitments took over! The Edible Garden project at Murray Edwards was a highlight for me.
I would love to get involved in environmentally-related projects in Latin America, as I studied Spanish. I’m looking into working with Omprakash, after meeting the founder at the Hub International Development Conference.
I have been engaged in environmental action since high school, however the campaigns and activities here offer me a different perspective of environmental campaigns. I made new contacts through the Hub: I got to work with the rest of the Hub committee, CUSU Ethical Affairs, committees of other green societies and got to know several other ethical societies. It was definitely important having the staff there to be a constant for when heavy studying commitments took over! The Edible Garden project at Murray Edwards was a highlight for me.
Through Cambridge Hub and Energise Cambridge, I came into contact with many postgraduates doing research projects on environment and climate change, so I learned a lot on the academic and career side of the cause. I plan to go into the financial services sector right after graduation for several years, and after that I aim to set up my own social enterprise. I was not able to see myself spending part of my career in environment before joining Cambridge Hub.
Since the Hubs emphasise critical engagement with all aspects of social action , the people I met in my time there contributed to shaping my outlook on social action in significant ways — by way of example and through conversations about their various causes and projects. Above all, I found it inspiring to see the range of individuals working in the social action sector come together to bring a given project to fruition. The Hubs instill a sense that, as long as there are motivated and thoughtful groups of people who are passionate about a cause, there is potential for positive change.
Whether as a student volunteer, a member of staff, or simply a participant at a conference or event, getting involved with Hubs opens your eyes to questions, solutions, and people who are likely to make a difference in the way you understand society and your ability to act to change things for the better.
I thought Cambridge Hub had good values, and I wanted to see if I could help make a difference. With the help of the Hubs team, I felt confident to take on the challenge. By liaising with pre-existing tutoring groups, the Hub could provide services that no one had previously thought to offer.
I really think that Student Hubs’ most important role is to inform and inspire people. Working with the Hub has had a hugely positive influence on me. Compared to two years ago, I pay much more attention in my daily life to issues surrounding social injustice, environmental change, human rights. Whenever I can I donate to causes, and this is something I would not have done before.
I am now much better at organisation and creative thinking than I used to be, and much more likely to take the initiative in a team environment. My involvement also really got me thinking about how I could continue tackling social and environmental challenges in my career.
I have just moved to Cairo to join Save the Children’s Emergency Team working on the Syrian refugee response in Egypt. I undertook a Student Hubs’ three-month Social Impact Internship with the Aegis Trust, the UK’s leading genocide prevention NGO. After graduating, I interned for the Chief of Political Affairs and Strategy at the UNAIDS HQ in Geneva for 3 months.
On a personal level, the Hub provided me with a community of like-minded friends who could understand and encourage my interest in ethical activities, and were interested in having conversations about international development and social issues.
In my job, we are constantly assessed against the core humanitarian principles, one of which is ‘Building collaborative relationships’. For me, this sums up what the Hub is about: facilitating and bringing together different groups for a common aim.
I became involved with Student Hubs after attending the Oxford Climate Forum in 2012. I absolutely loved the event, and felt completely inspired after meeting so many other students that cared about climate issues. After that I decided to run a London Climate Forum, and also helped to establish a Hub at Imperial.
I had never seriously considered volunteering in my local community before, but my experience with Hubs led me to understand why this is an important and beneficial thing to do. The Hub network is so vibrant and fun, and I think that’s because it’s made up of wonderful passion and purpose driven individuals. When I graduated I almost accepted a corporate job offer, but turned it down to set up my own sustainable fashion business – and I am loving it! Without the exposure to the people I met through Hubs I am not sure I would have had the courage to make this decision.
Student Hubs has provided me with something that I know, many years from now, I will be able to look back upon and be proud of the small part I played in the change we produced.
Student Hubs’ vision of student-powered social change is inspirational. Too many times have I heard students express a desire to ‘make the world a better place’ accompanied by an expression of frustration at the lack of apparent opportunities at uni.
Being part of Student Hubs has made me seriously consider a career in the third sector. I now know that I want to be engaged in community projects, wherever I live, for the rest of my life.