We’re Here To… meet Citizens Advice Bureau Isington

My name is Mamello and I work at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Islington which is located inside Islington Council’s offices on 222 Upper Street.

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I started off lending a hand at CAB Islington on a weekly basis myself a couple of years ago and now I work there as an employee. One of my tasks is to find more local people to join our small team to support our advisory work, and we have been using Here To to help us do this at the recommendation of our Chef Executive.

To date, we have posted one opportunity on the Here To website and we have received a really strong response rate: 12 enquiries which have translated into 6 high quality local people helping out with us more regularly. Myself and the Volunteer Manager at CAB Islington are really impressed with this and we have found Here To particularly useful in terms of attracting a more diverse range of people to volunteer with us.

Some of the concepts used by Here To – perks, skills and task-based helping – have also been useful tools for us to reflect on what we offer helpers more widely throughout the organisation and to inform conversations about retention with other members of staff. A real community hub, the Here To Islington website has enabled us to look at what we are offering compared to other projects and also to share local opportunities among staff and residents by word of mouth. We are also taking the Here To approach offline using it to inform aspects of our open day sessions and some of our delivery processes (particularly in terms of how best and how often to contact potential helpers).

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In terms of the visual appeal of the website, I personally enjoy spending time looking at all the opportunities on Here To. Here To reminds me that I am not working in the vacuum, and that there are other organisations working towards similar goals in the borough. I have even been tempted by some of the opportunities for myself!

As an organisation, we feel we need to allow a more time to assess the level of impact Here To has on CAB Islington, but Here To has certainly been a great springboard for us in terms of getting new people through our door and in polarising our thinking internally.

Thinking about improving the project, we feel that Here To could share more market intelligence about what is going on in the voluntary sector across Islington. It would also be great to see Here To facilitating wider organisational learning by getting Volunteer Managers and third sector organisations together to solve collective challenges. Some of the functions on the website, like the image uploader, need to be made a bit more user friendly too.

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In 2014, we are looking forward to working more with Here To on a broader range of opportunities. As an organisation, we are passionate about creating an organisational culture where staff and volunteers are all ‘paid’, but in different ways: sometimes that is money and sometimes that’s through Perks. Working with Here To and utilising their technology will support us in making this happen.

Inspired? To sign up to help out locally or to make a call out for volunteers, visit our main website islington.hereto.org

We’re Here To… meet Whitecross Street Party

Hi Here To.

My name is Becky and I took a lead role in organising this year’s Whitecross Street Party alongside curator/street artist Teddy Baden and the team at St. Luke’s Community Centre. I just wanted to share a bit about my recent Here To experience with you.

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Whitecross Street Party is a celebration of the arts, emerging creatives, community and non-conformity. Every year, we look for local people to a play a number of different stewarding roles over the weekend to ensure the public has an enjoyable, but safe time. This year our Chef Executive recommended we got in touch with Here To and I have to say I was seriously impressed with the project, the service I received and the number of high calibre helpers we got on the day.

I initially sent out a general call-out email to a range of organisations who I thought might be able to help us and Here To got in touch right away. At short notice and with just a brief telephone interview and an event flyer, the Here To Manager was able to support me in creating a high quality and punchy opportunity. This was a real help considering I was busily organising the rest of the street party and, as with all big community events, we were cutting it a bit fine on time.

In the post itself, we emphasised events experience, being part of the action and meeting street artists as the central Perks on offer for residents, and that we were looking for people with a can-do attitude, who could easily switch between tasks and who would be able to excite people about all things Whitecross Street Party.

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Within a week of being live and having shared the opportunity on our social media platforms, three enquires had come through via the Here To website. I got in touch with them all to communicate key details about what time to meet where on the day, but also to invite them to a pre-event briefing. I did not really expect any of them to be able to make the briefing, so I was really surprised when they all turned up in addition to the Street Party itself.

All three helpers has the right skills, energy and enthusiasm to complete the tasks I had in mind for them and, the fact they made it to the briefing meant they were more effective and efficient in doing so. They did a great job on the day, they were smiley and they enjoyed helping us out too: this was exactly what I was looking for.

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Thinking about how Here To could be improved, I am struggling to think of anything really. I have seen similar initiatives before, but I could see that Here To was the right channel for Whitecross Street Party to find the type of local people we were looking for. It was great to see too, that when I Googled the event, our Here To opportunity page was highly visible as one of the top search results.

I am certain that I will use Here To again in the future for exciting, low commitment and bite-sized opportunities. If you are an Islington-based charity, community leader or a small organisation looking for local people to help out with your project, I would strongly recommend using Here To in addition to traditional methods.

Inspired? To sign up to help out locally or to make a call out for volunteers, visit our main website islington.hereto.org

We’re Here To… meet Natalie

Hi I’m Natalie!

I’ve just returned from travelling after completing a degree in Psychology and now I am exploring my career options and looking for a job. I’m still not sure exactly want I would like to do though, so I am keen to try some new things and get involved in some local projects

I found out about Here To Islington through Islington Giving and arranged to meet up with the Here To team to discuss how I could get involved. They had an event coming up called Give Local, so that was the initial focus.

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Give Local was really fun and I spent most of the time talking residents and organisations through the website and getting guests to reveal their secret skills using the Here To Photomatic Machine (above). I also got to take part in a pizza-making workshop which was yummy!

After Give Local, I spent a day working with Katherine the Here To Manager to map out user journeys that represented how different audiences used the Here To website. The aim of this was to better familiarise myself with the website but also to think about where improvements can be made. I also helped Katherine run an information stall at The Saturday Night Project where we used sweet wrappers to canvas young people’s level of interest in giving their time locally.

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I really enjoy keeping myself busy on a range of projects, so helping out with Here To has provided a welcomed distraction amid many job applications! I have learnt more about what I like doing and I have found out that I enjoy running events, trouble-shooting and problem-solving in particular.

I have also got a buzz out of meeting a variety of people through Here To and I feel more connected to my local area as a result. My communications and customer service skills have got a boost too, and I have gained insight into what it’s like to run a local tech-based project. I also got a 1 hour careers chat with the Katherine in exchange for my help and support, which was very useful!

Give local briefingLooking to the future, I am really interested in staying involved with Here To Islington. I love the fact that I can help out locally when it suits me, and also get some real perks out of it at the same time. I feel I know so much more about the website now and I am confident telling other organisations and residents about it. Having grown up in the borough, I am particularly keen to get more involved in Islington.

Very exciting times!

Inspired? To sign up to help out locally or to make a call out for volunteers, visit our main website islington.hereto.org

We’re Here To… mystery shop The Saturday Night Project

At Here To, we regularly invite our Wizards to go and try out some of the live opportunities we have on the Here To website with a view to letting us know how it went as a helper. Super-Wizard Tanya took a visit to The Saturday Night Project, one of our most popular opportunities. Here’s her feedback…

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Another entry from a Here To Wizard. After exploring the connotations of and unpacking the thoughts behind the term ‘volunteering’, I have returned to the Here To blog to talk about a recent experience helping out in Islington locally.

This time my escapades took me to The Saturday Night Project at the Sobell Centre. Once every last Saturday of the month, this leisure centre magically transforms into a night jam-packed with activities for 13-19 year olds. The aim is to us the event to encourage a healthy attitude towards fitness whilst giving teens a safe environment to hang out.

My motivation behind volunteering for The Saturday Night Project was my experience growing up: there weren’t all too many places for ‘youths’ to go in my hometown. This led to a lot of hanging around in car parks and putting ourselves in compromising situations. With this in my mind, I thought that any event that can provide teens a chance to escape those situations and get them into a safe environment where they can chill, be merry, and, well, be teens, is a project worth being part of in my books.

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I arrived at the Sobell Centre at 5.30pm and was merrily greeted by the other helpers. I was pleased to see that they all looked quite young themselves and saw this as a sign that they believed in the project and were dedicated to its cause: ‘taking back Saturday nights!’ It did, however, make me feel a bit old!

Alexis, the lead organiser of The Saturday Night Project provided me with a t-shirt to wear. As I’ve written in my previous blog post, something as small as a t-shirt really does do the trick in terms of making you feel like you’re a part of something exciting and a valued part of a team.

I had a quick look around the centre to see what the night had to offer and, boy was I jealous! It made me wish I was a teenager again just so that I could come to the Sobell and get my skates on – because, yes, there was roller skating! But of course it didn’t end there. The ice rink was shiny and glazed, ready to be chiseled by skates, there was a dance studio set up, the gym was opened, and makeshift 5-a-side football, basketball, and badminton courts were all ready to go! You name it, Saturday Night Project had thought of it. It didn’t end at sporting events, either, as there was singing, competitions, and general hanging out too.

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As the clock hands hit 6pm, teenagers started trickling in and I was ready, donning my new t-shirt, and preparing myself for growing crowds. My role for the evening was to greet guests and put their wristbands on to show they had paid the affordable £3 entry fee. However, there was a special offer on that night where free entry was given to anyone dressed up along a Christmas theme. I admired many Santa hats and tinsel accessories that night!

Apparently, The Saturday Night Project I went to was a relatively quiet one. According to some of the young people, ‘it is usually way busier!’ It didn’t feel that quiet though, as it seemed as though I was putting wristbands on an endless number of people!

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I liked the role that I was given as a meet and greet/registration helper, as I’m naturally a gregarious person: speaking to teens made the task all the more entertaining and I think they liked it that there was someone approachable and older manning the entrance. However, I only wish that there was another volunteer beside me as, when there were less people coming in, it could feel a bit lonely with no one to chat to.

The biggest Perk of the experience, for me though, was doing something productive on a Saturday night. I don’t always like to go out but that’s not to say I enjoy sitting on my backside on a Saturday, either.

I’d definitely recommend The Saturday Night Project as it’s a fantastic place to go with a great atmosphere and overall goal. I would probably recommend it more to younger volunteers who aren’t afraid to get stuck in, but if you’re up for it, love kids/sports and are willing to give up a Saturday night, then this is the place for you!

Tanya : )

We’re Here To… flashback to Student Volunteering Week 2014

Students have a long history of being an incredibly powerful and valuable resource when it comes to supporting the voluntary sector and local communities.

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As former students ourselves, we know that the typical student stereotype – ‘lazy binge drinkers who just don’t care’ – really isn’t as widespread as people might think.

But now, research from NUS to coincide with Student Volunteering Week 2014 includes data that proves it: nearly a third of students volunteer for c. 44 hours a year!

So, when Here To was approached by City University to support their Student Volunteering Week on campus, we jumped at the chance to reinforce the message that students are a positive force for social good to the people of Islington!

How did we help?

Firstly, we opened up our ‘little black book’ and connected the City University team to 2 of our most popular projects: the Saturday Night Project and the Finsbury & Clerkenwell Volunteers lunch club. These were added to the volunteering schedule for the week for students to sign up to and, as a result, 20 City University students helped out across these two opportunities.

Here To also ran an activity at the Student Union for SWV 2014. Aiming to spread so-called ‘random acts of kindness’ and to connect students to people in Islington they might not usually meet, we enabled students to tap into their creative side with a bit of Community Card-making.

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‘What’s Community Card-making?!’ we hear you cry. Simply: it’s spending a small amount of time and effort making a card for someone you do not know that will bring some happiness to their day.

Here’s a brief guide…

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…and some City University students making their cards!

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The national SVW 2014 campaign even got behind the idea, and included Community Card-making as one of their 50 Good Deeds on Facebook!

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After making the cards, we joined another group of City University students the following day at the Everleigh Street Community Garden. In between painting benches and cutting back overgrown bushes, a couple of students joined us to deliver the batch of brightly coloured envelopes to unsuspecting Islington residents.

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It was all very exciting!

To explain the initiative, we put some stickers on the back of the cards that also invited people to respond if they wanted to.

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We weren’t too hopeful, so were pleasantly surprised to receive the following letter a week later:

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It just goes to show how easy it is to connect with people outside your own immediate network or area, and how small gestures can make a meaningful difference: just add stickers and crayons!

As ever, it was great to join forces with City University and to contribute to SVW 2014. We will leave you with a short summary video below that recaps what they got up to throughout the week, and showcases all that is great about student volunteering.

Enjoy!

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We’re Here To… pilot a new project with Islington Aftercare

At Here To, we’re always on the look-out for new ways we can support local people in Islington to get perks and new skills from helping out on local projects. But even better, is when one of our very own Here To helpers comes forward with a new idea for a collaboration. Enter Joe Mitchell!

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The background

Joe first used the Here To website to find a volunteering opportunity when he moved to Archway last year. After a positive experience helping out at DORCAS, a local befriending project, Joe started to explore the idea of getting Here To involved in the work he does for his day job at SHP.

SHP stands for Single Homeless Project, and it’s a charity driven to improve the quality of life of homeless and vulnerable people in London. SHP have been recently commissioned by Islington Council to run Islington Aftercare, a service that supports people in recovery to get into education, training, employment and volunteering.

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After a couple of joint meetings, it became clear that Here To’s approach to volunteering – bite-sized, clear and perks-based – was best-placed to support SHP to build the confidence of its clients in this area.

We therefore got to work and collaboratively designed a 1-week intensive programme that included 2 training sessions and 2 opportunities to help out locally in Islington. The key aim of the pilot project was to enable SHP’s clients to experience volunteering in small ways (with no obligation to commit in the longer term), and to boost their confidence, self-awareness and knowledge of what volunteering is all about. Exciting stuff!

What happened?

It’s safe to say that the overall, the week-long pilot was an extremely positive experience for everyone involved: SHP clients, SHP staff, the Here To team and the 2 Islington projects we supported.

In the first session, we looked at volunteering as a concept, explored motivations, barriers and potential activities, and created our own volunteering profiles to better understand what sort of helping out we would all be interested in.

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In the second session, we mapped out the key steps of the typical volunteer journey and led some empathy exercises to better understand the pressures faced by local projects in Islington, and why they might need people to help out.

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After 2 classroom based sessions, we then launched into helping out on 2 local projects. The first was Finsbury and Clerkenwell Volunteers’ lunch club in Old Street, where we served food and socialised with guests…

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…an the second was supporting the Islington Council Parks Team with a bit of gardening/DIY to finish a natural play area in Whittington Park.

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Although a very busy week, we’re pleased to report that 14 SHP clients took part in the training sessions and 8 of those went on to volunteer in just 7 days (3 of whom helped out twice!).

Feedback from participants

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Clients’ thoughts…

Very interesting! I am now more aware of volunteering and it was useful to see how to search for opportunities on the internet

It was a simple concept that worked

The classroom sessions were really informative and set me up for volunteering – it has encouraged me to do more

The sessions helped me to explore the barriers I face to helping out locally and gave me the tools to address these

This was a constructive use of my free time

It was good to have something physical to do through this programme. Not too long ago I would never have done something like this

I enjoyed keeping busy and doing activities I had not done before

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Other comments…

Joe Mitchell, SHP – The week really inspired a number of our clients to continue with volunteering. At least 5 have already been searching for their next opportunity to help out locally with their key workers, and 4 have applied to or are keen to continue with the projects we visited during the week! The workshops helped our clients see how simple it is to find opportunities. The bitesize volunteer sessions were very popular and gave our clients a taster of the joys of volunteering and just how easy it is to help out in their community.

Judy Gould, Finsbury & Clerkenwell Volunteers – Working with Here To and SHP on this pilot project was pleasing on all sides: it felt good to support people to build their confidence through volunteering with us, whilst also having more people to run our lunch club and socialise with our older guests. We have already had several applications from those who took part who want to help us out on a longer-term basis. It was good all round!

Chris Collins, Islington Council Community Ranger (North Area)Being one of the volunteer projects to benefit from this Here To pilot initiative was brilliant! Everything just fell neatly into place and the help from the group to finish the natural play area in Whittington Park was very much welcomed. We look forward to supporting more groups via Here To in the future.

All in all, the pilot was very successful and participants reported an increase in their confidence, self-esteem and motivation to volunteer as a result of taking part. We’ll therefore be looking in the coming weeks to see how we can offer this programme on a more regular basis for SHP’s clients.

It really is amazing what you can achieve in a week!

We’re Here To… celebrate #microday

Saturday 15 March 2014 was the first ever Microvolunteering Day, a chance for volunteer-involving organisations and people to join together to demonstrate the power and potential of the micovolunteering concept.

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Microvolunteering is defined by the Institute of Volunteering Research as ‘bite-sized volunteering with no commitment to repeat and with minimum formality, involving short and specific actions that are quick to start and complete’.

So basically, small, fun and flexible ways for people to help out quickly and easily – the sort that we’re really keen on here at Here To!

Led by Help from Home and other partner organisations including Here To, Microvolunteering Day invited individuals to complete micro-tasks in as little as 10 minutes, and advice and resources were made available to help charities and community projects to embrace the idea.

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How we celebrated #MicroDay

As well as telling the Here To community about Microvolunteering Day through newsletters and on our social media channels, we also held our own ‘microvolunteering party’ as part of Tollington Community Open Day held at Islington Arts and Media School (IAMS).

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17 pupils from the school volunteered a couple of hours to help the Tollington Ward Partnership (who were running the event) to find out more about what people thought of living in the area through a questionnaire.

In just 4 hours, the group of young people got 149 responses from guests, which equates to 69 hours of microvolunteering in total!

A big well done to the Year 11 pupils at IAMS who made this possible and all those involved in organising Tollington Community Open Day.

The findings from the survey will be used to help Councillors in the area and the Tollington Ward Partnership in their future decision-making.

Until next year!

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If you’re interested in taking part in microvolunteering, visit the Here To website and sign up to something that takes your fancy.

If you’re interested in adopting the approach in your organisation, please get in touch with us by emailing hello@hereto.org. We’re Here To help and have run training on microvolunteering for volunteer-involving charities.

Here To… offer Food for Thought

Having just celebrated Here To’s 1st birthday, we’re now having a good old think about how we can create the right environment and support for the Here To community to continue to flourish in our 2nd year.

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The Here To journey first started all the way back in the summer of 2012 when two companies called Isledon and FutureGov came together to create an online volunteer brokerage for Islington. Central to the development of this movement, was you: the local people and local organisations who would be using it. Some people call this co-design, co-production or (for all the techies) Agile Software Development. But basically, it means involving the people who are going to use a product/service to make key decisions about its creation and development: from its name, to what it looks like and its overall approach. Apart from being complete common sense, this sort of approach makes it more likely for new projects to succeed as users feel greater ownership over what they’ve helped to create.

When we were first creating Here To, we sought your advice through workshops

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…user testing sessions

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…at community events

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and on the streets of Islington!

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At the moment, we’re Here To think about how we can make Here To more financially sustainable and how we can increase the services and support we offer to local people and projects. We’re also Here To rethink some of our original decisions – e.g. not using the word volunteering, clarifying what we mean by bite-sized – based on what we have learnt delivering a dynamic project like Here To in practice.

So we’re literally offering local people and local projects ‘Food for Thought': a light dinner or lunch made by the lovely Lift Kitchen in exchange for your advice on some of our current challenges.

As well as being able to make your/your organisation’s voice heard at the strategic level of Here To, these sessions will be an ideal chance to meet your neighbours and to network with other organisations.

Local people: Tuesday 11 March 2014, 6-7.30pm at Lift. Sign up by clicking here.

Local projects: Monday 17 March 2014, 12noon-1.30pm at Lift. Sign up by emailing joanna@hereto.org.

There are only 15 places available for each session, so do get in there fast!

If you can’t make it to either of these dates, feel free to drop us an email, tweet or a call with any of your thoughts, particularly around the aspects of our service you might be willing to pay for, how we can help local projects translate more enquiries into helping out and where you think our priorities should lie in terms of volunteering provision in Islington.

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!