It is Thursday, the usual day for Judith to come to the Community TechAid office where she is learning how to use the mobile phone and her new laptop. “I am so proud of it!” This is how Judith, 64, summed up the fact she is now using these devices, after taking regular weekly classes with Community TechAid, in London. Judith is happy to be able to send texts and emails and to use Google Maps. “The organisation is really good, since I came here, I really progressed, and they teach me more things. They are very nice, that is why I am coming here. My friends are really happy for me too.” As her family is abroad, for Judith it is really important to communicate with them more easily. “I can email now, it is very helpful to my daily life, she said. I can talk to them, to my friends here, it is great.” In the future, she plans to learn more about online banking. “I need to be safe online, for example, for banking, I want to learn that”, she said.
Judith is one of the beneficiaries of the Community TechAid programme, in London. What started as a volunteering project in 2020, has turned into an effervescent working environment. “It started with volunteers taking laptops, refurbishing them and then trying to pass them on to communities. We’ve grown quite significantly since then, we have over 2000 people involved and the need for the work that we do is extremely high”, said Cat Smith, Chief Operating Officer at Community TechAid. For the organisation, the help offered by a skilled volunteer, through the programme run by Link UP London, was very valuable. “If we did not have Carolina we would have had to pay a lot of money for this and as a small organisation we don’t have the budget for such sort of things”, Cat explains. “It was really great, to better understand the things that were really strong, the things we could work on and some new ideas she had to engage more people in our work.”
The input from Link UP was really helpful for this small organisation. “It is incredibly valuable to have someone with that experience and guidance for our work and to give us direction in terms of messaging and creating more partnerships, getting more devices in and, ultimately, helping more people. Working with Carolina has been amazing, she’s a really lovely person, but also her experience has been invaluable and she is continuing to help us which is great”, Cat explained. The impact of Carolina’s help referred to reaching more partners, and building connections with new businesses which would offer laptops and mobile devices. “Building those connections with businesses has been really fundamental for our growth and actually, we’ve been able to make new partnerships with businesses where we can get laptops from”, Cat said.
Carolina is an experienced strategic communications consultant, with expertise in advocacy and public policy, media engagement and PR, and social media. She has worked for agencies as well as in-house and chose to use her skills as a Link UP Skilled Volunteer because she thinks it is a good way to do some pro bono work, to give something back, but also to expand your skill sets and make new contacts. “It is time well spent”, she said, as she turned to online volunteering after returning from maternity leave.
The project with Community TechAid changed somewhat after the initial conversation which indicated that it needed to be focused more on strategy. “After the initial chat, I quickly realised there were other things to think about. We refocused the project and turned to a communication strategy process – from audiences, and type of content to what they wanted to achieve. Many charities do not realise that digital is just another way of communicating but to do it well you need a strategy.”
Carolina said the relationship with Community TechAid was very good as they knew what they wanted to achieve.
As a piece of general advice, Carolina says that charities should become clearer about what they want to achieve in communication. “Communication is really about whether you are compelling enough and reaching the right audiences.”
As a Skilled Volunteer, Carolina said that Link UP offers a really good way of volunteering as one can use their expertise. “It might be that in the past volunteering was linked to giving up your time to do something valuable – going somewhere and spending a few hours there.” But especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, the online presence and activity have been boosted in every sector so volunteering is taking advantage of it too. “With a full-time job maybe you do not have the time or energy to go somewhere, so Link UP offers a really good alternative, you continue to do your work but you do something that is helping others too”, Carolina said.
Thanks to our fantastic Skilled Volunteer, Anca Stef, for writing this story. Anca is a Communication Specialist with experience in mass media, PR and digital marketing.
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