Interview with Stephen Pomfret, Head of Collaborative Outreach, Make Happen
Make Happen is part of the Uni Connect outreach programme, run by the Office for Students, and based at the University of Essex.
What kind of work have you been doing this week?
I have literally just taken up my new role! I’m the new Head of Collaborative Outreach for Make Happen, the regional Uni Connect (formerly NCOP) programme, having just taken over from Danielle Booth. So, I’m getting to grips with some new tasks, projects and responsibilities… so far, so good.
What kind of roles did you do before joining Make Happen?
My previous role was leading on Make Happen’s monitoring and evaluation, prior to that I have worked in access and participation at other institutions. I first became involved in outreach as a student ambassador, I then worked as an outreach officer before moving into evaluation and the strategic elements of access and participation.
How has Make Happen been making a difference to young people in Essex since it began in 2017?
Working with our partnership 66 schools and 11 colleges from specific postcodes, on successful completion of the first phase of Make Happen in 2019 we’d reached 66,500 students across Essex where progression to higher education is lower than expected given the GCSE results of the area, through events, workshops, tours – all kinds of activities. Make Happen phase two has been running since August 2019, and continues until July 2021, delivering a varied programme of activities to the same partner schools and colleges. All of this work has been supported by continuous evaluation and data analysis to provide a rigorous evidence base for the programme’s effectiveness.
What are you looking forward to in your new role, and what do you think will be the challenges?
Beyond July 2021 Uni Connect, and Make Happen as its regional base in Essex, will become one of a network of outreach hubs serving many more schools across Essex, through support and activities, but also by signposting services. So, while there are changes ahead, I’m looking forward to the challenge of ensuring a smooth transition, as well as delivering and evaluating all our activities while still operating as ‘business as usual’.
What kind of tasks have you been doing recently?
All sorts! Two new staff members have started lately who I have been working with, as well as continuing our work to implement our new CRM system. We’re also launching our new website to help share more good news and good practice, and better signpost students, teachers and parents and carers to other sources of support, see: www.makehappen.org. The new website also has a teacher’s community sign-in area with Make Happen documents and a communications toolkit to help teachers, and we’re launching a new newsletter soon. Plus, we’ve also been telling our partners about the recent name change from NCOP (the National Collaborative Outreach Programme) to Uni Connect.
Name three things you love about your job…
1. Working with the team! We have a fantastic team of Collaborative Outreach Officers who deliver brilliant content across the county. Behind the scenes is an equally brilliant team of admin and evaluation support as well the senior team.
2. Seeing the impact on students; especially on long-term projects and sustained interventions the difference can be fantastic to see.
3. Being a part of something which is trying to make a difference; it’s a lovely feeling to know that everything we do is with the purpose of supporting schools, colleges and students across the region.
…and one you don’t!
Sometimes having to say ‘no!’