Student Volunteering Week comes to Portsmouth
Friday, 27 February 2015
As the 14th annual Student Volunteering Week comes to a close, Brian Bracher, Chief Service Officer in Portsmouth, shares how he's been working with students in the city and his advice for making it work.
From the outset, the University of Portsmouth (UoP) and the Students Union (UPSU) have been actively involved in Portsmouth becoming a 'City of Service'. This included being part of my interview panel! The University is a key partner in the delivery of the 'Portsmouth Together' service plan where they lead on the training and implementation plan for our adult numeracy initiative 'Portsmouth Counts'.
Finding ways to collaborate
Our close working relationship has enabled us to find opportunities for students to assist projects which directly involve their educational development. For example, I currently have a student reviewing our marketing strategy as part of his degree, and I am looking forward to the final presentation next week.
Our next project is to work with the media course to produce a film about volunteering in Portsmouth which will be used as part of volunteer week in June. Finally, I would really like to have a university intern on the Portsmouth Together project team, as I feel that this could generate many more opportunities for working together.
Our relationship with the Students Union has developed more recently, in particular with the lead up to Student Volunteering Week (23 Feb -1 March 2015). Being new into post, the Student Union volunteer coordinator had the students ready to volunteer but didn’t have the contact with local organisations. Through the relationships and contacts that I have made through my work on Cities of Service, I was able to provide links with over 70 local organisations which resulted in a range of opportunities where the students could provide one-off support during the week.
The photographs show students working at a Portsmouth community garden project where they spent the day helping give the garden a spring clean. I also supported them with a student #GoodDeedDay event that they ran in Portsmouth Guildhall square during the week.
The power of three
My best advice for working with universities and students is to take the time to understand the different opportunities that the university has to offer. This can be divided into 3 different types of volunteering and 3 different people to meet:
- Skills-based opportunities
Most universities have an individual or team actively seeking out opportunities for students to volunteer in ways that will help their academic studies or personal development. These range from projects directly linked to course work, including research, or opportunities where they can use their skills to support organisations in a more practical way including IT skills, social media, administration and fundraising.
- One-off events
The Students Union tend to look more toward supporting one-off events or short term projects. They are likely to have either an employed role, or a student lead for volunteering. They are great when you need numbers of willing helpers, such as decorating community centres and cleaning up parks and beaches. However, these can often develop into long-standing relationships.
- Staff as volunteers
Finally, it is important not to forget the significant resource of the university staff. Portsmouth University is now developing its own Employee Supported Volunteering (ESV) scheme and will be signposting the Portsmouth Together website to their staff as the best place to find volunteering opportunities.
The university has been integral to what we have achieved so far, and this working relationship is only going to continue to grow over the lifetime of the 'Cities of Service' programme, to the extent that we are starting to have discussions about Portsmouth becoming a 'University of Service'.