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Creating consistent and intentional impact through youth social action at Student Hubs


“Impact and improvement” refers to work that you can do to both understand the changes that your work contributes to and make this even better as part of an ongoing, data-driven process. The Impact and Improvement Standards offer a way to do this through a structured and supported process of self-assessment and improvement planning.

In this blog, Sophie Payne shares examples of how the team at Student Hubs have worked towards achieving the College’s Impact and Improvement Standards, and how the standards can support intentional design, delivery, and learning practices.

Over the past fifteen years, Student Hubs has been connecting university students engaged in social action. Since 2012, when we launched our first internal programme - Schools Plus - a large part of our work has been structured opportunities for students to act as near-to-peer support in programmes targeted at young people in the community. In this regard, we are a youth social action charity delivering a double benefit for both the university students who engage with our programmes, and the young people and other community members they work with.

We were delighted to have the opportunity to work with Catherine Mitchell at YMCA George Williams College, improving our work through the Impact and Improvement Standards. This followed on smoothly from previous work we had done with the Centre for Youth Impact (before it became the College) to improve the standards and evaluation practices of our youth-focused work. This blog shares some of the practices we have put in place to codify our approach and ensure it is having a consistent and intentional impact on the young people we reach.


Being consistent

As a youth social action charity, a lot of the impact happening in the community isn’t being delivered directly by a staff member, but instead by trained student participants from our partner universities. This impact includes developing young people’s social and emotional skills at activity days, building the academic confidence of local school pupils through tutoring, and reflecting on positive relationships with young people during mentoring.

Our model works well for us, and we have established techniques for training and supporting university students. However, as a network organisation we recognised we needed something to improve the consistency of this approach being implemented across locations, members of staff, and communities.

To introduce better consistency, in summer 2022 we created programme quality frameworks. These are frameworks which capture all the core tasks involved in working with partners, student coordinators, and student participants. This provides us clarity on what we are delivering [item 1.2 in the Standards] and acts as a provision handbook or manual [item 4.3 in the Standards] for our work.

When it comes to supporting the young people that we work with in the local community, key areas of this framework include:

  • Discussing with community partners which young people will benefit from our programmes
  • Setting up, collecting, and analysing feedback from young people
  • Supporting student project leaders to collate monitoring data about the young people

So far, implementation of the frameworks has been successful and, whilst it’s still early days, we have seen three key benefits. Firstly, it has made it easier for new members of our staff team to pick up programmes and deliver them to a high quality from day one. Secondly, we have just supported student leaders to collect our first full round of feedback directly from young people, which is being analysed as we speak and will undoubtedly be useful in proving and improving our work. Finally, we have better clarity on who we’re working with and how we’re impacting them, which allows us to be even more intentional with our work and activities moving forward.

The challenges will continue to be explored over the coming years - how can we embed these practices for consistency in our approach to working with young people to grow year on year? How can we review and utilise feedback from young people in a meaningful way? How can we continue to build youth participation and voice into our activities? What we will definitely do is continue to reflect and share as these practices develop and grow year on year across changing staff teams. 

Being intentional

The programme quality framework has also supported us to focus our work and improvements through two other tools which codify our intentions.

Firstly, throughout the 2022-23 academic year we used the Asking Good Questions framework to identify mechanisms of change and logic models for each of our activities. This included reviewing best practice and research from across the sector, to ensure we are operating in an informed and intentional way. Reviewing this research annually is now part of our programme quality framework. The Asking Good Questions framework has provided clarity of aim [item 1.3 in the Standards] and clarity of ‘core’ and ‘flex’ components [item 2.4 in the Standards].

mechanism of change is a core component/factor that helps or hinders someone to experience an outcome – something they experience ‘in the moment’ that creates or affects change. For example, “young people feel trusted and respected by staff.”

Secondly, activity checklists were developed based on the mechanisms of change for each programme, and mechanisms identified to support social and emotional development for young people in the SEL PQA. These activity checklists are being used by staff on project visits to review whether the environment being created is in line with one that will support the outcomes we are aiming to achieve. This new process will hopefully support us with analysis, reflection, and action on data about quality [item 5.6 in the Standards].

The College’s tools have allowed me to have so much more confidence in the impact we are having for the young people we work with, and measure and communicate this effectively. The next steps we’re working on to improve the quality and evaluation of our impact are around youth participation and further codifying our current approach, based on a review of the Impact and Improvement Standards. If you’re considering working with YMCA George Williams College I would highly recommend it.


Sophie Payne is the Network Director at Student Hubs. As part of her role, she supports the quality, consistency and impact evaluation of Student Hubs programmes. 




There are three ways to use the Impact and Improvement Standards at your organisation:

  1. Use the self-assessment to explore how thoroughly and consistently you are doing each impact and improvement activity
  2. Take part in free coaching to develop your impact and improvement practice
  3. Work towards the certificate, to internally and externally recognise your ongoing commitment to impact and improvement (awarded or renewed annually)

Get in touch with to find out more, or use this code to fill out a registration form:

II qr code