Escape the City aims to support 1 million people to quit their corporate work and find a profession with purpose. To them, and us, a 21st century career is “the opportunity to create the perfect personal balance of money, passion, purpose, impact, welfare and freedom.”
For three years, they have run an annual campaign to recognise organisations to “escape” to, based on factors like impact, planet, mission, people and innovation. For the last two, Student Hubs has ranked in their top 100 organisations to escape to. Announced earlier this year, with a tremendous 13,000 organisations nominated, we were delighted to share we ranked 68th with a particular emphasis on our ‘people’ and ‘innovation’ categories. In this blog, we’re going to take a closer look at our ranking and share what we’re doing to continue to improve our work for years to come.
Putting people first
For the second year in a row, Student Hubs has scored the highest marks in the people category – literally 10 out of 10! Working at Student Hubs has provided many of us with an open space to reflect, grow and support each other. In particular, we were recognised for our wellbeing, inclusion, and opportunities to learn, through our:
- Flexible working policy, which is in place because we trust people to do the work they need to do, and we understand that their lives are a balance – work isn’t everything! We as individuals are best placed to know what our priorities may be, such as caring responsibilities or appointments that we just can’t move. By providing employees with ways to be flexible about their work timings, and find out what works well for them and their team, we can create a better support network and give them the opportunity to feel confident reflecting and communicating their needs in the workplace.
- Lunch and Learns: grown out of the pandemic, we hold monthly lunch and learn sessions. Anyone in the team (and even alumni) are free to take an hour and share their own passions with the team. As a team from diverse backgrounds with a range of social action passion issues, this is a great way to learn something new and connect with others. Highlights include sessions on fatphobia, a seasonal movie watch list, and understanding narratives and stereotypes of native americans!
- Recruitment and induction policies: We have taken the time to build an inclusive and engaging process that allows staff to fully embed into the culture that we hold. One way we did this was by becoming a disability confident employer!
Our employee reviews summarise it best:
“Our work flexibility and person-focused culture really helps those with mental health concerns, and those who may be dealing with a private matter. We always get the work done, but with no detriment to our mental health as the pressure to meet quotas and to “perform” are not ingrained into our culture. Instead we focus on getting better so you can use your better days to work more effectively and proactively!”
“Everyone is supporting everyone at Student Hubs! I love that there isn’t a hierarchy in the workplace, as we all have different skill sets and experiences. It is hugely beneficial that we all collaborate and support each other and provide expertise from our various roles. Additionally, it means we are more encouraged to reach out and learn from one another when we do want to develop in a particular area. This transparency and encouraging nature makes coming to work an enjoyable experience.
Scoring top marks in Innovation
This year we were ranked as a Game Changer in our industry, with a unique approach to solving a problem. We are a unique organisation that sits both in the higher education sector and locally in the community as a charity. As such, all our work focuses on a dual benefit model where communities benefit from added capacity, new perspectives and meaningful change, and students benefit from new skills, a better understanding of their community, and an improved university experience.
Wearing both these hats gives us the opportunity to engage with young people, hear diverse points of view and innovate to ensure we are still making a big impact. Understanding the nuances of universities and how best to support students helps us to integrate students more fully into their new communities. We continue to believe that community-based opportunities enhance students’ academic experience, and our staff members are motivated by our mission:
“Working at Student Hubs has been an incredible learning opportunity. You are encouraged to follow the values (social, motivational, ambitious, bold and long-term) and through the way we work and the systems in place you can really see these come through. I have really appreciated a culture in which there is space to listen and grow together, especially over the pandemic which has meant a lot of adapting. Being in a supportive space has meant that a time which has been stressful for us all is actually teaching us new and innovative things we can take forward.”
Why our mission matters
Escape reflects on the mission that each organisation is trying to achieve, of which we were categorised as “supporting a better future”. They also recognise and break down businesses against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Framework. For Student Hubs, this is focused locally. We are committed to engaging students to learn and connect with social and environmental issues in their community, with the aim that this will build them to become active citizens for life. As one employee mentions “Student Hubs is a values and purpose driven organisation. I think our work empowering active citizens and supporting local communities and organisations has led to, and will lead to, big impact…it is at the heart of everything we do.”
By mainstreaming student social action, a new generation of active citizens can help achieve positive change locally and, when our international student communities return home, globally as well. By engaging students on a local level, and providing them with the opportunity to understand how they can make a big difference, they will continue to tackle challenges beyond their university city. We are currently focused on finessing the mainstreaming element of our work to better achieve this aim.
How we bring the planet into our work
All organisations, no matter how big or small, need to commit to having a positive impact on our planet. Currently, Escape has ranked us as conscientious of the planet, but we’re aiming to be planet-neutral.
Since we were nominated back at the beginning of the year, Student Hubs has been progressing towards increasing awareness of sustainability of our work and becoming carbon-neutral, which started a full audit of our work. We have used both the UN Sustainability Development Goals, where appropriate on a local level, and the Climate Action Tool created by NETPositive Futures to build a climate action plan. Phase one of our action plan focuses on:
- Our travel: although we work locally in our different cities, we also work together to build programmes and impact. We are exploring how we can support staff and our volunteers within this area.
- Energy and Carbon Footprint: specifically looking at how our technology based work can be reduced, and where this isn’t possible offset.
- Our influence and governance: ensuring we are sharing our sustainability work and empowering staff as well as our student volunteers to take action within their own lives.
Hopefully, when next year’s Escape the City occurs, we will be able to move to the low impact or great for the planet category, making an active difference in this field!
Continuing to build our Impact
Overall, it has been incredible to see the value of our work through Escape the City and reflect on what more we can do. Escape’s dedication to looking beyond an organisation’s deliverable impact and analysing companies internal development has allowed us to reflect more on why Student Hubs is a wonderful place to work. I have very much enjoyed partaking in the mission we have and feeling confident in where I have ‘escaped’ to.
If you wish to explore working with Student Hubs:
- Check out the roles available. Currently Kingston Hub are looking for a new in-curricular Programmes Manager and a Projects Officer. The deadline is 7th August.
- Speak with our Partnerships and Development Director, Fiona Walsh, to learn about setting up a project, consulting with us, receiving training or setting up a hub.
- Watch out for the launch of our 2022 – 23 training programme, which will support organisations with people and culture, as well as giving insights into working with university students.
Our full 2021-22 impact report will launch in January, however over the coming months keep an eye on our local Hubs in Bristol, Cambridge, Kingston, Southampton and Winchester as they celebrate their impact for the year and share their local Hub reports.
Check out The Escape 100, 2022: Top purpose-led companies to ‘escape’ to in 2022 to see our organisation’s ranking and read our employee reviews.
This blog is part of a wider series on our People and Culture. For the next six months, we will be highlighting some of the core elements of our culture and why we feel it is important for any organisation to have. Keep an eye out on our blogs and social media for the September edition.