We’re Here To… go on tour to Milton Keynes!

We’ve just got back from running a really exciting workshop on micro-volunteering for Community Action: MK.

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After a hop, a skip and a jump north-west of London, we met with a small group of 12 who wanted to explore new ways of involving more/different types of people in their community work.

At Here To, we’re super passionate about connecting local people to local projects in fun and flexible ways, so we’re naturally keen supporters of the micro-volunteering movement.

What is micro-volunteering?

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We kicked the workshop off by asking the same question, and here’s what everyone came up with:

Micro-volunteering is…

  • * quick to get involved, spontaneous and fluid
  • * specific and achievable
  • * event tidying up, leafleting, equipment sharing and bucket-collecting
  • * inclusive – everyone can do something that adds value in a small way
  • * skilled or unskilled
  • * not long term or formal
  • * more flexible and turns conventional volunteering on its head
  • * empowering and straight-forward

 

After having a little bit of a go on the Here To Photomatic Machine…

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…we then had a go at creating some of micro-volunteering opportunities in the Here To-style.

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It was a great treat to take Here To out of Islington and to start to pass on what we’re learnt running the project for a year using a bite-sized, user-focused approach.

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If you’re interested in getting training in micro-volunteering for your organisation, please contact the Here To Manager via katherine@hereto.org.

Feedback from participants

‘I liked everything about the session. It was relaxed, fun, informative and interactive’

‘I hadn’t heard of micro-volunteering before but it seems a great opportunity to involve more people in a different and more positive way. The whole experience was fresh and exciting’

‘Please can we have a follow-up session?’

‘Following this workshop, I’m feeling inspired and more confident with micro-volunteering and I’m going home now to work on it!’

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We’re Here To… reveal new website features

To help celebrate our 1st birthday (along with the bash at Islington Town Hall), we were really keen to action some of the rich feedback we’ve had from the community over the last year by making some improvements to the Here To website.

Here’s a summary of what’s changed!

A clearer pathway through the website

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For starters, our homepage is looking quite different: we’ve made it clearer what we’re Here To do and we’ve created 2 distinct pathways for website visitors in terms of content. So, when you visit the Here To website, you’re either Here To find a project or create a project, and that then takes you off to the right information for you.

Match me to a project

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Until recently, people who live, work or play in Islington could only sign up to opportunities by selecting one that interests them and clicking on a day that they’re free to get involved.

But as our portfolio of projects is ever-changing, website visitors may not always find exactly what they’re looking for, or they may have missed something really appropriate for them amongst all the choice.

To resolve this, we’ve created a new ‘Match me to a project’ function on the homepage!

After submitting a few details about what sort of local project they’re looking to join up to, this information then comes through to the Here To team.

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We can then send personal project recommendations to people via email, as and when appropriate opportunities come up. This will save people time searching for opportunities and will help them to use their free time better more quickly.

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New dashboards for helpers to manage their projects

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Like organisations, local people now also have a dashboard that they can log into where they can manage the projects they’ve enquired to and leave feedback to organisations and the Here To team as to how it’s going.

The ability for helpers to submit feedback feedback will enable the Here To team to help them meet their personal goals more quickly and enable organisations to see how they can better meet the preferences of the people they’re trying to engage with.

 A new design for project header images

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For organisations, we’re changed the image uploader settings so that images are displayed in their full glory on the opportunity page – that means no more red box covering a third of your picture.

A new hub of information for organisations

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We’ve also made some changes to the FAQ page to make it more of a hub of information for organisations. We’ll be updating this information soon but in the meanwhile you can now download our latest version of our toolkit.

If you have any questions or feedback related to the new website changes, please do get in touch: call us on 0203 475 3825 or drop an email to hello@hereto.org 

If you’re interested in giving more detailed thoughts and fancy getting a few perks for yourself too, you can sign up to become a Here To website testing Wizard!

We’re Here To… meet Tanya!

Tanya is one of our AMAZING Here To Wizards. She first got in touch with us in November 2013 looking to learn how a small community-faced organisation like Here To works.

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Keen to offer up her copywriting skills, Tanya has been happily blogging away for us ever since. Here’s her reaction to helping out at #HereToParty, Here To’s 1st birthday party that took place at the end of January 2014…

Hiya. Wizarding Tanya here. I’m just recovering from last-night’s fun-filled extravaganza!

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In this blog post, I’m Here To tell you all about what happened at this magical 1st birthday bash. If you were one of the hundreds there – be it as a volunteer, a local project, or an ice-cream hungry potential participant – then thank you! If you weren’t there, you really missed out, so make sure you come along next year: not a single person lacked a smile by the end of #HereToParty!

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There were canapés, cakes, mini burgers, words of wisdom from the Mayor of Islington, and a big reveal of new Here To website features which people praised as set to make volunteering in Islington that bit easier.

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Other event highlights included wonderful artwork depicting the Here To story by the very talented Ji; a laugh-inducing balancing act with The Saturday Night Project where you had to send a tweet whilst balancing on a ball; a spontaneous mass sing-along with members from the Chaps Choir; craft-making activities everywhere (from making bunting to DIY nature-spotting tools); and of course, the utterly delicious Udderlicious ice cream that you got as a perk for completing 3 activities (I went for raspberry cheesecake and banana fudge with sprinkles – obviously).

And that’s only to list a few! Attendees even impressed themselves by making their own ice cream out of a plastic bag (you had to see it to believe it ).

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It’s important to remember that the night wasn’t just about festivities and fun, but that each activity provided perks all-round: for those taking part, the organisations running the activities and the wider community.

In the photo below, it might just look like people are sewing are learning how to sew on buttons, but in doing so, they were finishing-off strings of bunting for The Handmade Alliance to sell to fund their work with ex-offenders and prisoners.

It’s amazing the impact you can have in just 10 minutes!

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#HereToParty was also about thanking the local people and projects listed on the Here To website that help everyday to make Islington a better, brighter, and livelier place to live. The birthday was a great excuse to share experiences, meet each other and recognise everyone’s contribution.

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As a Here To Wizard, I’d like to thank the Here To team personally for providing me with a chance to get involved with the #HereToParty event. The night was a blast, and flew by because of all the fun I had. I was tasked with meet and greet for most of the evening, which meant encouraging everyone to get involved in the activities so that they could get their three stars and free ice cream. The star system was clever and really representative of what Here To is all about – give a little by getting involved and you’ll get perks for yourself and the community. I really felt as though I was part of a bigger picture.

So, Here’s To the first birthday, and the second, and the third… I can’t wait until next year!

Waving the Here To wizard-ing wand goodbye for now,

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We’re… #HereToParty – the round-up!

As you may already know, we’ve just celebrated Here To’s 1st birthday at the Islington Town Hall.

In just 16 days, the Here To team, 11 Here To Wizards and 13 Islington-based community organisations worked busily together to plan a traditional birthday party with a twist!

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In addition to revealing new features on the Here To website, we offered up the chance for guests to earn a FREE Udderlicious ice-cream by completing 3 micro-volunteering activities.

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The event wasn’t all about eating yummy canapes, ice cream and birthday cupcakes baked by young people from Highbury Fields School though.

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#HereToParty was also a chance for the Here To community to get together to meet each other offline.

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The Islington Mayor, Islington Young Mayor and Councillor Barbara Sidnell came along for the ride too!

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Some key moments at the event included a performance and workshop from Counterpoint Dance Company

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…ice-cream making with Udderlicious

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…live artwork from Ji

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…a flashmob sing-a-thon facilitated by members from Chaps Choir and lace-making and knitting with Age UK Islington.

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Other wonderful activities were run by The Handmade Alliance, Help on Your Doorstep, Islington Giving, The Saturday Night Project, Hanley Crouch Community Association, The Garden Classroom, Freightliners Farm and the Hills Community Trust (thank you!).

The good news is that at least 122 people came along and 147 micro-volunteering activities were completed. This roughly equates to 24 hours of helping out in just a single evening. And that’s not including the hours of help given to use by numerous Here To Wizards.

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Guests left some lovely comments on our feedback wall too, which made us very happy:

“The event was lots of fun (which is always good). I loved the micro-volunteering on site.”

“You should run this event every year!!!”

“Lovely participants, stalls and activities. Very friendly and enjoyable.”

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A BIG well done to everyone that was involved and keep your eyes peeled for future events!

For more pictures, click here.

Here To… reflect: diary of a HeadStart intern

You may remember that a few weeks back we introduced our youngest ever recruits to the Here To team: Elisa and Samira.

They joined us as interns to help organise Here To’s 1st Birthday Party in January 2014 as part of HeadStart, a new project from The Challenge Network, where in exchange for 16 hours of helping out in the local community, young people can get a job interview for a paid work placement.

Now they’re ‘out of the other side’ and the event is over, here are their thoughts on the experience…

Elisa Ly

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Hey! It’s Elisa. As you probably know, the 1st Birthday Party has happened and, now I’ve had time to reflect, I’d like to tell you about the amazing experience I’ve had working with Here To Islington.

First of all, I’d just like to start off by saying that organising events is not as fun as you might think! Admittedly, I did have that idea that it would be all fun and games (with a bit of work), but in reality it was more like the other way around. Don’t get me wrong, there definitely was some fun times (shopping for decorations and of course the event itself) but there was a lot of hard work that had to be put into it that you just don’t normally see from the outside.

The main lesson that I have learnt from working with Here To that I will take away with me in future work is that the most effective way to get the information you need from people is to phone them. I had a bit of a fear of phoning people before getting this internship, but with some firm encouragement from Katherine, I plucked up the courage to make my first phone enquiry! It definitely got easier after that.

My proudest moment working on the event has to be the actual event itself. Seeing people enjoying themselves, taking part in the different micro-volunteering activities and receiving their hard-earned star in return, made me realise that all the hard work leading up to the event was really worthwhile: it was great to see so many people being enthusiastic and getting involved.

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One of my personal goals from getting involved with the event was to get more creative because I study the sciences at Sixth Form. I’m pretty certain I achieved that as I spent half a day making huge paper chains (they were seriously long) to decorate the venue and masterminded the decoration of the main staircase in Islington Town Hall with ribbons and balloons!

Overall, I would say my experience with Here To has been a little hectic but rewarding. Balancing Sixth Form and a work placement simultaneously was difficult at times, but I’m glad I had this opportunity to experience what it’s like to organise a big community event.

Favourite activities at #HereToParty: sewing with The Handmade Alliance, guessing the number of sweets in the jar with Help on your Doorstep and singing with Chaps Choir

Samira Conteh

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Hey! This is Samira. Unfortunately, my paid internship with Here To has now come to an end. The experience was a complete eye-opener for me as it wasn’t what I first had in mind when I thought about event panning but I’ve definitely learnt lots of new things.

One major thing I’ve learnt, is that event planning is about ‘more than just going out to buy decorations and starting decorating’ (which has become a favoured catchphrase of mine). This was my initial expectation but I came to realize just how much preparation and research goes into an event like Here To’s 1st Birthday Party.

When I was first offered the job, I knew that my strengths lied in the creative aspects. So it was amazing to see our ideas at the initial brainstorm turn into being part of the actual event. It is relatively easy to come up with ideas but in practice carrying them through can be quite difficult. But looking back on the experience, a large majority of the themes and activities we brainstormed were present in the end product: I’m proud of that!

Taking part in this internship has allowed me to explore different aspects of work and careers too. When I started, I wanted to gain some insight into the kind of career path I wanted to go down.

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So taking part in the many different aspects of event planning has allowed me to explore what I’m good at, what I enjoy and what really lies behind a job description. I’ve done everything from researching local companies, to making calls and enquiries and making decorative paper chains (I’m officially an an expert in the latter now!).

I would like to say I was amazing at making calls, but at times my speech would fail me and I would just start talking gibberish (I do feel bad for the people that had to decipher my voicemails). Here’s a lesson-to-self: prepare what you’re going to say beforehand!

My experience of working at Here To has taught me some interesting lessons, like how to balance school and work at the same time (as I’m currently in sixth form), how to make ice-cream in 5 minutes and how to communicate and network with a range of different people.

When it comes to approaching people, I’m normally get quite nervous, but I’ve been able to overcome this with Here To: at the event, I spent a great deal of time talking to Islington Council employees and found out about their graduate trainee course and work experience opportunities. I also took my chances while as Islington Town Hall and introduced myself to a few people who were producing an MTV event in the Islington Assembly Rooms next door. This has got me thinking about possibly exploring event production…

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My proudest moment during the experience was seeing the event come alive. I was great seeing all our hard work and planning finally turn into the actual event and I’m so glad I was able to take part. My main job at the event was as a ‘star sticker allocator’ but I also helped as an usher, welcoming them to the party and encouraging them to get involved in the activities. This included my mum and brother who showed up to support me by getting involved.

Looking back at the personal goals I set myself for this placement, I believe I achieved them: I was able to use my creative skills in coming up with ideas for decorations, I’ve improved my communication skills by networking and approaching people, I’ve gathered more information as to what it really means to be an event planner, and networking has made me more open to different careers paths. That’s success for me!

Favourite activities at #HereToPartysewing with Handmade Alliance, ice cream making with Udderlicious and learning to knit and lace with Age UK Islington

Accolades: Winner of The Saturday Night Project’s Tweet and Balance championship (I won ice skating tickets for sending a tweet whilst balancing on a ball in the shortest time: 26 seconds!)

A huge thanks to Samira and Elisa for their hard work and energy on the Here To 1st Birthday project. We wish you the best of luck for the future!