Our Social Hackathons programme ran throughout Reading Week in November. Through these events, UCL students collaborated with local charities and community organisations to help solve their most pressing issues.

2nd year Social Sciences with Quantitative Methods student Maria Jomy took part in her second Social Hackathon. Her most recent Social Hackathon took place at the Holborn Community Association where the volunteers were asked to examine the viability of creating a social enterprise which supports local people attending their art groups to sell the work that they produce.

Tell us what you did!

We went to the Holborn Community Association (HCA) and were tasked to look at how viable it would be to create a social enterprise which would sell the art work of their art groups. We started off by learning more about how the Holborn Community Association uses arts to engage the community and promote positive social cohesion. It was also fun to take part in a short art workshop to get a better understanding of what HCA does.

We were divided into groups where each group conducted research on different areas. For example, our groups were tasked to think about who the potential audience could be and what type of marketable, desirable objects could be sold in the social enterprise. Another group worked on what resources are needed in order to test a pilot phase and how this could be implemented in the easiest and most effective way.

What made you decide to sign up for this Social Hackathon?

I participated in a Social Hackathon last year and I really loved the experience so I decided to do another one. It is amazing to see that people who never met before can come together and work so well as a group and come up with some great and innovative ideas to solve a problem.

This particular Social Hackathon allowed me to look at volunteering from a different perspective – it wasn’t the traditional volunteering experience where you work with children or the elderly. Instead it showed me that volunteering can also be very creative and artsy.

Were there any challenges?

I would say that the main challenge were the tasks themselves since they weren’t self-explanatory. For instance, last year we were asked to revamp the website of Age UK Westminster to make it more accessible to people with visual impairments, whereas this time the task was more research related which was more challenging but still a nice change.

We also didn’t know in what way other social enterprises in other parts of the UK usually promoted and sold their artwork so it was exciting to learn more about how similar social models were used in different enterprises and how successful they had been.

Would you recommend doing a Social Hackathon to others?

Absolutely! These Social Hackathons are a great way to meet new people and to help out in your community. Even though you just have one day, our group was super engaged and really tried to make a change.

My tip for future volunteers is to not be afraid of the idea that you won’t know anybody there. Just go along to get a taste of what it feels like to make an impact in your community. It is most likely that all the people who will be attending the event with you have similar interests and love to help other. So just do it, you won’t regret it!

It's such a great feeling to know that you're having such a positive impact on your community!

If Maria's story has got you inspired to volunteer with Holborn Community Association - check out all their current opportunities. We’ve also got lots of Arts & Culture related roles as well, so you have lots to choose from! 

You can also find out more about our Social Hackathons and let us know if you’d like to be contacted ahead of the next events!