During Reading Week of Term 2, UCL students joined four of the Volunteering Service’s partner organisations for our second Social Hackathon of the 2022-23 Academic Year. The Social Hackathon is a chance for students to team up with a volunteering organisation to tackle challenges the organisations are facing through a day of problem-solving and solution-creating. The organisations that joined us from 13th – 16th February were:

The Social Hackathon is an opportunity to build new skills, make valuable connections, and gain insight into work in the Third Sector. Students assisted organisations with a wide array of problems, ranging from how to increase social media engagement with Starfish Greathearts, to developing empathy exercises addressing issues such as slavery and homelessness with Empathy Action.

Nelith Bandularatne, who joined the Social Hackathon with Starfish Greathearts on Wednesday 15th February, shared his personal highlight of the event:

“The Hackathon gave me an opportunity to showcase my skills built up throughout university in an applied setting for a cause that is clearly very worthwhile. I would thoroughly recommend that anyone at UCL tries this.”

Read on to learn more about each of the Social Hackathon events!

The Gardens Trust

The Gardens Trust is a charity that promotes and protects historic parks and gardens across the UK. They joined UCL students on Monday 13th February. Students were tasked with generating new ideas for promoting the Gardens Trust to a wider audience, specifically those under the age of 45 from diverse backgrounds.

With a focus on generating digital marketing ideas using The Garden Trust’s website and social media, students were able to gain valuable marketing experience and knowledge, including understanding target audiences and using market research 'personas'. This opportunity was also a fantastic source of insight into the work of smaller societies and organisations such as The Garden Trust, and the challenges that they may face.

If you’re interested in the work done by The Gardens Trust and want to get involved, check them out here to learn more about what they do and to keep an eye out for future opportunities.

Empathy Action

Empathy Action is an organisation that aims to increase empathy and raise awareness about global deprivation, and in doing so inspire and empower people to work together against social issues and injustice.

On Tuesday 14th February, they joined UCL students to develop a portfolio of Empathy Exercises to run alongside their major educational programmes. Students focused on six different programme areas: Poverty, Displacement, Climate Justice, Care Leavers, Slavery, and Homelessness/Street Kids.

Generating these Empathy Exercises allowed students to exercise creativity, teamwork, and research skills. They were also able to gain greater insight in the operation of charities and an understanding of empathy-building activities as a tool for enhancing pro-social behaviours.

Students who took part shared some of their highlights of the day:

“It’s really nice to do something different, especially during reading week.”

“It is great to be able to design and reflect – we’re really involved with all stages of the project. It feels like our opinion really matters.”

If you're interested in learning more about the work that Empathy Action undertakes, you can learn more about them and keep an eye out for volunteering opportunities here!

Starfish Greathearts

Starfish Greathearts Foundation are an international charity that works to protect children affected by HIV and poverty in South Africa.

On Wednesday 15th February, Starfish Greathearts joined UCL students virtually to brainstorm new methods of engaging corporate supporters, attracting employees, and cementing relationships with their current partners. UCL students worked in groups to create new ideas for connecting with new and existing partners through events and social media campaigns. This not only gave students valuable experience in research, marketing, and communication, but allowed them to experience first-hand the work and impact of organisations such as Starfish Greathearts.

Onkar Date, a MSc Bioscience Entrepreneurship student, spoke about the value of working in the Social Hackathon’s diverse group-based setting:

“All of us came from diverse backgrounds and seeing all of us work towards this common goal, bringing in all of our skills, was a very interesting experience. I would definitely recommend doing a Social Hackathon. It’s a great use of your time. I think it builds a good foundation for more volunteering opportunities in the future.”

Yalin Chen, a 2nd year BSc Economics student and one of the 2022-23 Volunteering Officers, also shared her highlight of the experience:

“It’s only one day, and we’re also contributing to a good cause which was really nice to do. It helped me to learn a lot of things. I especially think I improved a lot in my research skills. I feel like I met a lot of different people that I didn’t know before, because there were a lot of people in my group that I would have never met if there wasn’t a Social Hackathon that brought us together.”

If you are interested in learning more about Starfish Greathearts you can learn more about them and keep an eye out for volunteering opportunities here!

Kenwood House

Kenwood House is an English heritage property on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Surrounded by landscaped garden, Kenwood House also housed an extensive art collection, which includes Rembrandt's ‘Self-Portrait with Two Circles.’

UCL students joined Kenwood House on Thursday 16th February to help develop their Spotlight Talks (short 15-miute presentations focused on one item in Kenwood’s collection). Students were tasked with developing a framework and system to evaluate visitor and volunteer engagement with these Spotlight Talks, to allow Kenwood to refine the content and methods of their Highlight Tours.

Disha Shanbhag, a MSc Digital Anthropology student, joined Kenwood on the day and shared her experience working with a multidisciplinary group of students:

“Being part of the cohort that was looking at things in different ways, it was really interesting to understand that there can be multiple ways of looking at the same issue. There was collaboration, teamwork, and just exposure to a lot of different viewpoints.

If you’re interested in getting involved as a volunteering with Kenwood House, check out their current opportunity as a Volunteer Explainer, working to welcome visitors and share important information about the site.

Thanks to all of the students and organisations who got involved to make the February 2023 Social Hackathon a huge success! You can learn more information about the Hackathons here, and keep an eye out for future Hackathons through our newsletter and social media.