Impact Challenge

Impact Challenge is a unique opportunity for University of Birmingham, Newman University and University College Birmingham students and graduates to gain valuable work experience.

You will develop skills, strengths and confidence, whilst working on exciting projects within the West Midlands region which have a meaningful social or community focus. The main dates for Impact Challenge are Monday 21 June to Friday 25 June 2021.


Impact Challenge is a one week high intensive virtual work experience opportunity for students/graduates from the West Midlands and from under-represented backgrounds. The week involves working in small groups on a particular project that is set by a local organisation. Full training will be provided to support you in delivering to the brief. At the end of the week, each group is asked to present back their output(s) to the local organisation. The programme will be delivered online. 


We are pleased to announce that the following employers will be taking part in Impact Challenge 2021. Open the sections below to see this years Impact Challenge projects.

Birmingham Women's & Children's NHS Foundation Trust

About the organisation

Acute NHS Trust, Women’s, Children’s and Mental Health services.

The Trust provides health care to both the local population and the wider nation as a tertiary Centre for specialised services.  The Trust employs nearly 6000 staff across a broad range of careers in the centre of Birmingham and other parts of Birmingham.

The Trust is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion and ensuring that the workforce is representative of the communities it serves, across services and roles at all levels, however recognises that there is a lot of work to do to achieve that fully.

Tackling equality, diversity and inclusion also has a direct impact on not only the resourcing of our NHS but a wider scope and ability to impact on health inequalities.

Project Title: External Review

An external review of how inclusive our recruitment practices are as a Trust, in particular those communities that are considered furthest away from the job market, which could include finding out information about the Trust, how to apply and how to be your best at interview.

The Diversity and Inclusivity working group has had a strong presence in the organisation for several years, but most recently it has taken the task of improving its recruitment and staff inclusivity elements. Inviting prospective new employees to work with us to review pathways and resources and help us recognise what is working well and what new ideas and recommendations they are able to make would be timely and welcome. Students can bring their own lived experience as part of the impact challenge and present to the IDEA working group, which also feeds into our Trust level Inclusion Committee leading on these pieces of work.

The key outcomes of the project

Surveying partners, staff and gaining rich feedback, helping to develop improvement plans and influencing the inclusion strategy for the Trust moving forwards to improve the following areas specifically:

Improving accessibility to employment at the Trust through improving recruitment, interviewing and on-boarding processes to be more supportive and inclusive.

Improving staff well-being and benefits services to be more supportive and inclusive. 


The Trust Board, recruitment teams alongside staff experience teams at BWC will welcome this external support for ensuring its materials and processes are able to attract a more diverse workforce using supportive and inclusive methods.  

BT Group

About the employer:

BT are one of the world's leading communications services companies. The services we sell are integral to modern life.  Our purpose is as simple as it is ambitious: we connect for good.

Connectivity, computation, and competition are changing faster today than ever before. Customer needs are rapidly changing and new technologies will disrupt how we work today. As competitive dynamics intensify, we need to be proactive innovators in the industry. We’ve always thrived on change and innovation. It’s a fundamental part of our 170 year heritage. Technology is at the heart of our business, and we’ll be a driving force in making sure we achieve our ambition of who we want to be in ten years’ time: by 2030, we want to be the world’s most trusted connector of people, devices and machines.

We’re in a unique position. We have all the tools in the kit bag to turn ambition into reality. It’s both a responsibility and an opportunity - and not without its challenges.

We’ve announced to the city that we’ll increase our fibre to the premises target to 20 million by the mid- to late-2020s. And, as part of the next phase of our modernisation programme to be a leaner, simpler and more agile organisation, we’ll radically modernise and simplify the way we work to help our customers, and our colleagues.

Our customers need networks and systems they can rely on which is why our innovation makes BT so different. Did you know we’re the third largest UK investor in research and development over the last decade?

BT consists of a number of business units.  Our unit, BT Technology, delivers BT’s technical strategy - covering our technology estate, IT systems, processes and networks. Essentially, everything we use to deliver our technology capabilities to the rest of BT. To find out more, visit the BT website

Project Title: The journey to an agile mindset change plan

In our quest in BT Technology to become leaner, simpler and a more agile organisation, simplifying the way we work, we need to transition to agile skills and mindsets. 

Our strategic programmes team have historically worked on traditional waterfall Technology programme and project deliveries.  When a whole team has worked in a traditional waterfall mindset for the majority of their careers how should that team plan to fundamentally change the way they think and what do they need to develop an agile mindset?

What change plan would you recommend for our team?

We have different generations of employees from Baby boomers through to generation x to z who may be unaware of their generation characteristics and their effect of change adoption success.

This is a strategic and cultural change challenge where we want you to bring your enthusiasm, innovation and communication skills to propose the change journey our team needs to go on to develop an agile mindset to support our company transformation.

Key outcomes of the project:

Present to us a 6 month change and development plan for our team of 10 managers and senior managers that:

  1. Defines what you understand to be an agile mindset
  2. Proposes a set of activities for our team to complete (whilst we expect this may include some training recommendations, our particular interest would be around wider change management activities and behavioural traits)
  3. Clearly articulates the set of outcomes each activity aims to address on our agile mindset change journey

Some pointers for you:

  • What material would you present to our team to convince the team why we need to change our mindset?
  • What strategies would you propose to both surface and manage resistance to change?
  • Can our team really change and develop an agile mindset?
  • Would you propose any differing generational change strategies?
  • What behaviours and traits may our team have today from traditional waterfall programme / project delivery and what would we need to start, stop and change to switch to those needed in agile delivery?
  • Assume we do not have a training and development budget (but our team does all have access to LinkedIn learning, free online learning, free subscription journals etc).
  • Also assume that we have still not returned to face to face office working (due to Covid) and your activity suggestions can be ran remotely through Microsoft Teams meetings. 


  • You will bring a fresh pair of eyes, we are sure you will suggest activity ideas for team change that we won’t have thought of or may have shied away from!
  • As an independent view, from an academic outsider, your view will not been seen to have bias in our team.  You will give us insight into new academic and industry theories of approaching this shift to agile differently.
  • We will put ideas from your journey to an agile mindset change plans into action as we set our team development goals to transform the skills on our team in 2021. 

Health Education England

About the employer

Health Education England (HEE) exists to support the delivery of excellent healthcare and health improvement to the patients and public of England by ensuring that the workforce of today and tomorrow has the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours, at the right time and in the right place.

Project Title: Employer Supported Volunteering

To sell the idea of employer supported volunteering and benefits to CEOs within NHS Trusts. Please feel free to be creative!

The key outcomes of the project

Look at the evidence base for employer supported volunteering and employee / community / organisation benefit  - think about key messages and the best way to present benefit outcomes to CEOs.

Think of innovative / creative ways to publicise the initiative and get buy in at senior level.


Help raise the profile of volunteering and the benefits for employees (well-being and other benefits). Support the wellbeing of NHS staff at a time when they need it the most.  

Innovation Alliance

About the employer:

Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands catalyses innovation across the West Midlands innovation ecosystem. We focus on companies that are active or interested in science- and technology-based innovation.

Basically, our job is to talk to people and companies who are thinking creatively and working in the innovation space and to get them connected to opportunities. They might be making new products like electric cars, healthcare apps, or XR experiences. They might be designing new ways of doing things, like making a building product carbon-neutral, redesigning manufacturing processes, or integrating VR into the Low Carbon and Healthcare sectors. Visit Innovation Alliance website here 

Project Title: New Voices of Innovation Campaign

In 2020, Innovate UK carried out a large-scale research project to explore the relationship between innovation and social disadvantage. The report established a direct correlation; people who experienced disadvantage as a result of gender, race, class, age, and/or ability were significantly less likely to participate in innovation.

We created the New Voices of Innovation Campaign in response to this research. Our goal is to reshape the West Midlands’ innovation ecosystem by making it more diverse and inclusive.

Identifying and promoting relatable role models and mentors, specifically for disadvantaged young people who don’t view entrepreneurship and innovation as a viable career path, is a key objective of our New Voices of Innovation campaign. Perceptions and experiences of discrimination and a feeling of not fitting in contribute to this exclusion—or even stigmatisation in the case of those with disabilities. Innovate UK's research identified that people from certain backgrounds reported a limited knowledge of and access to networks and support initiatives. This resulted in a lack of confidence that led to people ruling themselves out from starting a business.

For the purposes of the Impact Challenge, we are asking your help with the following:

  • Planning and delivering a social media marketing campaign aimed towards disadvantaged young people on social platforms they are likely to use (e.g. Instagram/TikTok). 

The key outcomes of the project

Over the course of the week, we will ask you to consider the following areas when developing your social media marketing campaign.

Things to consider:

  • Which segment of the target audience you are deciding to focus on (can be multiple)
  • Research how others have tried to approach the same challenge to inspire your thinking.
  • How will you reach them / which platform(s) will you use and why?
  • At what age are you trying to influence them from and why?
  • How will you explain what innovation and entrepreneurship mean in a way they will understand?
  • How will you make the idea of innovation feel accessible?
  • How can you help tackle ‘imposter syndrome’?
  • How will you make your ideas fun and engaging?
  • Consider how long/short your messaging needs to be to keep the target audience engaged.
  • Consider and suggest who should create content for the campaign after the Impact Challenge.


  • Create a PowerPoint presentation to explain your strategy and present back to us at the end of the week
  • Bring your ideas to life through a series of posts on your chosen platform(s) and include them in your presentation


Most of our team is over 30-years-old, which means that we don’t have lived experience of being a young person right now. We are also a very small team. And while our life experiences vary greatly from person to person, we would really benefit from hearing additional perspectives on how we can make the New Voices of Innovation Campaign more accessible.

Your work over this week will help develop the way we approach and inspire young people in the West Midlands through our New Voices of Innovation Campaign.

The New Voices of Innovation Campaign works towards ensuring that the next generation of innovators comes from a rich and diverse variety of backgrounds and that they are part of an ecosystem characterised by inclusion, encouragement, and support.

Diversity fuels creativity. Creativity sparks innovation. And innovation grows the economy.

As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need a variety of diverse perspectives to be part our rebuilding the economy and positioning the West Midlands region for exponential growth. A diverse innovation ecosystem will create products and services that meet our region’s diverse needs and ultimately make the West Midlands a great place for everyone to live, work, and play.

We cannot tell you how much we value your perspectives. Additional information about this work and the research carried out can be found on our Supporting Diversity and Inclusion and Innovation blog.


About the employer:

Sainsburys is one of the big four supermarket chains, having started from a small grocer shop in Drury Lane in 1869, Sainsbury’s now operates in over 1000 locations across the country.

The business now includes Argos, Habitat, Nectar and Sainsbury’s Bank. Visit Sainsburys website here 

Project Title: Getting to Know Our Colleagues

At Sainsburys, we want to get to know our colleagues better than anyone else. Having an in-depth knowledge of the people that make up our organisation allows us to make better decisions for our colleagues and prioritise certain areas of work.

Diversity information such as religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability status or caring responsibilities really helps us to understand our colleague base. Currently, our colleagues are only legally obliged to disclose their gender.

Following a systems migration, we now have the capability for our colleagues to record their diversity information, however, many of our colleagues have never offered this information to us, because there was not the facility to do so.

We’d like you to help us identify ways that we can increase the confidence of our colleagues to share their diversity information with us.

The key outcomes of the project:

  • Better rates of diversity information declaration from all colleagues across the business.
  • We’d like to see a robust plan for how we can tackle this challenge with suggestions for campaigns or other ways of engaging our colleagues.


This will allow us to better get to know our colleagues and make better decisions for the business.

Smart Works

About the employer

Smart Works Birmingham opened in August 2016 to support unemployed women in the region through the Smart Works dressing and interview coaching service. We give our clients a complete outfit of clothes and accessories (theirs to keep) and we provide one-to-one preparation training so they feel more confident and start believing in their own ability to succeed.

The two hours our clients spend with us can be transformative. All of our Smart Works service delivery is provided by a team of highly skilled, fully trained volunteers and all our stock is donated through other working women or directly from our retail partners such as: Hobbs, M&S, Burberry, Whistles and Evans.

In response to the pandemic, Smart Works now offers a one-hour career coaching session to support women in securing an interview. Visit the Smart Works website here 

Project Title: School Leavers Outreach 2021

To engage with final year students before they leave school and introduce the Smart Works Service.

We would like the students to target 6 schools within Birmingham (ideally from areas right across the city). Task would include:

  • Map out the demographics of each school
  • What % are expected to go onto Higher Education or enter the workplace?
  • Comparison with previous year.
  • What career support they have had in the past 12 months?
  • Marketing plan for the next academic year to engage with pupils before they finish.

The key outcomes of the project

  • To identify potential clients who would benefit from our service.
  • To reach out to those students who may not have support within their home environments.
  • To create a Marketing Plan that we can put into action from September with help from our university interns/volunteers.
  • To grow the number of young people that we support.


This year more than any other we have seen the disparity in educational support for pupils from the wealthiest areas compared to those from deprived areas. With so many schools in lockdown over the past 12 months, careers support has been at the very best limited. This research will help us to target those individuals and start to offer support throughout the final school year.

Unity Trust Bank

About the employer:

Unity Trust Bank is a Commercial Bank with a social conscience. From our Head Office in Central Birmingham, we have exciting growth plans and an aim to deliver a professional, first class service to our customers. We are the bank for organisations and businesses that aim to create community, social or environmental benefit in a financially sustainable way. We seek to put social change at the heart of everything we do by offering specialist banking and finance to organisations that have a positive impact on their communities. Visit Unity Bank website here.

Project Title: Social Media Review

To review our social media pages across Twitter and LinkedIn as well as our website (which is due an imminent update and review), to identify if those channels are working effectively to attract the right type of customers we are looking for. This being: businesses that aim to create community, social or environmental benefit in a financially sustainable way and are those channels inclusive in reaching all areas of society including those who may be vulnerable to being disadvantaged. It would also be useful to have feedback on accessibility and ease of use for the website particularly.

The key outcomes of the project:

Provide outsider review and make suggestions to improve the bank's Social Media strategy and website ensuring it is effective and inclusive in attracting the right audience to help us build a better society. 


  • Help us to make sure we are reaching out to the right customers and they can find us and use our services easily when they need us.
  • Ensure we are using the channels in a way that adds value to our customers and are sharing content these customers/potential customers or followers of the bank find useful, enriching and adds value to their business.
  • Ensure we are reaching all areas of society who need us and are not indirectly restricting access to our services via these channels.

West Midlands Police & Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

About the employer

West Midlands Police is a diverse organisation which has a number of core responsibilities – protecting the public and preventing crime, but also delivering policing at high profile events.
Visit West Midlands Police website here

Project 1: West Midlands Police (WMP) security operation supporting the Commonwealth Games 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay (QBR)

The aim of this project is to formulate a comprehensive social media strategy to help deliver the main objectives of the security operation.

The Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay is the main lead up event to the Games in July 2022.  A baton carrying a message from the Queen is carried around the Commonwealth and then the UK before arriving at the Opening Ceremony on 28 July 2022.  WMP are responsible for the safety of the baton and the runners during its time in the UK. The QBR is an opportunity for the force to engage with communities and promote the ‘safe and secure’ key message around the Games.

The Birmingham 2022 team will take the lead in QBR communications however WMP’s involvement will also provide material the force can use to promote our key message of delivering a safe and secure Commonwealth Games.

Project 2: Knowledge Hub: Improving employees' engagement in a new online platform.

Improve interest and membership levels for a new information sharing platform used in planning policing operations.

What barriers are there to the new platform?

How to market the product internally in West Midlands Police?

How to market the product externally to 42 other police areas?

We envisage a marketing plan & strategy being developed to engage with potential members and encourage them to sign up to the platform.

The key outcomes of the project

Project 1: To design a comprehensive social media strategy to engage as many communities and demographics as possible – focusing on youth audiences who may not usually engage with police communications. 

Project 2: An increase in membership and use of the Knowledge Hub platform internally & externally. Resulting in legacy benefits for West Midlands Police, other Police regions and partner agencies. The development of a business & marketing plan for the new platform to encourage employees to sign up and use the program for information sharing, operational briefing, networking and mutual learning development.


Project 1: A positive social media strategy will increase awareness about the event and WMP’s role in it – stimulating and strengthening relationships between WMP and a wide range of communities. Improving community relations is one of the force’s ‘legacy’ objectives following the Games.

Project 2: The benefits include organisational change and with that an improved engagement method for sharing information relating to the planning & preparation of policing operations. An improved service to the public, partners & the communities. Within large organisations there tends to be resistance to change and this inertia is something to factor into the project.

Be innovative & creative but also realistic with your marketing plans.

Key Dates

To fully commit to Impact Challenge, please bear in mind the following key dates:

  • Applications open: Thursday 25 March 2021
  • Application deadline: Friday 30 April 2021 (23:59)
  • Applications review: Monday 3 May - Friday 14 May 2021
  • Applicants to hear on the outcome of their application: Week commencing Monday 24 May 2021
  • Impact Challenge main event: Monday 21 - Friday 25 June 2021 

What will I gain from attending?

""Learn and see first-hand how a local organisation operates and how you can make an impact to their business. 

We work with a range of employers in the region to understand their needs and where you can support them, especially if they have limited resources to reach their vision. 


TEAM = Together, Everyone, Achieves, More

To support these employers with their objectives, you'll work in a small group with students from a range of disciplines, year groups and different universities.

This opportunity will help you to gain stronger interpersonal skills, leadership , management, team working and negotiation skills. You will develop financial and business literacy and digital skills. You will also explore your strengths and interests in order to find a career that is right for you and build your professional network, adding to your Linkedin profile.

Training: Project management, Presentations, Commercial awareness

We will provide training sessions on project management, commercial awareness, decision making, teamwork and delivering effective presentations. All of this will help you and your team generate impactful ideas and recommendations for your employer.

Your group will also be assigned a mentor to guide you through your project brief, offer suggestions and act as a sounding board. 

We will also give you a £20 voucher for completing the Impact Challenge!

Eligibility and sign up

Applications are only open to undergraduate Penultimate, Final Year students and Recent Graduates from a Bachelors degree and who are from the West Midlands region. For this project, we define the West Midlands as: Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country (Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall, Wolverhampton), Coventry and Warwickshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Telford and Wrekin, and Worcestershire.

In addition to the above, applicants who consider themselves a part of one or more of the following categories may apply:

  • In receipt of a standard or alternative A2B (Access to Birmingham) and (Pathways to Birmingham) offer (University of Birmingham students/graduates only)
  • Registered as disabled / in receipt of Disability Student Allowance
  • A care leaver
  • First generation of the family into higher education
  • From a lower income background i.e. in receipt of a grant or scholarship
  • A lone parent (you are a single parent of one or more children)
  • From an ethnic minority background

How to apply:

Please note, places will be offered on a first come, first served basis. If all places get filled, we will add you to a waiting list. Priority access will be given to those who have not previously participated in Impact Challenge.

You can select 3 organisations you would like to work with over the course of the week. If successful, you will only be paired with one organisation.

To make your application, please complete the short application via the link below:  


Student Reviews

""Humaira Ravat
BA English Language and Literature

I really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet new people and work with a small local business. It was incredibly rewarding to see the impact we made. I have learned to use my initiative when solving problems and it has given me the confidence to present to large audiences.

""Ayesha Islam
BA Theology and Religion

Our group worked with the Chinese Community Centre to help them find out how effective the centre is to people. Visiting the centre was fun, I felt like I was on a professional business trip but still safe as everyone around me was so kind. I have gained confidence into exploring my career choice.... and I am open to new experiences.

""Blessing Panache Nhundu
BSc Sport and Exercise Studies

The Impact Challenge has already helped me because I have now done two placements and in the process of starting two businesses. By completing the Impact Challenge, I had the foundation I needed to boost my confidence to take on more opportunities that summer.  


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