Student volunteering should be focussed on the needs of the local community, two leading higher education charities have said.
Results from a pilot programme show the positive impact of student volunteering when initiatives are created in partnership with local authorities and community groups. The One Community Forum pilot, run by Student Hubs and funded by the UPP Foundation, enabled students and community groups to come together to decide the purpose and focus of student volunteering in their city. For the most recent Forum, this led to over 370 students taking part in the pilot programme across five participating universities, with over 1,500 young people being positively impacted by projects to tackle youth inequality.
Activities included a laptop donation campaign to tackle digital exclusion; student projects supporting local food bank charities; tutoring activities reaching 900 young people; and mentoring programmes to support young people’s motivations and expectations for future life.
A new toolkit had been published to encourage other universities to adopt the One Community Forum model to foster place-based student volunteering. The aim of the toolkit is to encourage a collaborative approach in tackling social issues which local communities face. Students and community organisations are key partners in this mission for universities, and the One Community Forum model enables universities and their civic partners to explore local challenges, understand barriers, and plan how students can be active in positively improving their university towns and cities. It also enables universities to revitalise their volunteering offer, supporting students to becoming active citizens in their communities whilst building on their employability skills and experiences which are key to graduate outcomes.
Simran Dhanjal-Field, CEO of Student Hubs said:
The power of the One Community Forum is in how it forges deeper connections and relationships between an institution and its place. Through providing space and momentum, all stakeholders – students, the local community, and the university – are able to work together to shape their collective future. As a core strand of our mission to mainstream student social action, we’re excited to share what we’ve gained from this approach widely.
Richard Brabner, Director of the UPP Foundation said:
Our civic university commission said that local activity should be tailored to the needs of the place. The One Community Forum does exactly that – focussing student social action on what the local town or city requires. This ensures student volunteering makes a real tangible difference and I hope other universities are inspired to take up this model.