On site, in-house training for SUs: Summer 2024

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe


Livia Scott is Partnerships Coordinator at Wonkhe

Our subscriber SUs are each entitled to a full day’s “in house”, in-person training delivered by one of us at Team Wonkhe.

We believe passionately that SUs know what’s going on, and understand what’s going on, they are better able to influence what’s going on – in the student interest.

Other providers focus on teambuilding, organisation and management skills and personal development – our offer is focussed on building a deeper understanding of the way that policy and politics works.

Our team has decades of experience in students’ unions and higher education, and all of our exercises, games and sessions have been stress tested on officers and staff from across SUs.

Our offer is principally aimed at officers (and staff that support officers are welcome) and can be taken over the summer during (or adjacent to) officer induction, or later in the year as part of “taking stock / review and action planning” activity.

No two days are the same, and we try to shape the content around your needs and your particular induction programme. The sessions below are indicative and we are happy to run additional content as required – just drop us a line to discuss.

If you’re a small team, maybe with just 1 or 2 full time officers, we’d encourage you to “pair up” with another SU or two – the discussions when you do that can often be more fruitful

How to plan your day

Think of the elements below as roughly 60-90 minute building blocks, with a full day taking up around 4-5 blocks. We make materials/blogs available after the event so that staff can follow up with additional support.

Our training is interactive and delivered on-site, in-person by Jim Dickinson, Mack Marshall or someone else from Team Wonkhe (or one of our associates). We’re not usually able to run “hybrid”. If that poses a problem do let us know.

  • Timings: We typically run from 9.30am for 10.00am to 4.30pm, with around an hour’s break for lunch. Our content is mainly focussed around games, exercises and group discussions.
  • Space: We tend to need a room with plenty of space, some tables to work around, a flipchart stand and paper, the ability to project onto a screen, and access to campus wifi.
  • Location: It’s up to you where it’s held – but it’s really important that the full day is blocked off in diaries for participants where possible.
  • Staff: It’s not vital for a staff member to attend, but it’s always helpful where someone whose role it is to support officers attends.
  • Prep: We’ll send a short preparation exercise for participants to complete before the day, and if any of your participants have access requirements, just let us know.

If you want more than one day, we’re happy to discuss pricing. And over the past couple of years we’ve also put together days just for staff on supporting officers and building a better relationship between officers and staff, featuring many of the components below. Again, if you’d like to discuss, just let us know.

Building blocks

Educational journeys: All standard in-house days begin with an opening exercise that encourages participants to reflect on sources of power, how organisations and institutions learn, the role of student representation and the way in which experiences can drive change.

It’s all coming up: In this session we share the latest expertise on what is going on in the policy sphere for students and students’ unions, consider the difference between planned representation and response work, and think through how teams can prepare for the policy year.

Manifesto to methods: There are lots of ways to make change on an issue for students – direct delivery, policy change, getting students involved in campaigning, lobbying for policy change and more. This session works with officer manifestos to identify the options and plot the strategies for success that will work.

Getting powerful people to implement your goals: What were you hoping to secure in your manifesto? What are the problems at your university and how might they be solved? What sort of leadership should you expect from your university in solving them? This session pulls it all apart and reveals lobbying leadership secrets to solve problems for people.

Equality and equality: Thinking about the winners and losers on campus – and why some students have a better experience than others – is crucial to understanding how to make a fairer university. SUs have always led work in this area – but with access and participation emerging as a major strategic issue for SUs, this session considers where officer goals on EDI fit in wider regulatory concerns for the university.

Leading people through policy: Often it;’s not as simple as just lobbying a leader – a huge amount of effective student representation is about trying to influence collective behaviour – students, academics, landlords and so on. This session looks at the policy tactics and techniques that are used to deliver effective change.

Communicating to win: Are there ways for officers to improve their profile and purpose with students that mark them out as people to be rooted for rather than to be resented? How can students’ unions and their officers create fans that advance the union’s goals autonomously? This session reveals the latest thinking from tech and industry.

Making the most of university committees: Are the hours spent in meetings really worth it? In this session we look at the secrets to reading papers, being heard and listened to, and making time on university boards, working groups and committees impactful in the student interest. We also explore interpersonal influence for student officers – how to have conversations that achieve purpose, the role of “tactical empathy”, and where to target influence to deliver maximum change for students.

Cross-cultural political power: In this game participants experience the shock of realising that despite their good intentions and the many similarities amongst themselves, people interpret things differently, one from the other, in profoundly important ways, especially people from differing cultures. Players learn that they must understand and reconcile these differences if they want to influence effectively in a cross-cultural student community.

Powerful public speaking

We also offer (chargeable at £500 per day) a one day public speaking masterclass for up to eight participants.

There are lots of companies and consultants that offer training on speaking in public. Most of it follows a well-trodden path – focussed on the basics of breathing or effective preparation.

But what if a one-day masterclass was shaped specifically around the role that SU officers play in influencing policy, inspiring students and winning the confidence of university audiences?

This isn’t about presenting, it’s about persuading – giving participants the tools and ability to mobilise ideas, appeal to values and inspire action.

There are many different “skills” involved in speaking well, but ultimately officers need to know how to choose and organise words – and they need to be able to write. This masterclass teaches how.

It will also help officers to develop a unique style and a unique command of their subject, with techniques that have worked for some of the greatest speakers in history.

The session has an eight participant maximum, runs for a full day and involves exercises, writing and intensive coaching, along with follow up support throughout the year.

One response to “On site, in-house training for SUs: Summer 2024

  1. We currently have availability for this day-long session for the Students’ Union UCL sabbatical team on either of the following:
    Monday 9 September
    Tuesday 10 September

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