UCL News


Spotlight on UCL Fundraising in Action Committee (UCL early-career researchers)

11 June 2015

This week the spotlight is on the UCL Fundraising in Action Committee (UCL early-career researchers).

Fundraising in Action

What is the role of Fundraising in Action?

UCL's Fundraising in Action Committee aims to raise funds and awareness for charitable causes. Established by an enthusiastic team of early-career researchers at UCL, the committee is committed to using the wealth of expertise and enthusiasm within the academic community at UCL to bring people together to achieve its aim. Its first fundraising event was held earlier this year and there are further events in the pipeline!

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Given that we managed to work so effectively as a team to ensure that our first event was such a great success, it may surprise people to learn that, until a few months ago, none of us had ever met! What we have in common is that we all enrolled in the 'UCL Leadership in Action' course in November 2014. Our committee members have diverse professional and research backgrounds, from neurology and medical physics, to fine art, forensic science and otolaryngology (Google it!). We all came together as a result of one of the leadership exercises that we took part in over the three-day course. United by a common vision and armed with our experiences and knowledge gained from the course, we set about planning our first event...

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

On the last day of our Leadership in Action course, our cohort of 36 participants was given a challenge. We received £100 as seed funds, and were tasked with developing a strategy to increase this amount, in order to donate as much as possible to a charity of our choice. After several rounds of discussion we decided to support BBC Children in Need. However, the course came to a close before the plan had been put into action. At that point, a small group decided to take this challenge beyond the Leadership in Action course by using some of the ideas and discussions as the basis for organising a charity dinner.

Our first fundraising event took place on 30 January of this year and raised over £800 for BBC Children in Need. The event was held in UCL's Academic Staff Common Room (Housman Room). Around 80 guests enjoyed an excellent 3-course Mediterranean meal provided by UCL Catering Team and live piano music provided by Martin Treacher in this beautiful room that is normally only open to members and their guests.  In between the courses, we had speeches from various inspirational leaders, such as Dupsy Abiola, a female entrepreneur who successfully featured on Dragon's Den, and Louise Tickle, an award-winning journalist. We could not have asked for a better place to hold an event, nicer people to help us with it, a more talented musician to bind us together on the evening, more inspiring speakers to motivate us, or a more worthwhile challenge thrown at us by the UCL Leadership in Action team.

What are Fundraising in Action members' current roles at UCL?

Effective teamwork helped to ensure that our first event was a very successful one! Our diverse team includes members of various academic backgrounds and nationalities. This diversity was at the core of our first event, with each team member bringing his/her own abilities and skills to the committee. Driven by a common cause and inspired by our experiences on the course, we were able to take up the challenge and raise money for our chosen charity. We are very grateful for the opportunity to enrol on the Leadership in Action course. After all, without it, we may never have met!

Katherine Yon: Research Assistant at UCL Medical School

Caroline Koekkoek: Research Assistant at UCL Management Science & Innovation

James French: Postdoctoral Researcher at the UCL JDI Centre for the Forensic Sciences

Charlotte Vrinten: Currently a Research Psychologist at the Health Behaviour Research Centre in UCL Epidemiology and Public Health.

Mood Bhutta: Clinical Lecturer in Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at the UCL Ear Institute and the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital. A surgeon and researcher in disease of the head and neck, with a special interest in the ear.

Ningning Li: Senior Postdoctoral Research Associate at the UCL Institute of Neurology. A biomedical researcher focused on translational research on brain tumour stem cells. 

Miguel Esteras: Postdoctoral researcher at UCL Cancer Institute.

Daniil Nikitichev: Research Associate at UCL Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering.

Amna Mahmood: Dietitian/Nutritionist with an interest in public health.

Deborah Padfield: Visual artist specialising in lens-based media and interdisciplinary research across medicine and fine art. Research Associate, UCL Slade School of Fine Art.

Claudio Parolo: Postdoctoral researcher in Professor McKendry's group at London Centre for Nanotechnology.

What is your favourite place?

The best place to hold an event at UCL has to be the Housman Room.  When our guests walked into its unique atmosphere they were immediately fascinated by the paintings by Stanley Spencer, Paula Rego and other renowned artists lining its walls; they were drawn into its spacious rooms and comfy leather covered sofas to a buzz of conversation, flowers and music, but above all welcomed by thoughtful touches provided by the Housman staff. Of course, it wouldn't have been possible to use the room without the help of the Housman staff - thank you!

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Well, we were fortunate enough to have had some amazing dinner guests at our charity event: Dupsy Abiola and Louise Tickle. Dupsy is an entrepreneur who left a career in law to found Intern Avenue, a recruiting platform that matches young people with employers. Dupsy spoke to us about her experiences of leadership through her work, as she has been tremendously successful in supporting other people and is currently recognised as one of the most influential black businesswomen in Great Britain.  Louise is an award-winning education and social affairs journalist who writes for the Guardian, the Sunday Times and Newsweek magazine. Over the past few years she has reported particularly on something close to her heart: child abuse in schools and the failure of state agencies to protect victims. She spoke to us about her work in this field, and the part she has played in highlighting these issues and supporting change.

Tell us about a project you are working on now that is top of your to-do list?

In the future we hope to grow as a UCL society and engage more people with our core values (UCL staff, students and academics). We are in the process of registering Fundraising in Action as a UCL society to create a platform for the organisation of social events, seminars and workshops for the benefit of charity enterprises and for a better understanding of humanitarian crises around the world.

By offering us a place on the Leadership in Action course, UCL has given us the opportunity to build and strengthen our leadership skills.  We feel very fortunate and grateful for this, and we want to keep this momentum going by raising funds to extend a hand to others and to offer them opportunities to develop themselves, as well.

Our advice to others would be to figure out where you want to go, because that is the first step to getting there.  Find out what your principles are and stand up for them, in big or small ways.  We can't all be World Leaders, but we can all try to make a difference to the world we live in as "small leaders".

We are always looking for people who share our passion of raising funds to benefit those who are less well off than we are and who want to help out with future events. Have a look at our website and get in touch!

What advice would you give your younger self?

As a committee, we are still very young - and the Fundraising in Action society we are planning to form has not even been born yet!  We are still in a process of developing ourselves, and of learning how to coordinate all those hands and feet to move towards a common goal.  At times we may seem like that Carl Sandburg quote: "I am an idealist.  I don't know where I am going, but I'm on my way!"

Reflective of modern society, we all come from very different cultural, socio-political, and professional backgrounds.  Although we were all in agreement as to where we wanted to end up, we sometimes had different ideas as to how to get there. Advice we would give to a younger version of ourselves is to cherish this diversity from the very first steps of your journey, and to find a constructive modus vivendi that acknowledges and welcomes these differences. This allows you to draw on a richer pool of talent, inspiration and ability to achieve your common goal - because ultimately you need all those hands and feet to work in unison to get there!

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

An academic and a friend went on a camping trip, set up their tent and fell asleep. Some hours later, the friend wakes up the academic and says: "look up at the sky and tell me what you see?" The academic replies: "I see millions of stars". His friend asks: "what does that tell you?" The academic ponders for a minute. "Astronomically speaking, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Satan's in Leo. Time-wise, it appears to be approximately 03:15. Theologically, it's evident the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?"

His friend is silent for a moment and then speaks: "Practically… It tells me that… The tent's been stolen!"