Here To BiteSize PLUS

Happy Friday all…..!

Just a little hello to tell you all about our up and coming BiteSize plus opportunities here at Here To.

Having listened to you all over the course of some of our recent Pop-Ups and events we have learned of many people interested in extending their Islington contributions from ‘one offs’ to giving of more hours to longer lasting opportunities.

Thus…. Here To BiteSize PLUS is born.

Sharing and supporting through skills swapping.

‘Sharing and supporting one another through skills swapping’

Here To BiteSize PLUS will act as a specific skills matching brokerage. Pairing skilled residents up with projects in need of their super special skills and so on. Those offering their skilful services to Here To will benefit from in house training by leading Isledon youth engagement practitioners, as well as references and recommendations from Here To upon completion.

Volunteers engaging with Here To BiteSize PLUS will offer a few hours at a time, perhaps once a week, perhaps once a fortnight perhaps once  a month for some spectacular session they think they could run, using skills from their professions, passions and life long learning.

The joy of committing just that little bit more time to supporting our young people and the community is that you get to start to see some of the results, your skills being passed on, manifesting in front of you in the actions of others.

Our first exciting recruitment drive for Here To BiteSize PLUS will be for our latest youth hub, Rose Bowl. We are seeking skilful souls in areas such as Arts and Crafts, Nature Play, Creative Writing, Cooking, Hair and Beauty/Nail Art and people simply willing to impart some of their oodles of acquired knowledge on our young people in a home work club, helping with reading and writing and supporting studies. In becoming a Youth Engagement  Volunteer at our Youth Hub you will work alongside our Youth Support Workers to create a nurturing and supportive environment that enriches, educates and inspires our young people. As a Here To Youth Engagement Support Worker you will act as a positive role model to all the young people who access our services, supporting positive activities and play.

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Basically if you have some skills (which lets face it…YOU ALL DO) and a genuine interest in supporting positive progression of young people….. then we want to hear from you! Get in touch and get involved.

Have a good weekend everybody.

Sinéad

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… The King’s Head Theatre

An important part of the Here To process is to regularly check-in with the residents, organisations and community groups using the website.

This offers us a great chance to find out about people’s Here To success stories: why they decided to get involved, how they have benefited as a result and how they think we can improve the Here To experience.

We’re Here To report that The King’s Head Theatre now sources the majority of its helpers through Here To Islington! Here’s Louisa with her Here To story…

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Hi. I’m Louisa. I work at The King’s Head Theatre, an Islington-based arts venue on Upper Street, as Theatre Manager. The King’s Head Theatre is a totally self-funded organisation, so we rely heavily on volunteers to support our 7-strong creative and management team.

The venue is also world-renowned and has enjoyed over 40 transfers of its performances to the West End and Broadway! So the pressure is on to maintain a high visitor experience, and having highly motivated volunteers is a great way to get there!

I first heard about Here To via Dominic Haddock, the Executive Director, who is heavily involved in the Islington arts and community scene. I found the Here To website straight forward and easy-to-use, and the bite-sized component of the opportunities fitted in perfectly with what we were looking for: ushers.

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The Here To team informs me that The Kings Head Theatre’s ushering opportunity is one of their most popular projects with Islington residents, which is really useful to know! Of the 17 enquiries we’ve had so far, The King’s Head Theatre has benefited from 4 regular ushers who are on our books, and around 10 who have helped out for a couple of shows. I always meet face-to-face with new volunteers as part of my working day, to go through what ushering involves and to offer them the chance to complete a shadow shift so they feel confident with what they’re being asked to do.

We put on shows 7 days a week (with 110 guests for each show), so we are grateful for as many helping hands as possible! Creating the best possible theatre experience for guests is important to us as we would like to see audiences return to us time and time again. Considering the number of people we’ve had through Here To, Here To helpers have made a real difference to the smooth running of show set-up, the box office and interval refreshments.

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I am also regularly using other digital tools alongside Here To (such as Doodle) to help coordinate volunteer rotas better after getting feedback from helpers that the process needed to be more efficient. I think that focusing on good organisation enables me to manage many volunteers simultaneously for the benefit of the theatre, while also giving those helping out to chance to get the most out of what they’re doing. For example, one Here To enquirer called Hannah is also a keen pianist. We are extremely happy to offer her the chance to practice on our baby grand piano in between shifts!

Using the Here To website has helped me to think about the wider potential of bite-sized volunteering at the King’s Head Theatre, and I’m keen to design a process that works to enable more of this sort of helping out on an on-going basis.

Thinking about the future, I’m very happy with the help I have had from Here To to date as the website has allowed us to attract a healthy pool of volunteers that make a huge difference to our local arts venue. I want to continue to use Here To to find new people to help out, especially in advance of the upcoming summer season (although some of the more established Here To volunteers continue to come back to show new people the ropes on their first shift)!

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… talk about the word ‘volunteer’

‘Volunteering’ or ‘volunteer’ are words that you may have noticed are largely absent from the Here To website and the Here To blog. This is no coincidence!

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Research and experience at the time of launching Here To showed that people have (often negative) preconceptions about what ‘volunteering’ entails: read as hard to do, costly, long term commitments, lots of waiting around, a lack of clarity, menial jobs and one-way etc.

Here To is less about exhorting people to ‘volunteer’ and more about helping people to find bite-sized ways they can meet personal goals – e.g. get work experience, meet new people, get fit – that just so happen to be good for the community too. So we wanted to use a different language to ‘volunteering’ to reflect the different way of thinking embodied through Here To.

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We’ve tested this approach for the last year and found that not talking about ‘volunteering’ inspires people to see their Secret Skills differently and what they can do to help out in new and exciting ways. You just need to take a look at our gallery of Here To Photomatic Machine pictures to see that in action.

But it also creates a couple of challenges:

a) It’s harder for people to find us online – people tend to look for ‘volunteering in Islington’ rather than ‘helping out in Islington’ or ‘lending a hand in Islington’ when searching online. As a digital platform, we’re worried those people aren’t finding us.

b) People aren’t always sure what we do – we might consider the preconceptions attached to ‘volunteering’ to be a weakness, but they’re also a strength in that people tend to know exactly what you’re on about. As a project that wants to be making helping out easier and clearer to do, we wouldn’t want to be inadvertently confusing people.

As a result, we’re opening up to using the word ‘volunteering’ a bit more when it is really necessary. As one member of our community put it at a recent Food for Thought meet up, ‘I would rather than you focused on innovating volunteering rather than worried about whether or not to use the word itself’.

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We’e spoken to a lot of people about the language we use to talk about Here To, including some of our Wizards. Tanya writes below about why using the word ‘volunteering’ should be kept to a minimum and should be supported by other more inspirational language. This blog post will also act as a healthy reminder for us to avoid overusing it in the future!

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Islington Volunteering Wizardry: how re-naming your volunteers can benefit your organisation

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A quick look through the Here To website and blog and I’m quite tempted by what’s on offer: the Here To website shows that there are so many opportunities I can get involved with locally on my doorstep.

What can I do next? Where can I do it? How to I choose?

Well for a start, the thought of becoming a Here To ‘Wizard’ was all too appealing…

Becoming a Here To Wizard

So what is a Here To Wizard? Why a Here To ‘Wizard’? And does being a Here To Wizard come with the chance to yell ‘abra-kadabra’ every so often? The answer: only if you want it to!

I personally think the term ‘volunteering’ is a bit outdated and it doesn’t always give a feel for what’s expected of you as a volunteer or what the company culture is like. Committed and hard-working volunteers no doubt form the backbone of many different types of organisations, and that’s great. But what’s to stop us adding a spin of creativity and call them something different that sounds a bit more spectacular?

I believe that more projects offering the chance for people to get involved with what they’re doing should shy away from using the term ‘volunteer’. Talking about ‘lending a hand/brain’, ‘doing a good deed’ or ‘helping out’ can sound much more attractive to someone with a bit of free time on their hands. A good example of this was London 2012, where it was Gamesmakers, not volunteers, that captured our hearts and minds.

By fun-ing up some of the language, organisations and charities may be able to get people to give more of their precious time to good causes, as it is an efficient and clever way to communicate a project’s ethos.

Let’s take ‘Wizards’ at Here To as an example. Hearing the term showed me that the Here To team are fun, lively, and dare I say… magical. The use of language made me want to get involved as it gave me a clearer idea of what to expect and whether it was for me.

Becoming a Here To Wizard not only gets me more excited than helping out, it also means that Here To are getting more of the kinds of people they’re looking for, and that it creates a shared sense of belonging.

So, if you’re a charity that is looking for people to help with the upkeep of a community garden, why not enlist a team of ‘Shovel-wielders’ instead of volunteers? If you require some admin assistance, you may want to call on local ‘Administeers’ instead?

If I ran an organisation tomorrow, then I’d probably use the term ‘Rockers’ just to see what what happen and what kinds of people that might attract!

So in sum, I’d urge you to get out your thinking pads and start thinking of names that really show what you’re about.

Yours truly,

Tanya (proudly a Here To Wizard)

We’re Here To… practice what we preach

At Here To, we’re curious about how other projects and initiatives galvanize their volunteers and how they make helping out as fun and enjoyable as possible. Joanna, the Here To Community Development Co-ordinator, recalls her experience at TEDxEastend…

When my alarm rang on Saturday morning, my initial reaction was to hit snooze: despite loving my day job as Here To Islington’s Community Development Coordinator, I really do enjoy a good lie in after a busy week.

But as I realised why I had set my alarm on such a ‘sacred’ morning in the first place, I shot into action: TEDxEastend was about to land!

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Signing up and getting ready

1 month earlier, a half glimpse of a Facebook shout out for volunteers caught my eye. For those who don’t yet know, TEDx Talks are a series of independently run events that bring together inspiring speakers to spark conversations and the sharing of ideas.

An avid TED fan, I had previously organised TEDxMiltonKeynes, but quite fancied the chance to participate as ‘one of the team’ for TEDxEastend as was being advertised on Facebook (the added perk of free entry to the event was a bit of a clincher too!). Additionally, this year’s theme was ‘Society Beyond Borders’, which really appealed to me as I have spent a lot of time abroad and consider myself ‘a global citizen’.

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Having made it through the selection process to the final 40-odd volunteers, I was then invited to attend a brief info session at Impact HUB Westminster, were we found out which vital cog in the TEDxEastend machine we would be playing on the day. I was assigned Registration, which was right up my street: as a people-person, I wasn’t fazed by welcoming puzzled guests as they arrived at the slightly ‘off the beaten track’ venue.

After a Friday night walk through of the space, the diverse army of bite-sized volunteers had began to bond. Croissants and coffee fueled last-minute preparations on Saturday morning, and all hands were on deck to pull off a pretty amazing space transformation!

Helping out on the day

My overall experience of TEDxEastend was one of occasional chaos. People got confused, tickets were lost and their were even the odd set malfunction. But nobody really minded: it was all part of the beautifully imperfect experience that comes from turning a dream into a walking talking reality.

In between managing the busy Registration desk, I got to sneak into the back row to listen to the programme of talks ongoing throughout the day.

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One of the speakers that resonated with me spoke about the irony that ‘the more we connect, the less we collaborate’. This really got me thinking, particularly about my experience of helping out at TEDxEastend. Sure, there were a few hiccups with communication while in the throws of delivering an ambitious and busy event. But with good process in place and sound preparation in place, people improvised with passion in line with a common vision. For me, this creativity was the ‘magical ingredient’ that made helping out at TEDxEastend so enjoyable. So, based on my experience, I’m not sure I agree with Leandro!

The overall verdict

TEDxEastend was a win-win for me, as I could both share my skills in a one-off way that fit around my full time job AND I also got the perk of attending one of the hottest events in happening in London at the time (there were over 200 people in the waiting list!).

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My view is that time is the ‘new’ currency in such a fast-paced world, and its time we made it work for us by creating more opportunities to volunteer like I did at TEDxEastend!

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!