Theme: Developing Health & Community
Challenge: How can we make a "healthy campus"?
External partner: KPMG
Project: "Grow with Joe" website
How did your group tackle your challenge?
The challenge we were tasked with was to create a product that would contribute to making campus healthier. About half of us initially met at a "Sandbox" event in March, where we were introduced to our challenge by our corporate sponsor KPMG. This was the first time we got to thinking about what our product would be. We brainstormed and discussed many ideas, including the idea of an edible garden but did not quite settle on anything at this stage.
After that, in June when we started the project, we didn’t quite have a clear direction for the first half of the first week and we explored quite a few ideas during this time, including the possibility of a cookbook with healthy recipes for students. By the end of the week we had decided on a student-run edible garden because we wanted a solution that tackled both the mental and physical aspects of health; our reasoning was that students would both volunteer to relax during term but also that they would be able to consume the produce which, as it would be grown locally, would be healthier than other alternatives. Over the weekend we created an online survey which gathered around 200 respondents and we had quasi-unanimous support for the creation of an edible garden which solidified our choice to focus on this idea.
What skills and experience have you developed through participating in The Birmingham Project?
Often when working in a team, especially at university, it can be tempting to adopt a somewhat chaotic approach to work and often it even works simply because the groups are smaller and groups have more time. During the Birmingham Project, however, we had quite a large group (eight students plus our Postgraduate Teaching Assistant) and a somewhat tighter timeline, so we were forced to be clear on who did what and we had to clearly structure our approach to the challenge, which was quite challenging at the beginning. This was definitely a skill we developed which is hard to come by otherwise.
In addition to this, we developed some more general skills such as finding copyright free pictures on the internet to use for our presentation, using the presentation format Prezi (which none of us had used before) and “pitching” our idea to corporate professionals. Generally, it really depended on what your role in the team was; some people worked on developing a website for our project, others contacted and held interviews with societies to see if they’d be interested in working with us. Throughout the project there was also very useful workshops held by the university which further helped us develop the skills required for the project.
What would you say to first year students considering signing up to the project?
Definitely do so! Regardless of whether you win or not, you’ll develop some valuable transferable skills which employers like to see, such as being able to work in a team with people of diverse backgrounds, being able to “sell” an idea with confidence to an audience and with any luck you’ll also make loads of new friends. Personally, not long after the project, I (Kaemel) was invited to a job interview for a summer internship and the project was a great talking point. In fact, it must have made quite an impact because I was offered the job in the end. So if you have the free time & it sounds like something you would be interested in, definitely go for it!
What was the most memorable moment?
Winning of course! Well, while having our efforts acknowledged felt great, in reality the most memorable moment of the project was probably when we met with the project team leads of the Green Heart project (the big area in the centre of campus which is being reconverted and which we hope will host our garden) during the second week of the project. Having the support of university administration and being able to discuss our ideas with them really made the project seem like something concrete, something that could happen.
What’s next for “Grow with Joe”?
After our project ended we all decided we wanted to continue with it and make it a reality. To this aim, we founded a Guild volunteering group called GrowSoc (as a volunteering group we’re free to join so if you’re interested please feel free to join us and/or like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter!) & are currently gathering volunteers.
As well as the Green Heart, we are also exploring the possibility of a smaller student-run garden in the green community at the Vale. We’ve also raised £1000 in funding from alumni to go towards equipment & hiring a garden consultant.
Overall, although it has been a challenge it does feel like we’re making progress and we will be able to see our project come to fruition.
Rob Wickett – Psychology
Dani Hatton – Bio-chemistry
Shin Wei Chong – Chemical Engineering
Chloe Philp – Sports Science
Kaemel Ragheb – Economics
Faye Kho Sing Yi – Liberal Arts & Sciences
Sarah Hamid – Psychology
Nimco Munin – Social Policy
Nadia French – PGTA (Postgraduate Teaching Assistant)