Catalyst Project

University of Essex volunteering hub initiative


The Catalyst Project ended on 30 June 2020. These web pages are no longer updated and have been archived. Read our impact case study about the Catalyst Project to learn more about it.


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.

On 6th December 2019 we launched the Essex Volunteering Hub (EVHub), 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.

Volunteering activities and volunteer providers are administered and processed by an online content management system provided by Gradintelligence. Gradintelligence already administer students ‘Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) records and The Big Essex Award so bringing together the administration and recording facilities under one system will make it easier for students to manage and record their volunteering experiences.

The Essex Volunteering Hub will be able to facilitate and administer greater volunteering capability in line with the Catalyst Project’s aims and the University’s vision for 2025 “We will nurture and celebrate our shared commitment to social action, supporting every person in our University community to realise the potential of their Essex Spirit through their contribution to our shared mission."

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 2018-19, the number of:

  • students logging their volunteering hours has tripled from 12,000 to 36,900 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 70

Working group

 Kristi Connell

Manager, Essex Abroad

Sarah Dooley

Football Development Officer, Essex Sport

Raquel Farmer

Volunteering Coordinator, Students' Union

Eassa Hirsi

Nightline Coordinator, Nightline

Tomas Kasiulis

Volunteering Manager, Students' Union

Liam McDougall

Sports Development Coordinator, Essex Sport

Dominic King

Sports Development Manager, Essex Sport