Queen Mary University of London has been awarded £650,000 to establish a new, student-led, professional services organisation which will help local businesses.
SKETCH (Student Knowledge Exchange Through Community Hubs) will give students the opportunity to use their skills to provide pro bono, social impact-driven consultancy and venture capital services to East London’s start-up and Third Sector community.
Funded by the Office for Students & Research England, SKETCH will be led by the most culturally and socially diverse students in the Russell Group who will combine across the subject disciplines of law, management, economics and digital.
SKETCH will be accompanied by the establishment of the Social Impact Unit* co-led by corporate and Third Sector mentors, working alongside students and academic experts in social impact.
The Unit will integrate Queen Mary’s current student-led knowledge exchange programmes - including qLegal, qNomics and QConsult - and create new innovative programmes under one umbrella unit.
This single entity will act as a high profile, open access vehicle for the evaluation and dissemination of social impact-related student knowledge exchange, as well as an innovative focus for public engagement and thought-leadership activities.
The Social Impact Unit will be instrumental in bringing together the private and Third sectors to promote social value creation. In particular it will see students working on collaborative inter-disciplinary as well as multi-disciplinary projects, incorporating tech and supporting enterprise and innovation.
Dr Philippa Lloyd, Vice-Principal (Policy and Strategic Partnerships) at Queen Mary, said: “This is brilliant news for Queen Mary. More than 50 per cent of our students come from our local area, and have rich life experience and exceptional talent, but are still disadvantaged, and are less exposed to the networks, training and skills required to thrive in a commercially competitive environment. Our aim is to help students become more confident in their ability to compete with peers from more privileged backgrounds, with the aim of having a positive effect on their employability outcomes and assist their transition from student to work.”
To help students from all backgrounds in higher education institutions to participate in SKETCH, the full diversity of Queen Mary’s student body and subject-matter expertise will be represented, with undergraduates and postgraduates, domestic, EEA and international students working together.
Students will benefit from peer knowledge exchange activities, co-creation, and exposure to professionals across a wide range of disciplines and organisations. They will also create start-up businesses that secure investment, demonstrate and share effective practice in knowledge exchange activities that benefit students, and address issues of equality, diversity and inclusion within existing knowledge exchange activities.
Dr Patrick McGurk, Deputy Director of Education at Queen Mary's School of Business and Management, said: “Students have a significant role in the knowledge exchange that drives civic and economic prosperity. As well as establishing start-ups and spin-off companies, they solve problems and provide skills and expertise for businesses, public services and community groups through consultancy, internships and work placements.”
SKETCH closely aligns with the knowledge exchange and innovation activities set out in Queen Mary’s 2030 strategy and with the Tower Hamlets Growth and Economic Development Plan 2018-2023.
Co-funding partners for SKETCH include Ropes & Gray LLP, Reed Smith LLP, Mazars, the Scouts Association and East London Business Association.
*Queen Mary’s Social Impact Unit will integrate and disseminate the following activities:
1. A new School of Business & Management student-led social impact venture fund – an initiative to advise and invest in social enterprises and further support the Third Sector, East London community and beyond. The fund will be the first student-led social impact venture capital fund investing in student-led social ventures in the UK.
2. qLegal and the Legal Advice Centre (LAC): Queen Mary’s award-winning student-led pro bono law clinics within the School of Law, supporting local social enterprises, start-ups and individuals who fall below an income threshold and would not otherwise be able to access legal support. With qLegal and the LAC, law students provide free legal advice to real clients, supervised by external lawyers who are volunteering their time. It is a good example where everybody wins – the students develop their professional skills and experience working alongside practitioners, the volunteering lawyers add to their pro bono activity and build mentoring skills, and the clients receive free legal assistance that would not otherwise be open to them. For start-ups and entrepreneurs supported by qLegal, that could mean advice on the best structure for their business, commercial agreements such as Terms & Conditions, through to data protection and help with GDPR requirements. For individual clients, the LAC students help with landlord and tenant matters, contract cases and consumer issues.
3. qNomics: Queen Mary’s student-led venture within the School of Economics & Finance, providing free financial guidance to tech start-up companies and entrepreneurs. The programme stresses concepts central to fostering an understanding of the entrepreneurial business environment. Throughout the programme, students have the opportunity to examine the role of business, enterprise and entrepreneurship. The goals for the student are to: Understand the values and forces that shape business; Discover mechanisms through which to assist a business; and Develop academic, critical thinking, civic and communications skills. The students supervised by practitioners get the opportunity to develop these skills by providing free financial advice to clients in areas of Market strategy, Business planning, Funding, accounting, data analytics and targeted marketing surveys. This allows students to get a valuable real life experience while the clients receive a free guidance to help them with their business.
4. QConsult: An award-winning programme that places interdisciplinary teams of students into mini consultancy projects in businesses and charities. Organisations are able to solve a business challenge while providing a real-life opportunity where students can apply their knowledge and skills. Students receive pre-project training, project coaching and a post-project reflective session from Careers staff, ensuring participants are able to apply learning from their experience.
5. Social Impact communication: Data from all these activities will be developed, to evaluate and disseminate the impact of student knowledge exchange activities, alongside a high-level programme of thought-leadership and public engagement activities and workshops to integrate the social change interests of East London’s private and Third Sectors. This will be shared through online blogs, and a regular events’ series aimed at students, commercial companies and charities in London.
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