Social Innovation Programme

Develop your consultancy skills and help your community by providing innovative solutions to challenges faced by charities and social enterprises across Bristol.

Informaton icon Develop your consultancy skills and help your community by providing innovative solutions to challenges faced by charities and social enterprises across Bristol.

Location icon Various Bristol Organisations

Clock icon October - December

Applications for Branch Up volunteers for 2019/20 are now closed. Applications aim to reopen in August, which could change given the current circumstances during Covid-19.


The Social Innovation Programme is run by Bristol Hub in partnership with the independent law firm, Burges Salmon. It is an initiative which brings together talented students to work on a challenge a charity, social enterprise or community organisation is facing.

The Social Innnovation Programme is an excellent opportunity for students to apply the skills learnt throughout their degree to a tangible situation and have a positive impact on the local community.

Why do we run the Social Innovation Programme?

The increased pressure on third sector organisations to improve their efficiency and demonstrate their impact at a time of reduced funding has been problematic for many. We have identified that students are in an excellent position to support charities by adding capacity to existing projects and providing extra resources to spur new initiatives. Students bring a unique perspective and by using their specialised skills and knowledge.

What will I be doing?

Students work in teams of five, alongside a local organisation. Your team will receive a brief and over the 8 weeks, you will put together a report for your organisation, based on your findings, detailing your research and recommendations for solutions to their challenge.

You'll be working closely with your organisation throughout the programme, finding out more about them, their work and the broader social context of the challenges they are facing. You'll be conducting background research by looking at secondary data and collecting primary data, whether this is through interviews, focus groups or surveys. The scope of the programme is broad and much of the work is self-directed. You'll be guided and supported by your team mentor from Burges Salmon, and you will receive training from Bristol Hub and Burges Salmon.

As well as producing a report that will be an invaluable asset to your organisation, you'll present your findings at a showcase event at Burges Salmon. This is the perfect opportunity to practice one of those all important professional skills and finish the programme celebrating your incredibly hard work.

Here's what some of our previous participants have said about their time on the programme:

I loved working as part of a team towards something that was going to genuinely help a charity. It made it easy to spend the time doing the work as this was great motivation.


I was really moved by the value, people, and FoodCycle, the charity we worked with. I really appreciated the team I worked with, they were all wonderful, ambitious, supportive people that I want to keep in touch with.

Training and support

To equip you with the tools and support to complete your briefs as a team, Bristol Hub and Burges Salmon deliver a comprehensive training schedule as part of the programme. You will learn about:

  • Project management
  • Research design skills
  • The social impact sector
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork
  • Report writing
  • Effective public speaking

This volunteering opportunity is excellent for anyone who wants experience in consultancy or is considering a career in the social impact sector. Although you will develop key transferable skills for any career.

Bristol Hub and Burges Salmon are happy to provide a reference to anyone who completes the programme.

Throughout the programme you can contact a staff member at any point if you would like additional support, or have a concern. As part of your participation you will be required to fill out a short feedback form.

What our volunteers have said about training:

When we have problem, we can get in touch with Bristol Hub, Lydia would provide us some ideas and thoughts based on her experience, I think this is a very strong support.


We were able to learn a lot from eachother in the team as well as from our mentor at Burges Salmon. The training from Bristol Hub also gave us transferable skills.

Examples of previous challenges

  • Bristol Refugee Rights challenged students to research the need in Bristol for a 'Move On' project to support refugees to integrate and thrive.

  • Bristol Hospitality Network challenged students to explore, present and propose the possibilities for setting up a social enterprise which would use the cooking skills of its clients to provide some form of paid culinary or catering service.

  • North Bristol Foodbank challenged students to create a presentation and activity resources to take into schools in order to raise the profile of the North Bristol Foodbank as a service that either their families can access and/or a cause the pupils and their families can donate to.

Before you apply

The programme is open to undergraduate and postgraduate students, across all disciplines.

There are a few things you need to know before you apply:

  • There are 20 places on the scheme - it is competitive! So take time on your application, and prepare for your selection workshop.

  • We'll endeavour to match you with an organisation that you're interested in, but also a brief that fits with your skillset.

  • The programme is a commitment of 3-5 hours a week. Before you apply, consider whether you are able to commit the amount of time needed for both you and the charities taking part, to get the most out of the Social Innovation Programme.

  • You will need to be able to attend training sessions, the launch event and the showcase event to participate in the SIP. These take place on Wednesday afternoons throughout the eight weeks.


How to apply

  • You will need to complete and submit an online application form.

  • If your application is successful you will be invited to a selection workshop. You will be asked to complete a team challenge through which we will assess a variety of skills including: communication, problem solving, teamwork, open-mindedness and creativity.

  • You don't need any specific experience to take part in the SIP - just an interest in the social impact sector and an eagerness to learn more about consulting and make a change in the community!

Have any questions about the application process or need reasonable adjustments made? Please contact [email protected] We are inclusive and encouraging of all University of Bristol students who want to volunteer, and welcome BAME, LGBTQ+ and disabled applicants.

Key Dates:

The timeline for the Autumn 2020 programme is TBC.

Our Impact

In 2019/20 45 students and 9 organisations took part in the Social Innovation Programme.

Here's what the organisations that took part said:

It's so useful to have volunteers from outside our organisation to provide a fresh, creative set of solutions. The students came up with some unexpected ideas, and really got involved in the brief I gave them. We have already started to rethink our marketing strategy based on their suggestions.


It was great to work with Bristol Hub student consultants because they were as professional and hardworking as any group of consultants, but had young people's understanding of social media usage and channels. They took care not to assume anything about our user base, but seemed to have an intrinsic understanding of digital communications

If you want to hear more about our volunteers experiences, you can read our case studies here.

Accessibility and inclusion

Bristol Hub is committed to making our activities inclusive to all students. We can make reasonable adjustments to application processes, training sessions, volunteering projects and other activities on a case-by-case basis. We also provide ongoing support for the students we work with, so if you have particular accessibility needs, including special educational needs, please email [email protected] and let us know how we can make this activity more accessible.

This project won't cost you! Branch Up takes place on campus and locations around Bristol, so all transport and activity costs will be organised for you. We only need you to bring your own lunch, ideally a healthy lunch to set a good example for the children.

The Bristol PLUS Award

Students can get recognition for taking part in extra-curricular events and projects run by Bristol Hub through the Bristol PLUS award, which is run by the Careers Service.

The Award provides a framework for students to reflect on the skills they have gained and learn how to articulate them effectively to future employers. For more details and learn how the PLUS Award could benefit you please see the Careers website.


Information for local organisations

We invite submissions from social impact organisations including: charities, social enterprises, community interest companies and community groups.

Our requirements for setting a challenge are:

  • A problem-solving task whose outcome would be beneficial to both your organisation and the local community.

  • The programme lasts for 8 weeks, so the brief must be something that is achievable within this timeframe.

  • Your organisation will need to attend the launch and closing event, as well as staying in contact with team throughout the duration of the programme. This will make sure that they can provide consulting for you that is appropriate, informed and effective.

If you're interested in submitting a brief contact Lydia via [email protected] to find out more.


Strategic Partner

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Strategic Partner

Strategic Partner