What has been the impact of the programme on students and challenge hosts so far?
The impact of SACHA on students
The Students as Change Agents programme (SACHA) has been running since 2019 and in that time, has seen over 450 students and 21 challenge hosts benefit from its innovative approach. We have had over 90% satisfaction rate and over 88% of participants would recommend the programme to their friends. Students report on their development directly after each programme and recently we asked change agents dating back to the first pilot (2.5 years ago) to reflect on the long-term impact of the programme. They all reported development of skills and confidence in a wide range of areas, mostly around teamwork, communication, overcoming challenges, problem solving and collaborating online. Other skills highlighted were creativity, design thinking, using data to solve problems, critical thinking, leadership, time and project management, report writing, multi-media creation and research. The most important impact on all participants was increased self-awareness.
[My greatest takeaway] maybe it’s courage. I’ve learnt for sure how to beat the fear of failing.
SACHA helped me work out what is special about me. I discovered that I am good at creative problem solving and coming up with ideas that other people don't think of. It was really validating to feel that way and it has given me a confidence boost going forwards.
Working in an intense team environment on real-world challenges has helped students make meaningful connections with peers from across the university and often establish long-term friendships. They have also built their professional networks and some have managed to secure internships, work experience and jobs as a result.
Change agents have valued the University’s commitment to creating a unique space for them to develop personally and professionally and prepare them for the future workplace. SACHA has given them the opportunity to do something meaningful with their time at university, particularly during the Covid lockdown when many students felt isolated and aimless. Participants recognise that the University is serious about actively contributing to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, and that they have a part to play in this, in collaboration with challenge hosts.
Students as Change Agents simply means realising the impact one can make and that having a position of authority is not the only way to expect change in this world.
How students have applied their SACHA learning in other areas of their life
The programme aims to create lifelong change agents, who understand the power and responsibility they have to effect change and develop the skills to make that happen. Previous participants have used their increased confidence and drive to develop their ideas, some as business ideas, speak at conferences on the challenge topic and become more involved in volunteering, advocacy and social action.
The majority of change agents so far have applied their skills in their university studies (mainly communication, critical thinking, and digital communication). Those closer to graduation have been able to use them professionally – in job applications and interviews and, in some cases, to open up job opportunities:
- One of our first Change Agents went on to become a Consultant with UNICEF, having capitalised on the connections she made during SACHA with the challenge host, UN’s Global Partnership to End Violence against Children.
- From our recent spring programme, a Change Agent secured employment with the partner they had been working with, Pivot Earth.
- Another Change Agent used their SACHA experience across two programmes to secure a job at a charity which later became a challenge host after hearing about how they could benefit from the programme.
- Some students have started working with Edinburgh Innovations to develop their ideas into businesses.
It helped me get an internship for the summer. I worked on fuel poverty during SACHA. During my internship I will be analysing thermal satellite data and again considering energy efficiency and heat from buildings.
The impact of SACHA on challenge hosts
Through their involvement in SACHA our host organisations gain an amazing insight into how creative and committed our students can be when they work together and see students’ passion to make a difference in the world. They experience design thinking and data informed innovation in action. They benefit from fresh thinking about endemic challenges which is presented to them in 5 minute videos and short, highly visual reports which bring each group’s ideas to life and can be shared more widely in the host organisation and beyond. We estimate that hosts benefit from approximately 900 hours of student time per challenge topic.
SACHA allows host organisations to evidence their commitment to contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Many of our hosts have taken the students’ ideas forward, allowing them to influence policy and service delivery. For example:
- The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children has incorporated students’ ideas into a framework which was presented to the United Nations.
- Alcohol Focus Scotland used their groups’ ideas to contribute to a collective response to the Scottish Government Alcohol Marketing consultation.
I genuinely think that especially at a time like just now, when there are just so many challenges for the music industry, that having such insightful and really well articulated ideas has really given us a lot of food for thought, and it will totally inform our work so, please recognise the importance of this work, especially at this time for our industry.