How we’re continuing to engage students and communities during the Covid-19 outbreak

Posted on: 25 June 2020

It has been over two months since our last update about our Covid-19 response at Student Hubs and we wanted to provide an update about our delivery so far, as well as how students and communities have been engaging with our work.

This continues to be a challenging period for our student volunteers, communities and our university partners and we have been doing as much as we can to support them. This includes providing clarity about what we can deliver and piloting alternative virtual programmes, many of which will carry on into the first term of autumn 2020.

On a local level: 

Hub teams delivered the Social Innovation Programme (SIP) virtually: 

  • Students at Bristol Hub completed their Social Innovation Programme (SIP) showcase with a virtual event, including university students, community partners and mentors from Burgess Salmon;
  • Winchester Hub and Kingston Hub recruited and launched their first fully virtual rounds of SIP since lockdown! Winchester Hub launched an extra round of their SIP specifically to mobilise students to support their community to respond to the impact of Covid-19 and were thrilled with the amount of applications they had for students to get involved with this effort.  

Bristol Hub and Southampton Hub collaborated:

  • Staff from Bristol and Southampton delivered activity packs to families of young people who were due to attend any remaining Branch Up days – you can read about their efforts here – and Southampton Hub are starting to plan for alternative delivery of these programmes in the new term;
  • Students and staff worked to deliver active sports challenges through social media as an extension of our sports programmes in a campaign called ‘Challenge Accepted’, pictured below – you can see Southampton Hub’s blog about this here;
  • Bristol and Southampton shared the exciting news that they have both been funded to pilot a programme next year which aims to educate young people about politics through an interactive six week programme. Staff are currently finalising session plans for these to take place in the new academic year;
  • Bristol are also the first Hub to launch their virtual online tutoring as part of Schools Plus, and Southampton and Kingston Hub are gearing up to launch their programmes shortly too!

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Cambridge Hub moved online: 

  • Students taking part in Engage for Change and Impact Labs moved all their meetings and showcase events online, with one participant in Engage for Change commenting: ‘Many thanks for all your hard work in delivering this fantastic programme online, it has been a pleasure and who knows, this might be the future!’;
  • The Cambridge Hub team worked with the Vice Chancellor to hold the annual Vice Chancellor’s Social Impact Awards in an online ceremony, and you can read about all nine winners on Cambridge Hug’s blog, here;
  • The Cambridge Climate and Sustainability Forum was held online this year with the theme: ‘Towards a Sustainable Future: Local Actions, Global Betterment’. The event featured eight speakers who spoke about various local and global topics. The event was a big success, with over 200 people attending the event and 95% reported learning something new by attending the forum. All the talks from the day can be found here.
On a national level:
  • We have not furloughed any Student Hubs staff as we have been able to convert existing delivery which was outstanding and are currently planning for the 2020-21 academic year; 
  • All staff are continuing to work from home and have access to a fund for each individual staff member, which allows them to expense up to £150 of equipment to make their experience working from home for the foreseeable future as comfortable and accessible as possible. We are currently expecting to continue working from home until at least August; 
  • Hub staff from various local teams have been working together to create plans and implement programmes through alternative delivery and respond to their community partners’ needs as appropriate. Our Hub Managers are also communicating with their university partners to update on what programmes are likely to look like from autumn, including how we are adapting programmes to make them safe for students, staff and community partners to engage in.
What’s next: 

We will continue to consider and make plans for reaching the most students that we can from autumn, whether that is through socially distanced in-person activity or virtual programmes. 

One notable trend has been seen in our student consultancy programmes Engage for Change, Impact Labs and Winchester Hub’s most recent SIP launch, where we have seen higher numbers of applications from student volunteers than we would have typically expected. This has been fantastic to see and has shown us that students are keen to support issues and organisations in their student communities during this difficult period of time. It also suggests that we have the potential to engage more students through online delivery than our standard in-person programmes, which could shape the way we design and offer these programmes in the future. 

We’re excited by what the future holds for us and whether our programmes may continue to involve ‘blended’ delivery even after in-person delivery is made possible. We’ll be thinking about what we can do to share further learnings as we head into the next academic year, so expect to hear more from us shortly on this.  

Finally, if you haven’t already done so, you can also read our thoughts on working from home, putting our values into practice during Covid-19, and our response to Black Lives Matter during this time.   

Fiona Walsh

Fiona is Student Hubs' Sales Director. She leads on university sales, alumni and corporate fundraising, marketing strategy and external relations. Fiona started her social action journey as a student volunteer with Southampton Hub.

Tags: Community, Higher Education, News, Skilled Placements, Social Action, Third Sector


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