Catalyst Project

University of Essex volunteering hub initiative

catalyst

Aims

To stimulate individual reciprocal activity between the University and communities in Colchester and surrounding neighbourhoods.

To accomplish this by strengthening existing community-based volunteering activity, developing new volunteering opportunities and increasing the up-take of student volunteering and time spent volunteering.

Progress to date

Since 2016 the Catalyst Project has been working with the Students’ Union VTeam - the largest student body to offer external volunteering opportunities.

The Catalyst Project resources have allowed the University of Essex Students’ Union VTeam to build on their successful established volunteering work through:

  • the introduction of an online management system where students can record their volunteering hours across all volunteering options. The system records the organisations that provide volunteering activities and the volunteering activities carried out, enabling efficient tracking and monitoring of volunteering
  • funding to increase their staff capacity

These measures have:

  • enabled increased choice of volunteering opportunities offered
  • substantially increased the amount of volunteering hours logged
  • established new connections with local communities
  • allowed the VTeam to strengthen the range of regular volunteering projects with local schools, care homes, charities, refugee centre, community centres and encourage students to take action and tackle social issues
  • increased the range of transferable skills that students can acquire, offering benefits to their personal development and wellbeing, studies and subsequent employability
  • enhanced the existing relationship between the University, our local communities and local voluntary sector partners
  • enabled the capabilities to administer the increase and promotion of community volunteering undertaken by the growing student population
  • transformed the process for recording volunteering activity and the capacity for efficient tracking and monitoring of volunteering for evaluation assessment and impact purposes

Measures of progress

Between 2015-16 and 2017-18, the number of:

  • students logging their volunteering hours has tripled from 12,000 to 34,000 hours.
  • one off projects offered by the VTeam has increased from 20 to 60.
  • regular volunteering projects offered by partner organisations has increased from 28 to 50
  • volunteering options offered on a weekly basis has increased from 28 to 40
  • external organisations that offer volunteering opportunities has increased from 40 to 60

Current objective

We are shortly to launch the Volunteering Hub (VHub), a single and sustainable one-stop shop offering easy access for students to all student volunteering opportunities offered by University groups, local community groups, non-profit and public sector organisations.

Subsequent volunteering activities will be administered and processed by an online content management system provided by Gradintelligence. The Essex Volunteering Hub will be able to facilitate further increases of volunteering capability.

Working group

 Kristi Connell

Manager, Essex Abroad

Sarah Dooley

Football Development Officer, Essex Sport

Raquel Farmer

Volunteering Coordinator, Students' Union

 Jasmine Hill

Coordinator, Big Essex Award

Eassa Hirsi

Nightline Coordinator, Nightline

Tomas Kasiulis

Volunteering Manager, Students' Union

Dr Beate Knight

Catalyst Project Manager, University of Essex

 Judith Knight

Catalyst Project Communications Officer, University of Essex

 Hannah Lamb

Peer Mentoring, Academic Section

Liam McDougall

Sports Development Coordinator, Essex Sport

Professor Donald Nicolson

Director, Essex Law Clinic

Keith Rowland

Deputy Director of Engagement and Development, Students' Union