Our UCL SDG Consultancy Challenge delivered on 12-16 June this year and involved 61 students across 8 projects - working hard to deploy the project management and consultancy skills they developed at our training ahead of the week to find innovative and sustainable ways for their host organisation to overcome a particular business-problem (such as a lack of volunteers, funding, or of a reliable database), in-line with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

After a highly competitive selection process, the successful students were matched against one of our 8 project teams. The Volunteering Service invited its community partners to apply to host our teams - this year's successful hosts were The Ramblers, The Museum of the Home, Coachbright, Bankside Open Spaces Trust, Refugee Therapy Centre, Share Community, and Starfish Greathearts Foundation. At the end of the week all host organisations received a £250 grant to enact the solutions students came up with through the week.

Before the final day of the challenge on Friday, June 24th, our Photojournalist, Viviane, visited the UCL students working with Ramblers in their workplace in order to greater understand the processes, challenges, and highlights throughout the week.

Below, Viviane recounts some of her conversations with members of the team:

Can you describe the tasks you have done?

Liz Broom: We are working with the Ramblers organisation to protect UK paths by mapping all of the networks of footpaths that exist so that they are not lost.

Deborah Cousin: In each county, people are applying for rights of way for the paths. So we export data to Ramblers map so that people in the UK can access those maps and further walk on the footpaths.

Melanie Lare Gilmet: To add onto that, we process one county at a time, since each database is different and tends to have a lot of information.

What skills have you gained throughout this week?

Deborah: Data analysis has been one of the major skills gained. There are several counties which large amounts of data, so we need to sift through this. Because it is all different databases based on the county, the data is not always easily transferred.

Liz: Teamwork has been extremely valuable for this project. We work as a team to decide who will work on what, and all of the important decisions. In addition, the skill of prioritisation has been developed, as we have had to prioritise some tasks over others to make sure that we finished everything on time.

What has been a highlight of the project so far?

Liz: It has been really fun working with everyone and meeting so many new people. I have also gained a lot of new skills I hope to carry on in the future.

What challenges have you faced?

Liz: The way we access the data on the footpaths varies based on the application, as various formats are used. So those different formats need to be standardized and it is quite time consuming.

Are you excited for the final day of the Consultancy Challenge on Friday?

Deborah: Yes, despite some challenges we are currently facing, I am excited to present our finding and provide solutions or an evaluation of the experience, and what resources would make it easier for the Ramblers organisation to gather information about footpaths across the UK.

How did you find out about the Consultancy Challenge?

Liz: I saw it on the Students’ Union page, and I also had a friend who recommended it to me.

Would you recommend the Consultancy Challenge?

Liz: Yeah, definitely! It has been really fun so far, I have met lovely people and have learned so much and am eager to continue learning more throughout the week.

At the Consultancy Challenge wrap-up event on the Friday, the group representing The Ramblers were chosen by our judging panel as the best project, which meant their organisation was rewarded with an additional £500 to put their solutions into action!

All students received a certificate recognising their dedication to the challenge and will get an email after the summer letting them know what their host organisation has done so far to enact their solutions.

We're really excited to be able to offer our Consultancy Challenge again next summer - if you are interested in getting involved, you can learn more about it and keep and eye out for news about our next challenge here!