Ways you can help your community

Week notes 17 January 2020

Posted on 17 January, 2020

This week... 

  • Introducing ‘franchise kits’  

  • Skill sharing

  • Iterating ‘lend a hand’ and the results we’ve seen  

  • Not in your area? Search for your location and let us know if you’re interested  

  • A step closer to login 

  • A Co-operate homepage 

  • Where’s Natalie been?

Co-operate background  

Stronger communities are at the heart of the Co-op strategy, so we’re going to completely reinvent what commercial, community partnerships should be. 

Being a co-op, we believe that more co-operation will improve our local communities. 

Co-operation is harder than it needs to be, so we're going to make it easier. 

The idea is that we build an initial range of tools or features and learn which ones truly impact a community. These tools need to be as real as we can make them so we can really understand what users do, instead of what they might tell us. 

Find out more on our About page. 

Introducing ‘franchise’ kits 

We’re wrapping up the final few tasks on How to guides and shifting our focus onto ‘Franchise’ kits.  

We want to give inexperienced organisers the option to start something tried and tested, instead of thinking up and designing their community project or activity from scratch. 

Our ambition is to make something that has been a success and had an impact in one community, available to replicate in another.  

There are lots of benefits of opening a franchise, like:  

In the same way in business, you can open a Subway, rather than open your own sandwich shop. For community events, joining an existing ‘franchise’ like Flix in the Sticks, who play movies in rural areas, would give you access to equipment, like the projector and screen.

The ‘founders’ also bring expertise and experience in applying for funding and clearing movie rights and much more. This cuts out lots of the complexity that normally comes with putting on a film night of your own in your community. 

We spoke to Martin Rogers, Leading Franchises for Co-op, about what works and what they have struggled with. We’ve been looking into existing kits, from how to put on a MacMillan Coffee Morning to how to run your own Soup event. We’ve also been considering which community ‘franchises’ we might launch with. 

As well as franchises that come with a brand we’ve also been thinking about starter kits for other types of community projects, like organising a book club or ‘gardening gang’ and how we can encourage people to be a bit more neighbourly by organising a street party or baking for your neighbours. 

We’re also weighing up how these smaller community activities might be the gateway to taking on a more ambitious community project and how these can be tightly coupled on Co-operate.

There’s lots to do, but we’re excited about the opportunity ahead.

Skill sharing

We now have UsTwo working with us focusing on:    "How can we connect organisers with volunteers who can help them start, run or improve a community activity?"

As a first step towards this, we set our goal for Sprint 1 as:  "Gain a better understanding of the pain points that organisers experience when looking for help with their event/activity/cause so that we can understand where a digital service can create an impact."

We spoke to some member pioneers to find out more about their role and about community organisers they've talked and started lining up a lot of interviews with community organisers from our networks for next week. So we now actually have 8 interviews lined up and are looking forward to all the insights from that. 

We also did an assumptions mapping exercise to understand what to focus the research on:

and mapped out what things will need to be in place to enable organiser and helpers actually being matched in skills on the platform:

(We're in love with the digital post-it note tool

Thank you for such a great start 

your skills share team in London 

Iterating ‘Lend a hand’ and the results we’ve seen 

At the start we called our volunteering service, ‘Lend a hand’. Our mission was to lower the barrier to volunteering. Our research told us that people find the concept off-putting so we experimented with a friendlier phrase. It didn’t seem to work. So, we changed it to call it what it is: ‘volunteering’. 

We did this because: 

  • we heard in our research that organisers and participants used the word 'volunteer'. It’s important we use the words our ‘users’ use 

  • ‘Lend a hand’ is colloquial and therefore not accessible to everyone (especially people with English as a second language) 

  • only 2 organisers added their volunteering opportunities to our website 

  • people search for 'volunteering opportunities' in Google, not 'lend a hand opportunities' 

We also realised the lack of volunteering opportunities being added might be because of the restricted criteria we’d added to the ‘Add a volunteering opportunity’ form. We’d asked for opportunities where people didn’t need to be Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checked and didn’t need skills.  

The difference these changes have made 

  • 14 volunteering opportunities added by organisers since this change. This might not be a massive number but it’s nearly a 1,300 % increase in opportunities being added 

  • Organisers are adding a range of opportunities. Including working with vulnerable people and children where people need to be DBS checked which is helping us understand the real needs within a community 



Not in your area? Search for your location and let us know if you're interested 

We're catering well to users in the areas we currently serve but have little idea how much wider the intent to use the service falls. 

We want to empower users to tell us where they are and sign up to the service if they want it in their area. This way we can start to make decisions off the back of the data such as where to launch next.

To do this we’ve worked on adding a free-form text field to allow users to search for another area and the ability to sign-up to register interest.

This is super exciting and will give us the flexibility to activate new areas more easily while following the user demand. 

A step closer to login 

The next few months will see the team explore new opportunities to make Co-operate a more self-serve experience, where organisers and participants can manage their own presence easily and interact with the service in new ways.  

For this to happen, they will need to be identified so they can be linked to a persistent user account. This is something the Membership team has been looking into and are working towards offering a centralised sign-in experience so users only have to manage one Co-op account across all the Co-op estate. 

We have experimented with this and implemented a small proof-of-concept to log into the Co-operate service using our very own Co-op account

This has been a real collaborative experience between teams, and beyond the pat on the back we all deserve from successfully signing in, we have gathered lots of feedback for the Membership team. We will be contributing to their documentation and helping them iron out small issues, as well as giving them a working example they can now direct future teams to. 

 That's what we call co-operation! 

A Co-operate homepage

Last week you’ll have seen that we started work on making the page you land on when you go to more representative of all aspects of Co-operate. Right now the live page just shows the locations where we have launched, it doesn’t describe what Co-operate is, or show off the fact we have ‘How to’ guides and volunteering opportunities.

The design we shared last week had these things in it but after a group feedback session we decided that the page was trying to do too much, so with this in mind we wanted to create a simpler design that explains what Co-operate is and allows people to navigate to the place within Co-operate that is best for them.

We want to learn what users are coming to Co-operate for and what job they are trying to do. It will also help us start to identify organisers and participants as we begin to build more personalised journeys.  

You can see the first design below. We’ll be critiquing it next week.

Where’s Natalie been?

I met with Ed Carlisle who is an experienced organiser in the South Leeds community who is involved in several events, projects and initiatives including Beeston Festival, a food share initiative and several ‘Friends of’ groups.

Top insights 

  • Sharing Stories. Ed believes that the stories that the community shares are important, which fits with our theory of the importance of having the Share your story place on Co-operate. “The stories that we tell about our communities are just as important as the things that we do...It's a way of inspiring people and helping them innovate with how they get involved”. 

  • He talked about the concept of not just building skills but developing hope and vision alongside that. You can build people's skills, but it doesn’t go anywhere if they don’t have a vision, and vice versa. This fits well with the direction we are developing our skills match services by not just matching physical skills but personal development also. 

I also met with Joanna from Churwell Action Group Environmental Volunteers who maintain an area of urban woodland in Morley in Leeds. 

Top insights 

  • Driving traffic to our volunteer opportunities. Most of their volunteers are of the older end of the spectrum and they need some younger people to come on board, and by younger people they mean early retirement age. They are going to list their opportunities on Co-operate which is great but also shifts our focus to how we start to recruit participants. We’re workshopping new and innovate ways next week.  

  • Social prescribing. They have links with social prescribing networks but they don’t have many people referred. They feel as though other organisations are higher up the rank and take priority although they have the skills and opportunities to help. We’re currently exploring how we can trial an element of social prescribing and therefore the groups we would like to partner with to ensure we have the right opportunities on offer.  

What a week!

Hope you all have a great weekend 


Posted by Jen on 17 January, 2020