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UWE Bristol Homelessness Grand Challenge 2018/19

The Grand Challenge is a new initiative for UWE Bristol designed to mobilise the energy, enthusiasm and intellectual capabilities of our students to make a difference to a real-world problem. This year the topic is homelessness.

Why should you join the Grand Challenge?

The Grand Challenge is open to all UWE Bristol students. The Challenge is designed to support your formal curriculum and enhance your student experience.

By taking part, you will:

  • have the opportunity to propose innovative solutions to a complex and difficult to manage real-world problem
  • work collaboratively with city agencies in addressing a societal problem
  • gain experience of a voluntary team-based activity that engages students in collaborative action
  • develop and practice your Graduate Attributes  
  • build your understanding of the causes and solutions to homelessness through interaction with a range of external agencies working in the field
  • develop your team working, presentation and project planning skills
  • have access to UWE Bristol's skills-development, coaching, mentoring and support activities
  • engage with external practitioners who will act as advisers for the Grand Challenge.

What you will do

You will work as part of a multi-disciplinary team of up to ten students, ideally encompassing students from across different programmes and levels of study. The team will design and execute a study of one or more of the issues they choose, under the broad title of Homelessness. The output from this activity will contribute to understanding and formulating a solution to the problem. The expected commitment by an individual student is about 50 hours between October 2018 to June 2019.

The output from your study may be a conventional report, a film, an animation, a play or other artefact. It is up to you as a team to design the activity and to provide an output that captures the process and contribution that you have made to both understanding the issues and providing possible solutions to the identified problem.

In undertaking the Grand Challenge, you will be supported by team coaches from  professional services and academic staff in: forming your team; guided on how to operate as a team; have inputs from practitioners to help you understand the nature and scope of the homelessness challenge; receive guidance from UWE Bristol staff on forming your ideas and designing a methodology to deliver your contribution.

Why homelessness as a Grand Challenge?

Homelessness in the UK is a growing social issue. Shelter estimates that 307,000 people, one in every 200 citizens in the UK, are homeless, sleeping rough, or accommodated in temporary housing, bed and breakfast rooms, or hostels – an increase of 13,000 since 2016. 

Shelter considers this an underestimate as it omits those who they describe as the "hidden homeless", individuals who have nowhere to live but are not recorded as needing housing assistance.

The scale of homelessness is staggering and is an issue that demands urgent action. Homeless Link provides a wide range of data, interpretation, advice and guidance on the complex mix of issues contributing to homelessness. They have produced a manifesto calling for action on rough sleeping, employment, housing, support for people with the most complex needs, and a long-term strategy to avoid future homelessness. The charity Crisis has produced an action plan to end homelessness.

Homelessness in Bristol is one of the most urgent problems facing the city. It is estimated by Shelter that 1 in 170 residents are homeless, sleeping rough, or accommodated in temporary housing, bed and breakfast rooms, or hostels. This is a multi-faceted problem, with individual and structural causes contributing to the creation of homelessness.

Support and guidance for your team

The Grand Challenge will be organised and managed through a specially designed Blackboard site. Staff will provide support and guidance through Blackboard on team dynamics and the identification of your response to the challenge.

Support will include but not be limited to advice on:

  • How to build and work in an effective team.
  • How to identify and allocate the various roles in a team.
  • Skill development sessions including communication, presentations, project planning, networking, negotiating.
  • How to identify, design and execute the Grand Challenge.
  • The form and nature of the Grand Challenge output.

A specially commissioned resources pack is being developed by Library Services to support teams in the Grand Challenge.


Throughout the year we will hold several events (online and face-to-face) on issues relating to homelessness. These will be provided by UWE Bristol staff and by external practitioners working in agencies and services addressing the homelessness problem. These will provide a wide range of opinions and insights on the issues to help you develop your ideas and to formulate them into a response to the Grand Challenge.

We'll be hosting a pop-up event at City Campus at Bower Ashton on 27 November to raise awareness of the Grand Challenge. Come along to get your questions answered about the Grand Challenge and meet some of the staff involved in the project.

Questions to get you started:

The following are indicative questions that student teams might like to consider. There is no requirement to address all or indeed any of these.

  • Why is homelessness such a problem in one of Britain's most prosperous cities? What are the underlying causes of homelessness in Bristol?
  • What interventions might support individuals who are homeless?
  • What are the current initiatives and interventions and how successful are they?
  • What can be done to support homelessness initiatives in the city?
  • What can be done to address the structural problems affecting the supply of homes and access to safe affordable homes?
  • How can individuals be supported once they have a home, to prevent a cycle of homelessness being created?
  • Above all, how can the critical engagement of talented student groups make a difference to the challenge of homelessness in Bristol?
  • Are there innovative solutions to design and build affordable homes?
  • How much does land value influence the provision of new homes?
  • How might businesses in Bristol support homeless people and/or contribute to the reduction of homelessness?
  • Are there examples of successful homelessness prevention or management from other countries which could inform solutions to homelessness and its associated problems in Bristol?
  • What sorts of people are at risk of becoming homeless and what could be done to ensure that they are supported into more secure position?

UWE Bristol Grand Challenge conference

Each student team will be invited to participate in the end-of-year UWE Bristol Grand Challenge Celebration where they will present their findings to an audience of UWE Bristol students, staff and invited guests.

Join a Grand Challenge team

We’re looking for more team members to join the following Grand Challenge projects. To join a team, please contact and let us know which team you’d like to be assigned to.

Creative Fundraising (set by 1625 Independent People)

Can you come up with an innovative, eye-catching and heart-capturing fundraising campaign?

DIY Sleep-out (set by 1625 Independent People)

Run a one-night sleep-out event at a UWE Bristol campus, raising awareness of homelessness and the work of Grand Challenge teams.

Psychologically Informed Environment (set by 1625 Independent People)

How does the physical environment affect someone’s wellbeing? Research this and make recommendations on how the physical environment can be improved for the vulnerable young people that 1625IP works with.

Daytime Guide (set by Caring In Bristol)

The network of night shelters in Bristol is well sign-posted. But navigating the city during daytime, staying fed and sheltered, is less straight forward. Create a daytime visual map of resources in the city for people new to the city and sleeping rough.

Course in the Community

Student-led clinics providing services for homeless people in Bristol.

See Inside

Media campaign around the UWE Bristol Grand Challenge.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the Grand Challenge, please email please email Becky Bainbridge or Hazel Brown at

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