PurposeWho: A collection of nine London based universities, University of Greenwich, City University London, Queen Mary Students' Union, Imperial College London, London Metropolitan University, Kingston University Students' Union, King's College London Students' Union, Brunel University West London, University College London, working with vinvolved Central London and the Student Volunteer Network .
What: A range of volunteering activities across London, open to all students studying in the city.
Why: To promote the benefits of volunteering and receive an ‘Inspire Mark’ reflecting the core Olympic values integrated into activities inspired by London 2012.
Where: A range of activities carried out across London.
When: Usually towards October/November, lasting two weeks and recurring annually.
In 2009 nine London universities came together with multiple community organisations and schools to coordinate a broad range of volunteering events and programmes across London. These occurred over a two week period and were open to all further and higher education students studying in the city. As the volunteering events linked in perfectly with the core Olympic values for excellence, respect, friendship, courage, determination, inspiration, equality, the event aimed to achieve the London 2012 Olympics ‘Inspire mark.’
Each university planned and hosted a variety of events, including volunteering fairs, workshops and taster sessions and one-off community events. For example, at the University of Greenwich over 60 students were involved in a selection of 12 activities; one of the most memorable events was the Greenwich Ghostly Tour where five volunteers gave ghost tours of the Old Royal Naval College to 30 new and international students.
By working in partnership, the intention was to strengthen the relationship between London universities, students and the community, and to help students gain new skills, widen their social network and give something back to the area. This, in turn, also helped voluntary organisations gain access to student volunteers and broaden their volunteer base.
This collaborative approach increased appeal of the event, which received a range of positive attention within the local media, voluntary sector and Olympic Games publications. In turn, this has ensured the sustainability of the event as an annual occurance.
- To raise awareness about the benefits of volunteering among students
- To promote the diverse range of voluntary opportunities available to students within local organisations
- To give students an opportunity to take part in one-off volunteering taster activities
- To give students the chance to create new project ideas and the support to implement them
- To raise awareness of university support for student volunteers
- To become eligible for the ‘Inspire Mark’ by creating a range of events inspired by London 2012 and reflecting the core Olympic Values
- To create a calendar of events consisting of at least one event provided by each individual university that would be open to all students studying in London
Results and outcomes
What worked well
The event was highly successful; over 150 students took part in 23 events as well as many young people from the local community and schools over the two week period with positive feedback received from the student volunteers, external organisations and staff involved. This event built upon the 12 days of Christmas event organised collaboratively the previous year. The date was brought forward to fit with events that some institutions already hold, which made possible a wider collaborative approach.
The events were highly diverse, with opportunities for students to get involved with local, national and international causes. Students fundraised for causes such as The Poppy Appeal and Street Child Africa. There were numerous local community events, including a bonfire night event at a local special needs school, and conservation work with Groundwork, an environmental regeneration charity.
A range of workshops were also held. The City University London held an event for young people, ‘From School to University.’ Through examining their ‘learning journeys,’ and those of the student volunteers, the young people were encouraged to take ownership of their learning. Another session led by The Children’s Society National Mentoring Initiative informed students of how to organise their own student-led projects through a taster event.
Developing a city-wide event gave universities and organisation a platform to showcase their volunteering opportunities to a wider audience. Sharing ideas and resources, alongside establishing connections with a wide range of organisations, proved a highly positive outcome of the events.
The success of these events, in their diversity and quality led to receiving the London 2012 inspire mark, giving recognition of exception and innovation of projects and securing the continuation of the event. This provided a greater profile, obtaining endorsements from the voluntary sector and the Mayor of London.
"I would like to commend London Student Volunteering Fortnight to London’s fine student population. There is no better way to get out and meet people, share your talents and develop new skills. So if you have a hankering to do something different, change your local community or people’s lives, then I would encourage you sign up to London Student Volunteering Fortnight." Mayor of London
This pilot event highlighted a number of areas in which we have been able to improve the logistical management of an event of this scale. At the forefront has been the creation of a central website which has improved promotion and sign-up to events.
We have also made more use of students in the planning and marketing of the events, to help with the additional administrative and organisational tasks that occur. This also offers an excellent opportunity for students to gain first-hand experience of organisation of a large scale event.
The most popular events were the ones where students had a chance to take part in a one-off taster activity. This has encouraged development of more of these types of activity. Feedback also suggested timings being an issue, so we are looking at extending the length of some sessions and sustainability of the opportunity after the event.
Evaluation tools had to be developed to make sure accurate feedback was obtained from students, organisations and staff members involved in the events.
An event of this scale requires at least four to five months' planning and it is estimated it took 15 staff an equivalent of five working days. This is essential to ensuring that events are designed, planned, promoted and instigated to a high standard. Delegation of tasks and regular communication and meetings are central to the success of such large scale events, which are dependent upon highly complex partnerships, involving multiple staff, across multiple institutions and locations and involving multiple partnerships with external organisations.
- The organisation of the event was discussed over three meetings in June, August and September, attended by representatives of the partners involved
- Each individual HEI involved took on tasks to facilitate the organisation of a successful event
- Student volunteers were recruited within their universities to assist in the planning and promotion of events
- A shared calendar was created in Google Mail to allow everyone to plan in a way that would ensure events would be evenly spread over the two week period
- A range of downloadable resources has been produced to easily share promotional material of the event
This event received no extra funding, with the budgets for developing the project and advertising coming from the budgets of the universities’ volunteering departments and with further in-kind support received from the community partners.
- Planning should start early, at least three months before the event and be completed by the start of Term 1 in the academic year, so that events can be highlighted and promoted effectively during Fresher’s Week activities
- Good communication channels are vital. We found it useful to have regular planning meetings involving all of the Institutions. Also using a Google calendar to timetable events aided in maintaining clear communication
- Involve student volunteers in the organisation of the event as well as activities
- Provide a range of events, from workshops to taster sessions
- Be visible in the community. It was highly beneficial to go to a range of local volunteering meetings to establish networks and new partnerships for the event
- Promotion is key to success, using a wide range of channels. This event was marketed through posters, flyers as well as engaging with social media and targeted emails to students who were likely to be interested in specific events;
- Getting academic staff involved is helpful for encouraging further promotion of events to students
Name: Sarah Sunderland
Name of organisation: University of Greenwich