University College London
Creating Connections brings together UCL staff and postgraduate students with representatives from community organisations, charities, residents’ groups, social enterprises and statutory organisations, with the aim of finding ways to work together. It takes place in the form of termly early evening networking events; each one is attended by up to 80 people, evenly split between academia and voluntary sector. The evening is split into two sections; first, round table discussions around 5 key themes, proposed by Creating Connections participants themselves and facilitated by someone with an interest/experience in the chosen theme. The focus of the small groups is to explore areas in which academic/non-academic perspectives overlap and potential for collaboration. The small group discussion eases people into the second half in which there is opportunity for freer networking procees facilitated by circulating a Creating Connections directory (contact details, photo, and areas of interest) in advance, providing large format name badges highlighting key areas of interest and by pinning up attendees profiles on the venue walls.
The purpose of Creating Connections is very simple – to offer institutional structured support for networking opportunities between UCL researchers and community organisations, charities, residents’ groups, social enterprises and statutory organisations, with the aim of finding ways to work together. To date 170 non-academic participants most commonly identify the following as benefits of attending a networking event: opportunity to learn about researcher's work/opportunity to discuss important topics/opportunity to network with community colleagues. 34% of respondents thus far to our two year evaluation survey said that attending Creating Connections helped to prepare, inspire, facilitate or encourage their involvement in activities involving UCL. 17% of respondents said that they had developed a working relationship with UCL staff/students as a result, 11% had put together a proposal for a new collaborative project and 21% had raised their awareness of future opportunities. 215 UCL researchers have participated. 47% of survey respondents thus far made new contacts with local community organisations; 38% had been inspired to get involved in community collaborative activity. Of these, 17% provided advice and guidance and 17% had created links to a specific project or programme.
"It's brilliant and a great hub for learning and developing partnerships around new ideas." Richard Sharp, Genesis Housing Association