Unlocking on-campus potential


By Richard Gordon

You know the saying, ‘if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.’ And, when it came to raising the profile of Unlocked, a graduate leadership programme aimed at developing society’s future leaders, that’s exactly what we did.

Attracting and inspiring top tier students to apply to join a particular organisation can often seem tough. There’s just so much choice out there. But, Unlocked are pretty unique. They offer an opportunity that few can compete with. The chance to influence how to rehabilitate prisoners, reduce reoffending and shape society for the better. Which is a pretty inspirational ‘sell’.

However, despite this attractive reason to join the Unlocked graduate programme, it’s still relatively new. Three-years old to be exact. So, our main challenge was to raise awareness of it. And, as we know that meaningful, impactful, face-to-face engagement is vital to attracting candidates, we created a unique, experiential engagement tool to exhibit on ten university campuses across the UK. These were chosen as our insight highlighted they had the most appropriate student populations, based on academic profile, previous applications and a higher proportion of the desired student diversity characteristics.

The aim was to attract attention (and a crowd) with a stand-out exhibit that students could interact with. So, we created a life-size ‘steady hand buzzer’ game in the shape of a keyhole, with a key-shaped device that you had to move from one side of the wire to the other. There was also a leader board and a prize for the fastest participant.

Not only did this engage students and create a sense of competition. It also enabled Unlocked to start conversations with the students who came to have a go. It linked the attributes of patience, resilience and being calm under pressure needed to complete the buzzer game, with the similar characteristics required to be an Unlocked leader. It also facilitated discussions around the purpose and vision of Unlocked, the part that graduates have to play in society and how this two-year Masters programme could be the key to unlocking their leadership potential.

And it worked. Despite the fact that on some campuses the location of the exhibit could have been better and the sun could have shone for a bit longer, applications for the Unlocked programme have increased by more than 600 year-on-year.

Now, roll-on next year. And another mountain to climb.