Bridging the volunteer gap

Bridge project May 19, 2017 10:30 am Published by

An update on the Forres students’ project

Our pioneering MDES Design Innovation students in Forres have reached another milestone in their studies – completion and presentation of their Stage 2 project.

This is the project that has its roots in Winter School, when Masters students from GSA worked with local businesses and community organisations.

The students worked to a research question of: “How can volunteering act as a two-way bridge between Syrian New Scots and the Forres community?”. They then engaged in an immersive research and design development phase with local groups. During this time the focus shifted from refugees themselves to volunteering practices in Moray.

You can read about the earlier stages of the project in our previous blog, Life at the Creative Campus: the teaching studio.

During their research activity, the students identified that the number of organisations in Scotland that rely on volunteers has rapidly increased and it is not uncommon for job seekers to find themselves being “voluntold”, i.e. forced to take a volunteering placement in order to receive their benefit package.

MDES volunteering

The Forres MDES students do some volunteering.

The students identified that this is in opposition to the very ethos of volunteering and that having not freely elected to volunteer, voluntolds are difficult to place. This creates challenges across recruitment, engagement and retention.

Addressing the challenge

To address this challenge, the students proposed a series of design concepts before finally refining their idea. Here one of the students, Finn describes their proposal in more detail:

“Bridge was designed to meet the challenges of ‘voluntelling’ as experienced by Scotland’s third sector. 

“Bridge is a service for connecting volunteers and volunteer organisations, through mini-experiences: short taster sessions offered by an organisation. It uses digital moodboards, an emotive collage of volunteer’s skills and interests or of an organisation’s experiences and values, to create an audial and visual profile. This profile can then be used to match or recommend mini-experiences based upon personal preferences, creating the opportunity for people to make an informed choice about which organisations they would like to work with and bringing freedom back to Scotland’s voluntary sector. 

“Volunteers placed within a context that they identify with and enjoy are more likely to make a valuable and sustainable contribution. Similarly, reducing the challenge of recruitment and retention of suitable volunteers could potentially have been both financial and time-saving impacts for organisations. 

“Bridge has an easy-to-use interface and can be downloaded as an app or used at pop-up events. As volunteers build up their portfolio of ‘mini-experiences’, this contributes to their work experience profile and can support them in future job-seeking.”

Communicating a concept is an important design skill and the students worked hard to refine their project into a clear and articulate message that was presented to the wider teaching and academic cohort at GSA’s Creative Campus.

Next steps

It’s now hoped that the idea could be disseminated by Scotland’s Third Sector Interface Network.

In addition, the students have recently submitted their project process journals (PPJs), a reflective record of their individual personal journal through the project for final assessment. The PPJs document the highs and lows of design activity, including any thoughts, ideas and decisions made throughout the 12-week project and are an important part of the learning experience.

The students are now working towards further dissemination of Bridge: first, a group exhibition to be held in Glasgow on May 22 with their MDES counterparts in Glasgow, and a final presentation on June 6 that will welcome the businesses and community organisations back to see the final concepts that have been developed.

To find out more about our MDES programmes, visit our Teaching pages on our website.

MDES student presentation

The MDES students giving their presentation at GSA Highlands and Islands. Image credit: Jane Candlish

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