By Patrick Sullivan, Co-Editor-in-Chief
A group of current Bristol undergraduates are looking for hundreds of fellow students to support 30 local charities with their work over the summer period.
With almost half of the charitable sector predicted to be under threat as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jack Elliott (second year Economic and Finance), Tom Steggall (second year Economics), Immy Ireland (second year Economics and Accounting), Ameya Vikram and Lee D’Arcy have set up the COVID-19 Student Response Network (CSRN).
By working with local government and charitable organisations such as the Quartet Community Foundation, the scheme hopes to connect hundreds of student volunteers with as many as 30 local charities to support work such as fundraising, social media and digitization of services.
CSRN projects will run through the summer, and volunteers will receive training from industry-leading consultancies, including Accenture and TATA Consultancy Services, who have backed the idea. The corporate partners will also provide access to professional mentors for the students.
Elliott, Managing Director of 180 Degrees Consulting Bristol (180DCB), the student group organising CSRN, said, ‘The charity sector is one of the hardest hit globally by the coronavirus pandemic. 75 per cent of the sector has been furloughed and so many charities are struggling just to stay afloat.
‘We’re orchestrating a mass attempt at supporting local charities during these unprecedented times and we're keen to get as many Bristol students on board as possible.’
The majority of the projects will start in early June, but students involved have already spent time advising Age UK Bristol on their recent emergency coronavirus appeal successfully launched in late April.
Two other projects will kick off later in May with West of England Centre for Inclusive Living (WECIL), a service for 4,000 local disabled people, and Fight Covid UK, a new digital platform.
Immy Ireland, second year Economics and Accounting, said: ‘We are getting started on projects right away. Charities desperately need our help now so we are recruiting as quickly as we can and want to hear from anyone who wants to make a difference.’
Initially founded to help Bristol-based charities, the team are already expanding and looking to roll the scheme out across the country. Other student groups now on board include the 180 Degrees branch of Nottingham and the Wednesday Group from Edinburgh.
In total, the scheme has received around 200 applications to date from the three universites.
Tom Steggall, second year Economics, believes the initiative can help students ‘develop key skills and gain experience with so many internships getting cancelled, shortened or postponed. It also comes at a time when charities need this support most.’
Back in September after a week-long work experience at JP Morgan, Jack Elliott, a second-year Economics and Finance student at the University of Bristol, and Mohamed Suwaid, a final-year student on the same course, set up the Bristol branch of 180 Degrees Consulting. Elliott and Steggall then established a specialist data science team with first year Mathematics student Jake Ireland a few months later.
180 Degrees is a worldwide collective of student groups, partnering with major consultancies to provide students with training and experience applying their studies, while assisting local charities with pro-bono support. The company only provides each branch with the right tools, such as the website and branded emails, and empowers the students themselves to run the groups.
A standout project for the data team was with St Peter’s Hospice, a Bristol-based hospice for adults with life-limiting illness. They applied machine learning to the charity’s online facilities to allow them to develop more targeted and effective marketing campaigns. Elliott said ‘it was the moment he realised how much of an impact his team could have’.
It is the type of work they hope will be able to help Bristol-based charities enjoy success beyond the current lockdown period. Each project will have a student team leader and a corporate mentor to ensure it all goes smoothly, and the expected time commitment is three to five hours per week.
Featured image: Epigram / Jack Elliott
Have you heard of any other student-led work helping those currently in need? Let us know!