Resilient neighbourhoods enable everyone to be a volunteering superstar

Covid-19 saw an explosion of community volunteering and involved people who had never volunteered locally before. As we come out of this crisis situation, we want to ensure the momentum for neighbourhood volunteering is sustained. The problem is, a lot of 'Mutual Aid' groups and traditional 'good neighbour' schemes are not sustainable after Covid. Starting in Surrey, Neighbourforce is a social enterprise providing a framework of technology and processes for existing community volunteering groups to continue into the future, and for new groups to be formed.. We believe in making groups more sustainable, participative and resilient. Helping communities to plan and prepare for future crises (not just pandemics), and respond to them when then happen. And making everyday volunteering easy, safe and social for volunteers, and easy for volunteer organisers, so they can provide valuable backup to the community. We want everyone to have the opportunity to be a superhero, no matter how much time they have. And we want every neighbourhood to have a volunteer force to be reckoned with.

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Neighbourhood volunteering needs to be easy, safe and social. And easier for organisers.

Our philosophy

Our vision for neighbourhood volunteering is that it needs to fit into people's lives, to give EVERYONE the opportunity to be a superhero, on their terms. Our mission has four guiding principles:

1. Volunteering should be easy

Volunteering needs to fit into people's lives, with flexible opportunities to "dip in and out" of volunteering, rather than relying on regular commitment

2. Volunteering should be safe

Although volunteering needs to be flexible, it can't be totally casual - it needs to be logged, and volunteers need backup if something goes wrong. They need to feel they're not on their own.

3. Volunteering should be social

An app that merely matches volunteers to tasks is not enough. Volunteers need to feel part of a team. Community spirit is important and being social is a strong motivation.

4. Organising should be easier

Group organisers do an essential job. But they currently spend a lot of time worrying about technology, health & safety, data protection and safeguarding compliance. We want to solve these problems, so organisers can spend more time co-ordinating volunteers.

How Neighbourforce helps local groups

Neighbourforce will provide the technology, the operating infrastructure, and the support systems, to help group leaders run neighbourhood volunteering groups. Each group that is part of the Neighbourforce collective will retain its local autonomy, but will use shared systems (all with extremely user-friendly interfaces). This will help solve the difficult problems for group leaders, such as data protection, safeguarding, health and safety, and easy management of volunteer and client information. So local group organisers can "do their thing" - co-ordinating volunteers - without always worrying that they might be doing "the wrong thing" by mistake. We're starting by building a prototype technology platform, based on integrating software from Airtable, Softr and Zapier. This platform will be continually improved. We know how important it is for technology used by volunteers to be straightforward and user-friendly. From day one, we will provide a volunteer portal where volunteers can securely sign up to your group, and update their skills, contact details and preferences. We will also provide a co-ordinators' portal where your group's co-ordinators can record and allocate jobs. We'll provide virtual helplines and voicemail, email and webpages where you need it. All our services are provided for an affordable monthly or annual cost. We can even support your group to find the funding to cover this cost, and groups that are unable to do so may be supported by our sponsors. Please get in touch using the contact form below, if you'd like to know more, or if you'd like your group to be among the first to join the collective.

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Meet the founders behind Neighbourforce

Neighbourforce's founders are Helen Cammack and Dale Roberts, two technology- and community-minded Woking residents with the front-line operational experience of running local voluntary groups, and a strong desire to create a positive, lasting legacy out of the Covid-19 experience. We were inspired to start Neighbourforce having been involved in the running of different Covid-19 voluntary support groups during 2020, in different parts of Woking borough. When we compared notes, we found that we shared a vision of how community volunteering could evolve.

Helen Cammack

Helen has lived in the Woking area for over fifteen years, and has had a varied corporate career including strategy consulting and Commercial Director roles at FTSE100 telecoms companies. More recently she has been a software entrepreneur, and helped technology start-ups, and in 2019/20 was the founding Operations Director of the new global charity Clean Air Fund which raised over $50m in funding in its first year. She has been active in community groups for many years, founding Horsell Snow Angels in 2013 which expanded into local resilience group Horsell Prepared in 2018/19, just in time to lead the Covid-19 response in her suburb of Horsell, co-ordinating the efforts of over 450 volunteers. Helen is an adoptive parent of two, and plays an active role in the local adopters' community and in helping others gain the confidence to adopt.

Dale Roberts

Dale has lived in Woking for over twenty years and, over that time, has run a number of technology businesses that have employed hundreds of people in the South East of England. Today, he runs a commercial dispute resolution practice and volunteers as a community mediator for Mediation Surrey. Dale is an author and has published two books on digital business, but also keeps active as a runner. His most ambitious race was a marathon that started at Everest Base Camp raising funds for Parkinsons UK and the Brain Tumour Charity. He jointly organises his local Covid support group covering Brookwood, St John's and Knaphill.

Support our bid for funding

We've submitted our idea to the 'Your Fund Surrey' ideas map, to begin our bid to raise funds from Surrey County Council to make our vision a reality. To support us, click through and 'Agree' with the idea on the map. We will be very grateful for all your support!

Let's have a conversation!

We would love to hear from you, especially if your group might like to join our collective! Contact us to share any feedback or ask any questions, or simply to say hello.