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SHAPE Sustainability Impact Projects

A collaborative initiative between the British Academy and SOS-UK
Sign up for 2024/25Check it out


SHAPE Impact Projects is a collaborative initiative between the British Academy and Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS-UK) which uses an applied learning ‘living laboratory’ model to demonstrate the importance of the arts, humanities and social sciences in tackling sustainability challenges.

The project aims to engage students and academics in realising the relevance and impact of their disciplines in tackling environmental, social, and economic sustainability challenges. Students’ and academics’ own institutions, as well as the local community, will serve as the testbed for their ideas, enabling an understanding of the impact of their field of study in a local and hands-on context. The project adopts British Academy’s use of the term SHAPE to describe Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts for the People and the Economy/Environment. Project outputs will offer tangible examples of how students from these disciplines can, and are, demonstrating this.

Students are asked what skills they hope to gain by taking part in SHAPE.

Project overview

- SOS-UK typically recruits 3-4 institutions, with 2-3 student groups at each institution.

- Projects run simultaneously, with student groups and institutional stakeholders coming together (virtually and/or in-person) for the launch, workshops and final conference.

- SOS-UK and the British Academy provide support to participating institutions and student project leaders in order to help them develop impactful, meaningful and long-lasting projects.

Support includes scheduled skills workshops, remote reactive project-based support and resources.

Examples of the type of support that is offered includes:

• Support to champion equality, diversity and inclusion within the projects (including the student recruitment phase);

• Project-based support to maximise the impact of projects, which will be bespoke and reactive to the students’ project plans (such as monitoring impact & presenting findings);

• Support to build and maintain links with the local community within the context of the projects, which could include FE institutions, community groups and local businesses;

• Case studies from past projects to enhance current participants’ learning and development;

• Bespoke workshops on relevant topics to enhance participants’ learning and development;

• Collaboration with British Academy researchers and academics to support project groups on relevant topics.

Students from Lancaster University participated in an in-person workshop ran by SOS-UK in March 2024

Types of challenges

Each institution can pose 2-3 challenges that their students will choose from and problem-solve.

These challenges should be real-world challenges that the institution is facing or working on, and relate to environmental, social or economic sustainability (ideally a combination of all three!).

Here are some examples:

• The UN Sustainable Development Goals

• Your local sustainability strategy implementation

• Student learning and education for sustainable development (ESD)

• Student engagement with sustainability issues

• Biodiversity and nature

• The local community

• Welfare and wellbeing

• Equality, diversity and inclusion

Students from University of Exeter and Falmouth University at an in-person workshop in March 2024.


To celebrate the students' work over the months, a final conference is held. This is a space for the students to present their projects and gain feedback from institutional leads, Early Career Researchers at the British Academy and SOS-UK staff.

Students are amply prepared for the final conference, with a specific workshop held by SOS-UK to support students on how to compile their findings and present their outputs and outcomes effectively.

The conference not only involves presentations from the student groups, but also key note speeches from influential students, senior leaders at the British Academy and networking experiences. Students who took part in previous years are also encouraged to join and share updates to their projects.

The final conference at Nottingham Trent Students' Union in May 2023.

Sign up for 2024/2025

This project is now full for 2023-24.

Please get in touch with Kedijah.EavesOConnor@sos-uk.org if you'd like to register your interest for the next cycle. Recruitment is likely to take place in October/November 2024.