Hacking environmental challenges

Birkbeck students hack their way to the top prize at Creative Hackathon hosted by six London Universities.

On Friday 25 January 2019, 70 students across six London universities kicked off a Creative Hackathon to develop innovative ideas to do something amazing and tackle some of the big environmental challenges facing London.

Among the group were 15 Birkbeck students who teamed up with their peers at University of the Arts London, University of East London, Loughborough University London, London South Bank University and UCL to form a range of teams who all pitched their ideas to a judging panel at the end of the hack on Saturday 26 January.

The event was organised by the six universities to inspire students to enter this year’s Mayor’s Entrepreneur competition, which has introduced a Creative sector category for the first time. Hosted at Loughborough University London’s campus at Here East in the Olympic Park, students heard from various speakers throughout the event including Omer El Fakir, Founding Partner at Blocks Wearables and previous competition runner up. Ryan Robinson, Co-Founder of Aeropowder joined the line up of speakers to inspire the teams while they also took part in a pitching masterclass and ideation session.

11 teams pitched their ideas to the judges with the winners, Team Cre8, taking the top prize for their sustainable start-up proposal and leaving with £2,000. Birkbeck students Sharmarke Gabayre, BSc Information Systems and Management, and Silvana Tavano, MA Digital Media Management, are part of Team Crea8 and are looking forward to entering their business idea into the Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition next month with their teammates.

Students were able to build networks with like-minded people who are keen to make a difference, by fostering new collaborations to continue working on their innovative ideas.

Applications for the Mayor’s Entrepreneur competition close on the 17 February with finalists pitching to a judging panel in City Hall later in the year.

. Reply . Category: College . Tags: , , , ,

Pioneer students talk lean business with successful bootstrapped entrepreneurs

Birkbeck’s aspiring entrepreneurs attended the third event in this year’s Pioneer programme, to learn how to grow a business with minimal resources from those who’ve done it.

On Saturday 12 January, Birkbeck’s Pioneer programme continued with over 120 students attending a morning of interactive talks from two successful entrepreneurs on lean business. Having gained tips and advice around innovation and ideation in session one, followed by different types of entrepreneurship in session two, students started to get actions in place to move their business ideas forward.

First up, Carlos Saba, Co-Founder of The Happy Start-up School took students on a journey to finding purpose in their business ideas, after a quick meditation session to get us all focused. Mindfulness and happiness are two areas that weaved their way throughout Carlos’ talk and it was clear that students related to this approach when thinking of their business ventures ahead of them.

Students were set a challenge to think about their ‘Happy Value Statement’, a tool included in the organisation’s Stop Dreaming Start Doing e-course, which is about “communicating what you do in the terms of solving people’s problems or making their lives better.” Carlos reiterated the importance of being more customer focused to help students get a clearer idea of the real value they are offering.

Part two of the session welcomed Julie Creffield, Founder of global fitness movement Too Fat to Run and award-winning blogger, author and life coach, to share her start-up story in successfully bootstrapping her business. Julie’s session provided a great follow on from Carlos, giving students practical examples and advice on getting their business started and beyond with minimal resources.

The big message of the day was to Think Bigger; aiming higher than you initially thought of and setting the bar beyond what you think is possible. Julie works with organisations globally to think bigger, behave better and make more of an impact and this message spurred students to take action after the workshop, ready to push forward with their ventures.

The Pioneer programme, in partnership with Santander Universities, takes students on a journey to develop their business ideas and their entrepreneurial skills. The monthly workshops continue in February with a hands-on pitching workshop.

. Read all 3 comments . Category: College . Tags: , , , , , , ,

Mechanics’ Institutes: celebration and survival

Jonathan Woodhead, Policy Adviser at Birkbeck, reports on the 2018 Mechanics’ Institute Australia (MIA) conference, where he explored the College’s origins as the London Mechanics’ Institute, under the leadership of George Birkbeck and its continued endurance.

In November 2018, I spoke at the Mechanics’ Institute Australia (MIA) conference in Ballarat, Victoria. MIA 2018, hosted by the Mechanics’ Institute Victoria (MIV) at the Ballarat Mechanics’ Institute, was a conference held every three to four years highlighting the work of the Mechanics’ Institute movement in Australia. So why was this important to Birkbeck?

As we approach our 200th anniversary in 2023, I, along with other colleagues in Birkbeck, am revisiting some of our history and origins. Birkbeck as it now is started out life as the London Mechanics’ Institute (LMI) in 1823 and George Birkbeck was its first Chairman. George Birkbeck had been involved in establishing part of this Mechanics’ Institute movement in Glasgow, in the 1800s. Later Mechanics’ Institutes were set up in Edinburgh, London and Liverpool. This movement was bottom-up, non-conformist had no hierarchical structure or formalised grouping. They later emerged in other industrial cities and towns such as Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Swindon and Bury.

These ideas were rapidly taken up by parts of the now Commonwealth and are particularly prevalent in Australia and New Zealand and some institutes are even still going strong in the USA. The Mechanics’ Institutes were designed to provide learning ‘the diffusion of knowledge’ and learning space (outside the office or factory) so that the ‘mechanics’ (a nineteenth-century term which meant anyone in a skilled trade) could learn more about their own industry and take their skills to a higher level or learn something new like history, art or literature.

Most of the Institutes outside of the UK have retained a community feel and remained in the heart of the community, often as community libraries or lecture theatres. However, many of the UK-based Institutes grew in stature and gradually turned into Universities such as Heriot-Watt, Huddersfield and, of course, Birkbeck.

MIA 2018’s theme was ‘Celebration and Survival’ and Birkbeck’s contribution was requested partly to connect the link with George Birkbeck himself but also to share how Birkbeck’s origins from the London Mechanics Institute to its membership of the University of London has seen it survive and thrive.

The conference itself consisted of many presentations as to what was happening on a local level with the states of Australia interspersed with contributions from different parts of the UK and saw presentations on ‘The Purest of Institutes?’ by Professor Rory Duncan, Senior Academic lead for Strategy at Heriot-Watt University, the ‘Mechanics Universities’ by Dr Martyn Walker at Huddersfield University, ‘The South Wales Miner’s Library’ by Sian Williams of the University of Swansea and my own presentation on Birkbeck ‘Surviving and Striving into the Future’.  Sadly my paper is not available online but I can share a copy if needed. Please email me for a copy.

A further part of the conference saw a tour of Mechanics’ Institutes in Melbourne. Some of these were in their original form – in the case of Footscray and the Melbourne Athenaeum their original building – while others have changed use over the years. A final stop on the tour was at Prahran Mechanics’ Institute (PMI) in inner-city Melbourne. PMI is now located in a modern building after the original location was taken over by Swinburne University of Technology. Prahran is also home to the (State of) Victoria History Library. I was also able to present a second time to guests invited by the PMI.

All in all, it was a useful conference to connect with others across the international Mechanics’ Institute community and I even met two Birkbeck alumni at the conference too! The MIA is certainly a group that can help promote the wider brand of Birkbeck, as well as our history, as we approach our 200th anniversary.

. Reply . Category: College

Students continue their entrepreneurial journey with the Pioneer Programme 

Successful and aspiring entrepreneurs joined together to discuss how to grow a business and the value of authenticity.

On Saturday 1 December, the second session of Birkbeck’s Pioneer programme took place where students gained valuable advice for their business ventures from a range of entrepreneurs. Students heard from a successful freelancer, social entrepreneur as well as a specialist in growing businesses to learn about the various types of entrepreneurship.

Steve Folland, freelance video and audio producer and host of podcast ‘Being Freelance’, shared tangible guidelines for getting your first client along with his advice when starting out. He shared his experience in growing his freelance business and told students to be bold, keep meeting new people and always have a marketing focus among a plethora of other top tips and tricks.

Social entrepreneurship has proved a popular arena among Birkbeck students and Adeseye Lawal-Solarin shared his experience in setting up Young & Giving, an online platform using AI match individuals with mentors. Adeseye spoke about the importance of authenticity and the value of having advisors to support you along your journey. Entrepreneurship is a challenging route and being able to talk through the difficulties and gain thoughts from peers and advisors was a key piece of advice discussed.

The third talk of the session came from Clwyd Probert, CEO and Founder at Whitehat, who delivered an insightful session on growing a business with an effective inbound strategy. Blogging, sharing ideas and creating interest were among Clwyd’s top tips for students to enhance their ventures. A crucial discussion point was around dealing with setbacks and Clwyd advised students to ensure they gave themselves the headspace to deal with challenges that will inevitably arise.

After some fruitful networking and conversations around the different types of entrepreneurship presented, students got the chance to get their questions answered in an information-packed panel discussion. Kicking off with the topic of resilience in business, panellists revealed their key recommendations and reflections having been through the process in starting and growing their businesses. The ultimate advice? Keep pushing forward, step back to look at the context of situations, and make sure you are looking after yourself along the way.

The Pioneer programme, in partnership with Santander Universities, takes students on a journey to develop their business ideas and their entrepreneurial skills. The monthly workshops continue in the New Year.

. Reply . Category: College