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This is a guest blog by BA (Hons) Business & Management student Abbie Wilson. Abbie shares what it was like to complete the new Hacking for Sustainability Project unit.

Being one of the first students to complete the Hacking for Sustainability final year project unit* on the BA (Hons) Business & Management degree, I’d like to provide a real account of my own experience, what I think you can expect from the unit, and offer you some top tips.

In the Hacking for Sustainability unit, we were tasked with solving a challenging sustainability problem faced by the Ministry of Defence. I chose to do this project unit after listening to the information talks and I decided I wanted to challenge myself and do something I’d never done. I wanted to put myself well and truly out of my comfort zone and so I adopted a no risk, no reward mentality and took the plunge.

My group’s project focused on improving the education system for the Military. It involved 10 weeks of online interviews with a range of different ranked soldiers, weekly meetings with our problem sponsors, weekly meetings as a group, the creation of three strong solutions to the problems, writing an 8,000-word report on our findings, and finally, the creating and presenting of said solutions to a room full of evaluators.

It was eight months of constant re-evaluating, brainstorming, talking, questioning, innovating, uncertainty, highs, lows, frustration, and excitement. This project was the most challenging thing I’d ever done academically but being able to contribute to solving a real-world problem was the best thing I’ve done in preparing myself for life after university.

At the beginning of the project, I struggled with public speaking and conflict management, however, I can now confidently say that completing this project has been the reason I’ve been able to conquer these fears and turn them into valuable skills for the future.

So, what can you expect from this project? You should definitely expect a challenge, expect frustration and uncertainty. This project is not an easy option. However, it is the most rewarding. Once you get to grips with the problem statement, the ball starts rolling and it starts to make a LOT more sense.

Expect to push yourself, learn new skills, and be proud of something real. You have the power to make a difference in real life. Not to mention, all the benefits you will gain from completing the project, such as; boosting your CV, having a chance to have your solutions implemented after university, networking opportunities, job opportunities, etc.

My team is currently in the process of having our solutions implemented within the British Army. I am so incredibly glad that I did this project and I would really recommend it to anyone who wants to make a difference or wants more from their time at university.

My top tips

  • Write down notes from EVERY interview your group conducts.

Write down the key things that are said, key issues, or anything else memorable. You will thank yourself when it comes to writing the report at the end of the project and it will make your life infinitely easier.

  • Ask questions. Many questions. As many as possible.

The more you discover in the beginning the quicker you can grasp what is going on and what you can do about it. Lean on your problem sponsors and especially your industry mentors.

  • Communicate, with your team, your lecturers, and with the other groups on the course.

Constantly talking about the project and the progress of your project helps to generate ideas and consider things you may have only considered 6 months later. Since the other groups on the course had different problem statements to us, we weren’t in competition with them, and talking to them about our project gave us clarity.

Lastly, I encourage you to meet up with your group outside of uni. The better relationships you build, the easier it is to succeed within this project, and the better your presentation will flow at the end of the project.

*The Hacking for Sustainability Project unit is not available to choose from on the Entrepreneurship pathway of the BA (Hons) Business & Management degree.

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