Man vs Support: Where young men go online and what they do

Man vs Support: Where young men go online and what they do

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It’s the penultimate blog in our men vs support series. This time around we’ve been asking our young male volunteers about their online interactions with brands and where they spend their free time.

A grand space for a grand finale

The conclusion of YouthNet’s Young Men project was at a suitably grand location, the Trafalgar hotel. The aim of the day – to celebrate the end of this phase of working together, whilst also gleaning one more invaluable insight from the group – what brands do they like and use, and how do they spend their spare time?

What brands do young men relate to?

We wanted to discover which brands young men used – in particular what they liked about those brands, and why they responded to them. We also asked about our own services – like TheSite - and how we could adapt some of those likable/engaging brand traits.

We had some fairly good assumptions about the type of brands young men like. But we didn’t necessarily know why they liked them, or why they would choose say Apple over Sony, for example.

So what did we learn?

Some of the top brands they liked were Google, Lidl, YouTube, Nintendo, Apple and Tesco. They really liked value. Mention Lidl and they would say that it was really cheap and pretty good quality – looking after the pounds mattered to these guys.

They also loved useful brands, like Amazon – it’s got whatever they need and they can just buy it. Furthermore, a brand like Amazon has got everything in one place. They don’t like having to endlessly search around for things or hop from one place to another. They want to get all they need from just one place – a place they already trust .

Time killers – what do young men do with their time?

We then asked them a number of questions about how they spent their spare time – both online and offline, alone, and with friends.

So what did we learn?

If they have a spare five minutes on their own then they revealed they’ll will look for a digital intervention – either texting a mate, checking Facebook or playing a game.

They were also (maybe unsurprisingly) huge fans of YouTube – and it was how they spent most of their spare time. They described browsing YouTube as ‘falling down the rabbit-hole’ and would happily share funny YouTube videos with friends.

Young men workshop

So what did we learn overall?

The top insights were that brands should try and make sure their services are useful and all in one place. And young men turn to their phones when they have a short burst of free time.

Man vs. Volunteering & Support:  the practicalities

Man vs. Volunteering & Support:  the practicalities

News PInned

We’re returning to our men vs support blog series with more insights into what our group of young male volunteers want from support and advice services.

During the second of three workshops, we moved on from discussions about how young men feel about their lives to focusing on practical ideas better services for them. Part of this involved thinking about how to get more young men involved in volunteering, as we’ve recognised that attracting men to our services will rely on having male volunteers better involved in delivering peer support.

What we learned about young men’s help seeking & volunteering behaviour this time:

  1. Trojan horse approach:  Seeking support online needs to be discreet and it was felt one way to do this was to wrap support into another, less threatening, activity to make men feel less vulnerable – a ‘trojan horse’ approach. One idea was an app that looks like a pub trivia game but has a secret link to a one-to-one chat service. This idea subscribes to the ‘all support in one place’ theory for young men.
  2.  Volunteering needs to be flexible and informal for young men: This is in line with trends across volunteering in general, but it was particularly clear that young men wanted relevant opportunities that can be done from home and on the computer.   However, men are still willing to travel and get involved in volunteering outside the home. There was a commitment to attend our workshops because we’d covered their travel expenses and accommodation in advance, making them feel they’re actively participating and engendering a sense of commitment to the project.
  3. Nurturing the existing skills of volunteers will boost confidence, leading to better retention: The group wanted to participate in a volunteering role where they felt genuinely useful and valid, preferably linked to their existing skill set. This also seems linked to confidence – roles not involving their current skills felt a bit beyond them. Therefore, we need to demonstrate our roles are easy to do and available to anyone regardless of skill level and experience, as well as highlighting those requiring specific skills.
  4. Motivations are often linked to career goals, even if they aren’t sure what those are yet: Volunteering for its own sake wasn’t terribly important to our group of volunteers, though they felt it was a good way of spending spare time. Opportunities linked to what they liked at school or their studies were favoured.
  5. They wanted sociable volunteering opportunities: Whether on or offline, they wanted their volunteering to be social. To be connected with other people, to improve social skills and widen social networks was of key importance.

 What we learned this week about running workshops just for young men:

  1.  App design and pitching helps focus ideas: We’ve seen this work in other workshops we’ve done – by asking the group to consider pitching their idea as an app, even if it isn’t going to be one, means they need to focus on the singularity and core purpose of the app and what they want to pitch. It can help distill the idea down into its most useful function.
  2.  Use an egg-timer for pitches: As well as keeping things moving, it adds pressure and excitement.
  3. Think about how to tailor to the individuals in the group: Everybody works in different ways – our tip is to work in some group activities alongside individual activities for those who don’t like the group environment. Get them to use post-it notes to jot down ideas so that everything is captured.
  4. Space is important – change it up – add some freshness: We used the same space as the first workshop. It didn’t work so well. Try and get partners or local organisations to lend you a space. It helps give each workshop a different flavour and freshness. Mix up a few other things as well: lunch, energisers, different things to fiddle with during breaks (Rubiks cubes etc.).

 Next time…

In final session, we’ll be working with the group on content and campaigning. We’ll be looking at what sort of things they are more likely to digest, respond to and share – and why.

Man vs. Support:  How, why & when young men access support

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Over the coming months YouthNet will be running three workshops with young men aged 16 -25. Since this is the first time we’ve ever focused on men’s help-seeking behaviour online, I thought I’d capture some of the things we’re learning as we go along: 

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Why are we focusing on men?

We want to reach and engage with more young men online and in our community via our message boards and live chats. This is because we believe that peer support can really help, but currently fewer young men are using our services than women. So we recruited a bunch of young men to find out why this is, and what we can do to make these services more appealing to them.

What we’ve learned about young men’s help seeking behaviour so far:

  1. Young men want to hear from role models
    This came up a lot. People with personal experience of accessing and benefitting from support should be heard from. They wanted advocates, celebrities and real people to get their voice out there and tell the world that it’s alright to look for help.
  2. Anonymity is important
    Online profiles and your online presence are precious. They said they’d be happiest to seek support in a community if they knew they were anonymous and that it was securely moderated. They didn’t want whatever they’d said to be getting back to people they knew or to be ‘used against them’.
  3. There’s still a taboo around looking for support.
    It’s clear that this is a big deal – it’s seen as a weakness to seek support. It’s linked to the desire for anonymity.
  4. Most of the group considered themselves as ‘help-givers’ rather than ‘help-seekers’.
    We asked the group to place themselves on an axis of whether they see themselves as help-givers or help-seekers. They primarily considered themselves as help-givers, being there for friends whenever they needed it, however brief.
  5. They’d want men only spaces
    It was clear that they would be happy to seek-support and advice in a place that was made for them, had male peers in the community and was moderated well.
  6. Sometimes they wanted guidance and a little ‘kick up the arse’
    Similar to other project groups we have worked with (see our Employability site & Motimator app for more), guidance and a kick up the arse are just what they wanted sometimes. Life for young people is often characterised by uncertainty about the future and so the young men felt they needed a boost/gentle push every so often.
  7. They compare themselves to their peers. A lot.
    I guess this point might seem obvious, but they felt comparisons played a big role in their self-esteem. There was a lot of talk about being a different version of yourself around your mates, and how this isn’t always helpful.

What we learned about running workshops just for young men:

  1. Create an informal and welcoming space to meet
    This may seem obvious, but the workshop space was warm, comfortable and we made sure everybody felt relaxed when they arrived. We didn’t pressure anybody to talk or get to know each other right away – but our relaxed approach and introductions definitely helped everybody settle in.
  2. If something’s going well, keep going
    We had our activities planned and we managed to get them all done. However, some stuff worked better than others and we carried on with those for example, we had a ‘Get it off your chest’ activity at the beginning of the workshop which encourages people to just say what’s on their mind. This developed into a group discussion that we could probably have carried on with all day – and was full of insight, so we let it go on to a natural end and just cut short lunch. Don’t be pushed around by your agenda.
  3. It’s a hot topic
    We had a lot of applications for this project and statistics despite the fact that men don’t tend to volunteer as frequently as women. Their eagerness to get involved shows that young men want to engage in thinking about their status and role in society.

Next time…

This was the first of three workshops. The next two will focus on solutions to encourage young men to volunteer more and on what types of marketing campaigns would interest them. For more insights from these workshops, please check over the coming months.

Co-creating apps: Lessons from designing Motimator

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Hi, I’m Andy, and I’m a volunteering Development manager at YouthNet, the digital information and support charity for young people.

My role during the co-creation of Motimator (a new app that aims to help motivate young people when faced with job search setbacks) was recruiting and supporting the young volunteers who worked on the project. I learned a lot through the process and hope what I have to share might be useful to anybody else looking to co-create a digital product with stakeholders.

Co-creation workshops

 

About the app

The young people we worked with told us that thinking about their career dream and big ambition sometimes felt like a very distant and far away. With this in mind Motimator was developed to break down that big dream into achievable tasks – making that big dream feel much closer and helping you get there along the way.  It doesn’t even need to be a big dream, just something that may be a few steps down the line – like a job interview, or updating your CV, or picking yourself up after a recent setback, such as not hearing back after a job application.

The co-creation process: how we designed Motimator

In the co-creation sessions the young people created ‘personas’ – a technique that encourages young people to input their own hopes, fears, challenges and goals into these fictional personas. It de-personalises the process and can help young people solve problems for them, with digital solutions.

Over the course of three workshops, we built up the ideas with the young people; presenting them with different problems that needed solving – using our personas we added in additional motivations, and looked at motivational adverts and motivational people. We asked what the characteristics of these people and adverts are and pinned them down so we could work out how to make our app truly motivational.

The final session boiled down to creativity and practicality. Our volunteers were asked to finalise their app ideas into a digital product and pitch it to members of YouthNet and O2 staff. The winning app was Motimator. A great idea, practical enough to be made, useful enough to solve problems, and exciting to young people.

Keeping our volunteers engaged

Designing an app from start to finish can be grueling mentally – you spend a lot of time in uncertainty, trying to pin down workable ideas.

To keep them engaged (and keep their heads up) our volunteers were given opportunities to improve their workplace and digital skills throughout the project – as well as a special treat, Up at the O2, for the end of the project. We took them to Slough for an AppShed workshop, working on wireframes to create simple apps, as well as a Freeformers session that gave them basic coding skills and taught them how to create a website and create Facebook adverts. This was extremely effective in building their skills for developing their ideas into workable apps.

Five things to remember if you’re planning an app co-creation project

  1. Recognise and appreciate your young people’s contributions. We mined their minds for weeks, encouraging and asking for more and more creativity. That’s difficult for everyone sometimes and for the ideas to actually be made into a real-life app is something they should be proud of.
  2. Be sure to step back sometimes. As a project leader, it can sometimes feel that you need to step in and add your own thoughts, or encourage an idea down a certain path. Catch yourself when you’re doing this and step back. Allow the young people to solve problems on their own and as long as you’ve given the right approach, the ideas will come.
  3. The more ideas the better. It might take just a small spark from one crazy idea to get another idea really flowing and fleshed out. Encourage your group to think big and you’ll be rolling with them.
  4. Your workshops should feel techy – cool rooms, funky buildings, exciting spaces that breathe creativity and can get you and your group in the right frame of mind to create something, anything. We had the opportunity to use Telefonica Digital’s building and the volunteers loved it as it helped get their brains into tech-mode.
  5. Trust in the process. It might feel like you’re going way off tangent, but eventually you’ll bring it around – that’s all part of the journey. Trust in it and the young people, and you’ll get there.

To see more blogs and the research behind Motimator head over to the YouthNet Employability blog.

 

 

Volunteers’ Week: Thank You!

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YouthNet’s volunteers offer their time, energy and brains to so many different and challenging roles within YouthNet – without our volunteers we couldn’t reach and support as many young people as we do.

We ask a lot of our volunteers and they never fail to deliver. One week, they could be running an online live chat session giving advice and support to other young people – the next, asked to pitch their ideas to senior members of YouthNet and O2 – the next, responding to a bespoke relationship question.

With our opportunities ranging from app co-creation to relationship advice and support, our volunteers are versatile and unique. Some complete all their volunteering and training online from home, such as our roving photographers, which means we can recruit and involve young people from across the UK.

YouthNet offer a variety of different volunteering  roles. These are sometimes medium term projects, with a commitment of up to six months, like our Employability Project Group volunteers and our Relationship Advisors (we have a couple of blogs from our Relationship Advisors coming up later this week).  Some are longer term ongoing commitments, such as our Live Chat and Board Moderator roles. Alongside our roles we offer online training and accreditation options, supporting our volunteers to develop and gain skills.

We currently involve over 200 volunteers from across the UK. Our volunteers, like the people we support, are mostly aged 16-25 and without them we wouldn’t be able to offer the peer support that is so vital. Without our volunteers we wouldn’t understand young people like we do, or create the products and content that we do. Without our volunteers our services wouldn’t matter to as many young people as they currently do.

Volunteers Week is about celebrating and recognising the contribution of our volunteers. At YouthNet we aim to do that every day, but want to take this opportunity to say thank you and give them the public recognition and thanks that they deserve.

If you’re interested in volunteering with us, take a look at our current opportunities or get in touch via volunteer@youthnet.org

Do-it Transfer Partner FAQ

News Volunteering YouthNet

Partners FAQ

Q. Why are YouthNet selling Do-it?

A. YouthNet is passing on, not selling the service.

Do-it’s success is something we are extremely proud of and has only been possible with the support of Volunteer Centres, partners and the dedicated team at YouthNet.  Do-it has benefited millions of volunteers and the volunteering sector, yet it has grown beyond YouthNet’s mission to support young people.  We want to ensure the investment and value of Do-it is retained for the sector, so we are not selling the service and assets.  Instead, looked to find an organisation totally committed to volunteering and with the passion and capability to continue to grow and evolve the service.

Young people are facing even more challenging times and need our support more than ever and we must focus solely on their needs.

We have exciting ambitions for TheSite, with plans to launch a new version this year. Our aim is to double the number of young people we support by 2016. Therefore, we believe it is time for YouthNet to hand over the reins of Do-it to an organisation within the third sector which focuses on volunteers of all ages and will continue to evolve the service, ensuring the investment and value is retained for the sector.

Q. What does this mean for the future of Do-it?

A. The aim of the open process was to find a new owner to continue to support the sector and engage individuals to volunteer, as well as lead Do-it to the next phase of its development. Do-it is widely recognised in the sector as the leading online volunteer service and with the new owner it can further develop the opportunities that digital technology, social media and open data create for the sector.

There will be no disruption to the service during the transition and all users will continue to be fully supported.

The ivo.org partnership will share details of their plans at an appropriate opportunity once they have undertaken further technical review and engaged with key partners of Do-it to test out their proposals.  It is envisaged that after the transfer, they will have a transition period to develop their new plans, aiming to launch their new range of support and services by Summer 2014.

Q: How were the new owners chosen?

A. The new owners were chosen through an extensive open process that started in April 2013, shortly after YouthNet announced our decision to transfer the service.

We held an initial meeting with representatives from the voluntary sector, as well as experts from a wide range of disciplines, to identify opportunities for innovation in the giving of time, that would influence the key requirements we would assess the new owner against.

In May we published the call for proposals, along with background document with detailed information on the current service.  We ran a number of events for interested parties to attend, which included a panel session with representatives from the voluntary sector.  For parties intending to bid, we offered further opportunities to have one-to-one discussions with YouthNet and OCS representatives.

Once the bids were received in early July, these were scrutinised against the eight criteria.  Those long listed were subject to further scrutiny by independent advisors with particular expertise, including from the voluntary sector,  as part of an Expert Advisory Panel.    Bidders were also invited to a technical session to better understand their technical competency and proposals going forward.

The shortlisted bidders were invited to a final session with the decision making panel. The decision making panel consisted of three representatives from YouthNet, namely the CEO and two trustees, and three representatives from the Office for Civil Society.

Based on all the evidence presented during the process, the decision making panel made a recommendation on the intended new owner for approval by the YouthNet Board of Trustees and the Minister for Civil Society.

Q. Which organisations form the partnership to take over Do-it?

A. The team from the charity the Red Trust, which runs ivo.org, leads a strong partnership of five committed organisations with backgrounds and experience in the charity and educational sectors.    The primary partners are the team from ivo.org, Believe.In, Blue Dot, Prospectus and Vivo.  The partnership is further supported by others including Tinder Foundation and their network of UK Online Centres, TimeBank and a Volunteer Centre advisory group.

The team behind ivo.org, led by Jamie Ward-smith will take ownership of Do-it, manage its day-to-day operations and lead the partnership.

ivo.org

ivo is the network for social change connecting people, companies and organisations that want to change their world. Launched in 2012 after an 18 month pilot ivo makes it simple for people to get involved in the community and to connect and share with their peers, which includes the UK’s largest online community of volunteering and social action professionals. ivo was the first social platform for volunteers of all ages and features unique tools including Portfolios where volunteers can showcase their work and have it endorsed by the communities they help.

Under the registered charity Red Trust, ivo will own, lead, manage and develop Do-it, to continue to provide an easy route into volunteering and social action for anyone that wants to get involved in the community, and supporting civil society organisations including Volunteer Centres to recruit and engage volunteers.

Under the registered charity Red Trust, ivo will own, lead, manage and develop Do-it, to continue to provide an easy route into volunteering and social action for anyone that wants to get involved in the community, and supporting civil society organisations to recruit and engage volunteers.

ivo is run by CEO Jamie Ward-Smith and led by a board of trustees that include skills from the charity, social enterprise and commercial sectors.

Partners

Believe.in are a creative technology business which develops universal access, powerful connections and free, useful tools that bring together charities and individuals, including a fundraising platform where 100% of donations go to the charity. Believe.in will lead Do-it’s technical development and extend its reach into new corporate markets. www.believe.in

Blue Dot is a social marketing agency which pioneered incentivising doing good through its Blue Dot World platform where members earn rewards in exchange for giving time and money. Blue Dot will lead on securing brand sponsorship and leading high impact profile raising campaigns to position Do-it as a primary UK brand to enable people to change the world. www.bluedotagency.com

Prospectus is a leading recruitment and recruitment advertising agency for the beyond profit sector. With more than 50 years experience Prospectus will enable Do-it to develop links between volunteering and paid employment through a range of new recruitment products. www.prospect-us.co.uk

Vivo specialises in behaviour management, reward and recognition solutions and will be providing a social currency framework for the new Do-it site that will enable members to opt in to earn rewards in exchange for getting involved. Vivo will also extend Do-it’s reach into the education sector – where they are currently in 25% of schools – and into new corporate markets.  www.vivomiles.com

Secondary partners include Tinder Foundation and their network of UK Online Centres, TimeBank,  and a Volunteer Centre advisory groups comprising of Volunteer Centres in Bexley, Brighton & Hove, Dorset, Enfield, Herts and Southwark.

Q: How will this affect existing partners?

A.  Do-it will continue to provide its full service throughout the transition and a key selection criteria was that the new owner ensures the continuation of the service during the interim period, as well as continue to support partners benefitting from Do-it.  Therefore you should see no change to the service in the immediate future.   YouthNet will support the new owner as we plan for transfer in December.

All partners will receive a transfer notice shortly outlining the process of moving over to the new provider.

Q: How will this affect upgrading to V-Base 3.0?

We will honour any scheduled appointments to migrate to V-Base 3.0 however, due to capacity, we’re not able to undertake any more migrations. At this time, we need to focus our resources on ensuring all Do-it services are successfully transferred.

Q: Are you still accepting V-Base 3.0/Do-it Recruiter/Do-it Syndication/Do-it Uploader membership applications?

We have put any new applications on hold during the final stages of the selection process and during the period of the announcement.  This is to allow us to agree an appropriate approach with the new owners given the majority of any new contract or renewal will be delivered by them.   The new owners as part of the selection process will honour any existing contracts for their stated duration or until Summer 2014, yet there is a process of transferring these contracts which we will begin shortly.  We will accept new applications shortly, with contracts which reflect the transfer of Do-it during the contract period to the new owner.

Should you wish to post volunteering opportunities on Do-it in the meantime please contact your local Volunteer Centre.

Q: Can someone from Do-it attend our next regional meeting?

A: Yes, depending on our availability. Please email details of your meeting and your questions/areas you would like us to cover in advance to: partnerships@youthnet.org

Q: I have further questions who do I contact?

A:  Your contacts at YouthNet will remain the same. If you have questions, queries or concerns please do contact Partnerships team.

 

Partnerships Team Volunteering at Whitechapel Mission

News Volunteering

On Friday 2nd March the Partnerships team went to volunteer cooking breakfast at the Whitechapel Mission. This is something we went into like Annika on Challenge Annika, or maybe like one of those IT teams from Telford on the Crystal Maze; with excitable trepidation.

This was going to be a challenge, not just getting there at 5.45am on a Friday morning but working together as a team of five, cooking A LOT of eggs and generally just trying to do the best we could for the service users of the mission. The task ahead would not be over until we could regroup over a coffee and some breakfast of our own at noon.

We arrived at the mission in good spirits; the first short, sharp shock of the day was meeting our supervisor, Lily. She pretty firmly blasted away any early-morning cobwebs for all of us, whilst showing us around our kitchen stations, laying down the ground rules and handing out the aprons.

Suddenly we were away – the shutters opened, aprons barely tied, expectations already being cast away – serving coffees and teas, handing out razors, shampoo, toothbrushes for the service users. Toast was on the go, sausages were being tumbled into hot ovens, vats of beans and mushrooms were swirling around on the hobs. Barely having time to gather our thoughts, we had Lily and other members of staff to assist and generally just be a massive help to us feeble desk-bound office workers.

I think it’s important at this stage to describe the Whitechapel Mission.

It’s a fairly incredible place. Having been around since the late 19th Century in the heart of East London – and the original building housing the enquiry into Jack The Ripper – the Whitechapel Mission is run with an aim to get people off the streets, give them the skills and advice they don’t have and keep people going with their hot cooked breakfasts – serving up to 300 a day.

Run with an eye for economising and giving the most they can to the service users the mission is run with a friendly, family feel – regulars are met with a smile, a 5p here and there doesn’t matter. The most important thing, for us to see, was that the service user’s needs were met, they were accommodated for, and importantly given a safe, warm space, where they had control. They had the luxury of choice.

Once the shutters were opened we quickly became like a well oiled machine, taking orders for coffees and teas, cooking breakfasts and having the support of the fantastic staff and regular volunteers at the centre. Breakfast was swiftly coming together and we were ready to start serving at 8am.

The eggs were frying away, thanks to our much appreciated tech support guy Paul, the egg frying machine. All the food – sausages, bacon, eggs, hash browns, burgers, mountains of toast and bread, cereals and porridge, beans, mushrooms and tomatoes – was ready. We were under Lily’s instructions and suddenly we were away.

Orders were being taken, dishes were being served, and it was fast and furious. This was non-stop for two hours, a flurry of people arriving, being served food and handing over money. It was crucial to get the orders right and to make sure we gave them exactly what they wanted.

Once the service had finished, the last sausage had been served and those shutters came crashing down, we had no break or cause for celebration, it was now time for the clean up. This was a remarkably smooth operation, with everybody chipping in their own bit, wanting to quickly get the kitchen and hall ready for the lunch service.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Whitechapel Mission not only serves hot breakfasts for its service users, but also offer life skills sessions. These are an opportunity for service users to learn how to pay a bill or use a computer, get correct legal advice and, ultimately, stabilise their lives. They also have clothes horse days – sessions run off the kind donations of partners and the public – when rack upon rack of clothes is laid out for users to choose from.

After we’d cleared up, put our aprons away and given ourselves a hearty pat on the back we were given a tour of the building so we could see first hand this fantastic work that Whitechapel Mission does far beyond serving breakfasts. We were all impressed by the clear lasting impact they have and the reassuring, open service they provide to their users.

We would like to sincerely thank the Whitechapel Mission and its staff for a fantastic team volunteering experience. We’d thoroughly recommend other organisations or group go and give it a try; it’s a rewarding and challenging experience that you won’t easily forget.

From unemployment to volunteering to employment…

News Volunteering Working at YouthNet

During those dark dreary, post-University days that move so slowly through the Autumn and Winter that I, like so many others thought to myself, “Where have all my friends gone?”, “What am I doing?” and “Was all that money really worth it?” I was bored and unemployed. I left University and searched for a job for months and was ultimately left demoralised and unsuccessful. The abstract thoughts of working were too much for a brain and body that was rarely up before 10am. I needed to do something.

So, as I am now so accustomed to, I searched Do-it, YouthNet’s volunteering website, for volunteering opportunities in my local area, and thus a new journey began. I got in touch with the local Youth Action Team and swiftly joined; motivated by communication, drive and possibilities, it was exciting. Here I spent time working in a team of other young people, putting together events, fundraising, sharing ideas and occasionally going to the pub. What a life!

A fellow Youth Action Team member was living away from home and volunteering full time with CSV, this sounded intriguing. I wanted to move out, but couldn’t get a job; yeah a full fridge is brilliant but a life away from home is better. I knew that volunteering full time for a year would give me the skills and experience to move forward and hopefully never lie on the sofa, slouched like a dying bear at 2:20 in the afternoon watching Come Dine With Me…again.

So it was that I too applied for the CSV role, a role which could send me anywhere in the UK, possibly supporting people with disabilities or working in a school, it could have been anything, but at least it was something. Find out more about residential opportunities here.

Thankfully I was accepted, and asked to come to work in CSV’s London offices. I was given the scope for an intergenerational project called Young at Heart that links 16-25 year olds with older members of the community. I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d never worked in an office before and had been given this fantastic project that would build community links around Camden and Islington and got to live in London for the first time as well!

Through volunteering full time I learned so many basic skills that I simply hadn’t at University. Whilst it was a vital experience, managing your time at University isn’t a priority – if anything, I had too much time to know what to do with – now I had to plan, organise and manage. I arranged events, gave presentations about volunteering to young people, developed skills and was on interview panels. I even started writing a blog for Do-it about my experiences.

It felt like I was finally getting somewhere! I was gaining confidence, I understood what a charity did and how important the work of its employees is to achieving that aim. I worked with brilliant young people who could talk and engage with older people whether we were designing World Cup mascots or  creating film posters.

These experiences carried on throughout my one year placement and by the time I left I was sure that I wanted to work for a charity. Now, that might not be the same for everybody, but the surenessof conviction that I found, the pleasure that I got from working in that environment and the skills I learned and the people I met were invaluable, and would be invaluable to any young people struggling to find a job at the moment.

By creating strong links through my volunteering, and also having the back up that a degree reflects I have now been springboarded into a job with YouthNet working on Do-it.org, where I first looked for opportunities, and where I posted opportunities for my volunteering project. It feels like I should perhaps break into a rendition of the ‘Circle of Life’.