Project Management MSc consulting project
In a converted mill at the heart of the city is the Lancaster YMCA – a community hub which also helps young people seeking advice on issues such as housing and welfare.
The building houses an impressive range of facilities, including a gym and dance studio, recording studios, a café and professional kitchen facilities, an IT suite, and conference and meeting rooms available for hire. In addition, there is a accommodation for homeless young people and other charities also rent office space within the building.
Despite the various social and developmental activities going on within the centre, the YMCA felt it was not being used to its full potential. Keen to identify potential new uses and bring in extra revenue to support further activities, they enlisted the help of a team of Project Management MSc students.
“The options we came up with had to be aligned with the YMCA’s vision, which is to further the lives of young people,” explains Yasin Faruki, one of the five-strong team.
“One of the challenges was communicating with the other organisations using the building: we also had to make sure that the options were not disruptive to their working patterns. It was a balance we had to bear in mind all the way through.”
Keeping their ambitions in check was also tricky, admits Sasha-Kay Roberts, who was assigned the role of project co-ordinator.
“We had to work around the limited time available and ensure we produced something of quality. For us, as project managers, it was about managing both the plan and the time.”
After drawing up a business case in which they evaluated the various stakeholder needs and established overall objectives, the team conducted surveys and interviews with young people in the target age range, and also assessed competitor offerings. They then pared their ideas down to six possible options for their client. These included adding a cinema facility, and also cookery and food hygiene classes that might help young people’s employment prospects and provide valuable practical skills and confidence for those making the transition to independent living.
Having found that many local people were unaware of what the YMCA offered, they also suggested fun runs to help raise the organisation’s visibility within the city, and attached marketing recommendations to all the options they presented.
Working on a project with real potential to touch people’s lives was something the students found especially rewarding.
“It was our first time working with an external client in a real-life situation, with real-life consequences,” says James Allan.
“I think my enjoyment came from the whole team’s commitment to the project, and the fact that our client was very interested in what we had to say. There was a sense that the work we produced would really be looked at and used.”
The international diversity within the group was also very beneficial.
“I’m used to working with people with similar backgrounds to me,” says Jamaican-born Sasha-Kay.
“Here, dealing with people from different cultures, some of whom are more vocal than others, you are tested as a project leader in how to get everyone to participate equally.”
“Very few other courses seem to give you the same hands-on experience of project management as this one,” says Yasin.
“This project has provided an insight into how to work better in a multinational team, and that’s definitely something I’ll take with me into my future employment.”
Picture by Soren Udby