Reflections on the LSE Community Engagement Programme 2022: where ‘excellence in higher education and community outreach and support intersect’
‘My experience volunteering on the Community Engagement Programme was excellent. I learnt so many valuable skills and was able to understand how my academic work can create real value for the community. Working with my team I have built connections and relationships with people I wouldn’t otherwise have met at LSE, since we are all from different years and disciplines. This project has helped me to grow and develop as a person, and made me feel more connected to the LSE community. I would absolutely recommend taking part!’ Paris Stott (BSc in Accounting and Finance)
From January to March 2022, Paris was part of a team of volunteer student consultants helping a charity operating in the field of educational equality to evaluate the charity’s mission and strategy. The 8 other consultancy teams volunteered on projects that included advising a charity on its working practices in a post-COVID world; expanding the research-base of a charity operating in the field of women’s rights; and helping a charity to understand how it can better ‘reach’ London students in need of mental health support.
Reflecting on the programme, the volunteers told us that the scheme had helped them to make a real difference to the lives of others, meet new people, develop soft skills, and put into practice their academic knowledge and skills. It had also enhanced their career development, including through networking, learning, and gaining substantive experience in a field which interests them. Kay-Leigh Sussman (MSc in Global Health Policy) says that the programme was
‘an incredibly positive experience. I have met new people from different degrees and have networked with consulting professionals. I am confident in the report we have produced and believe it has the potential to make positive changes for the mental health community in London.’
‘By participating in this programme’, Elvire Olmos (MSc in International Relations) comments,
‘I have been able to gain incredible insight into the area I wish to work in and valuable transferable skills for my future career. Moreover, I am extremely grateful to the LSE Volunteer Centre team and my mentor who have been incredibly helpful during this project and beyond. I advise anyone to apply for this great programme!’
Indeed, many of the volunteers emphasised the importance of relationship-building to their experiences. The programme provided a space for different communities, both internal to the LSE and broader societal ones, to intersect on the basis of a shared affinity and purpose. Claresta Ng (LLB in Laws) says that
‘the Community Engagement Programme has been a very rewarding experience. Not only have I contributed to society by looking for ways to enhance the work of my charity so as to benefit more of their beneficiaries, but I have also acquired a lot of soft skills when working with my team… I was given the opportunity to work with people from different age groups, countries, and subject expertise… I learnt to listen to the opinions of others and tried to integrate them into my own ideas and writings. This is helpful for me in preparation for a career in the future where I have to work with numerous people from different backgrounds.’
Another participant (BSc in Politics and Economics) commented that
‘The Community Engagement Programme… taught me invaluable transferable skills such as communication and collaboration skills. My experiences with my mentor and the rest of my team were all amazing opportunities to meet great, like-minded people to develop friendships with as well.’
For the teams’ LSE alumni mentors, working in the non-profit sector, consultancy, development, government and policy, it was inspiring to watch their volunteer teams at work, and ‘an enriching experience to provide guidance’ (LSE Alumni Mentor, CEP 2022, working in the international development and consultancy sector). For many alumni, the programme was a great way to ‘give back to the LSE community’ (alum Harriet Bradshaw-Smith). ‘For someone who is truly grateful for the LSE experience’, alum Marc R. Claude says, ‘the CEP program has been an opportunity to pay it forward while giving back to others.’ Alum Palak Sharma writes that
‘I believe this program is the very essence of being an LSE student. The opportunity to help students with research that is based on service, is an amazing feeling. But more than that, the cooperation, team-building and most importantly, the LSE-anecdote-sharing, makes this a worthwhile experience to help young students change the world, one small step at a time.’
The charities were suitably impressed. As one of our partners put it,
‘working with my student team has been an absolute pleasure… They thoroughly thought out their strategy and executed it impeccably. Their efforts are on par with experienced consulting professionals and it has felt like they are an existing (and much needed) function or extension of my organisation… Their analysis and recommendations are proving to be crucial for steering the organisation in the right direction.’ (Charity Partner, CEP 2022, working in the field of educational inequality).
Our internal judging panel, too, comprised of colleagues from LSE Consulting, LSE LIFE, LSE100, and LSE Careers, commended the high quality of the work the teams produced. ‘The cohort of 2022 CEP participants showed a remarkable level of professionalism and commitment’, Elisabet Vives from LSE Consulting comments: ‘What these students managed to achieve in 8 weeks is incredible’. ‘Not only did these teams of students produce high quality research’, says Claudine Provencher, Director of Academic and Professional Development at the LSE and Head of LSE LIFE, ‘but, through their recommendations, they also helped the charities maximise their impact on the communities they work with. A win-win all round!’
Applications for the Community Engagement Programme 2023 open in Michaelmas Term 2022! Any LSE student can apply! If you fancy a challenge, want to create a social impact, and would like to benefit from the support we provide, please sign up!