Co-Creation. Prior to my role at the Spirit of Sussex Award, I had little experience of what this term truly meant. The Spirit of Sussex Award (SoSA) is a new scheme launched in September 2020 which encourages student engagement and encourages a sense of community through its student participants. The award is centred around celebrating students’ extra-curricular achievements whilst at university and seeks to bring students together with the key aim of getting to know and enjoy their local community. It does so through encouraging students to take part in a variety of extra-curricular activities, such as part-time work, society membership, volunteering and so much more. Through participating in the award, students can work towards different award levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold) and are awarded a certificate at graduation.
Unlike other awards, SoSA is centred around community spirit and moves away from traditional focuses on careers and employability. Students gain recognition for all aspects of their hard work outside of their academic success and can build a portfolio of achievements through the award platform. This means students, including myself, can leave university with a sense of community, extra-curricular accomplishment, and a certificate to demonstrate the multi-faceted ways in which they became involved with their community.
Being a student at university, group projects were no surprise to me. However, they often followed a pattern of some peers doing most the work, whilst others sat back and relaxed. SoSA allowed me to experience the true ways in which co-creation excels, the benefits of collaborating and creating together. Working with professional university staff alongside fellow peers meant I developed essential co-creational skills such as communication, understanding and the ability to work collectively in a team. Co-creation also allows for ideas to come to fruition together and creates a multitude of approaches and solutions, meaning the final product is rich with ideas and creativity.
Collaboration has been central to my role from the start. Whether this be with a society who has raised over £23,000 for Samaritans Emergency Fund or students who run a zero-food waste café, I am consistently working with fellow students to raise awareness and celebrate their extra-curricular achievements. Within my team, staff and students work together on projects such as monthly social media content and strategy, platform enhancement and creating award case studies, all based around engaging fellow students in both SoSA and the Sussex community.
Having started in February 2020, it has been a joy to watch the award flourish from an idea on paper to its first year of Spirit of Sussex Awardees and Graduates. The people I have collaborated with, and the experience I have gained, has been irreplaceable and has truly highlighted how essential students' involvement is in University projects and initiatives. Having a say in the operations, promotion and delivery and being able to put forward the student voice means students are truly invested in the success of the award. The continuous co-creation between staff and students has resulted in an award which has the student voice at its heart.