Expanding access to children’s extra-curricular activities with Children’s University

How Children’s University reinvented its UK-based strategic partnerships network

Children’s University (CU) works in partnership with schools to develop a love of learning in children. They do this by encouraging and celebrating participation in extracurricular activities with a proven positive impact, in and outside of school. 


The role of extracurricular activities in raising self-confidence, resilience, and attainment for children is well known and the impact of CU has been recognized by a number of different external evaluations. In particular, they are committed to creating a level playing field of opportunity and opening up access to children of all backgrounds.


Before starting to work with Spring Impact in 2016, CU had a significant network of over 90 CU centers across the United Kingdom hosted by universities, charities, individuals and clusters of schools. 

When it came time to review their strategy for scale, CU decided to review its network structure and partnership model, to improve aspects that posed challenges such as data collection, consistent program quality, and standardized support for partners. They also aimed to increase their reach and impact by strategically expanding the number of Children’s Universities in operation.


Spring Impact helped CU revisit their strategic objectives and design a partnership network structure from scratch to better meet their objectives.

This process involved interviewing CU’s partners to bring them along and consult on what the new model would look like. This led to exciting conversations within the existing network, as well as in terms of their new model in new areas.

“The biggest lesson learned was keeping our network informed every step of the way–– on why we entered this relationship [with Spring Impact], and why we were doing this work. Letting them know it was about doing it together and seeing what we can achieve.” – Helen O’Donnell, CEO


As a result of our collaboration, CU began to transition their existing local delivery partners over to the new licensing partnership model and pursuing their goal of creating 18 new CU centers in areas of disadvantage by 2021. 


CU is now active in over 1,000 schools and each year children take part in over 4 million hours of learning.

Photo: Children’s University / Maqbool Ahmad

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Our Journey to Impact report introduces the key lessons from our first 10 years and features more of the amazing partners we've worked with.

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