Back in April, FutureGov joined forced with Isledon Partnership (who are a great team of like minded people who, amongst other things, run two big youth hubs in Islington), to start work on a project for Islington Council to help local people do more in their area. The council wants to see ‘Volunteering’ (we hate that word, of which more later) make the most of digital tech, social media and different ways of getting people involved on their own terms. We share their vision for new audiences to be reached, for opportunities to be marketed as exciting and fun, as well as worthwhile, and for the new service to offer informal and short term things for people who don’t want to sign their life away, but want to help out here and there. We’re also keen on hyper-local opportunities where people can improve their immediate surroundings for themselves.
We’ve been speaking to lots of people in Islington to help us shape our ideas a bit more. Tom and Jen held three workshops at Lift where they spoke to people from Islington charities, community organisations and residents. The conversation covered what they would want from a service and online tool and about how volunteering could be made more appealing to all involved. We learned that:
- Word of mouth is an extremely powerful mobilising tool
- Organisations are interested in working together to provide more “benefits” to volunteers
- There’s a large amount of hyper local, resident driven activity in the borough, but much of this is around stopping negative things like anti-social behaviour
- People feel the need for permission or validation to do things, like cleaning up a park
- There is the need to break down volunteering opportunities in to smaller chunks or tasks, and to highlight what is in the opportunity for the helper, beyond “doing good”. The Islington Gardeners, for example, wanted someone to help them sort out their communications systems, but already had the people to run the organisation on an ongoing basis.
The working title for our project is “Here to”, which comes from our desire to design a service that is all about looking at the personal motivations of people who volunteer or make thing happen. We want to know what people are “here to” do, e.g. meet new people in their local area, lose weight, make their local park more pleasant, or learn to grow vegetables. This also applies to organisations looking for volunteers – “here to” look for help building a website, find residents who will water the trees on their road during the hosepipe ban, or get someone to drive their minibus.
In research for this and previous projects, we discovered (as suspected) that the term “volunteering” was off-putting as it implied long-term, heavy and beauracratic commitments. Because of this, we want to design a service that moves away from “volunteering” as a label and towards a community of individuals who can take action and get involved in improving their local communities for reasons that are more likely to be personal, than altruistic (but ideally both!)
We’ve made a test website that we’ll be using over the coming months to help us inform the build of the actual web app, which is planned for launch in the New Year. We’ll also be popping up at community festivals around Islington over September and October and holding our own events to get projects off the ground, one of which will be a hack event. Local groups told us they need help to make websites so we’ll be bringing together web developers with local charities and groups to make as many as we can over two days. Perhaps we can even achieve some sort of record!
If you’d like to get involved in this project, give us a shout. You can hang out with us on our stalls at the community festivals (including the Angel Canal Festival on Sunday 2nd September, the Gillespie Park Festival on Sunday 9th September, the Cally Fest on Sunday 16th September and Oxjam Islington on Saturday 13th October), for which we can offer lunch, a chance to practice your photography skills and/or to pot some flowers for aspiring green fingers. Fun!
To find out more and follow the project, check out our test website: hereto.org or read our blog, follow us on Twitter @heretoislington or “like” us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/heretoislington