An interview with Skilled Volunteer Michael Crewe
Blog by Skilled Volunteer Anca Stef | Jun 2023
Michael has been working with companies in the customer and user experience sectors for more than 13 years, developing technology and digital solutions to make their customers’ lives easier.
Following the Covid pandemic and with the cost-of-living crisis, the need to become more digitally accessible became a new, urgent reality for many charitable organisations as demand for their services soared. The Vauxhall Foodbank was one of these. The Lambeth-based organisation approached Link UP London looking for support with the development of its digital app that would increase the efficiency for people who were collecting food packages and vouchers.
Michael was a perfect match and his professional experience proved essential to this project. Before Michael became involved, the Vauxhall Foodbank team had relied upon various friends and families to build a web app to help them organise the entire process. The help received from Michael, as a Link UP Skilled Volunteer, will save time and resources while also streamlining the process for beneficiaries to access food vouchers.
As well as participating in a Skilled Volunteering Project through Link UP, Michael also supported the food bank on the front line. “I volunteered myself in the food bank and saw how it all worked and got a good understanding of the processes. For the app, I interviewed various members of staff as well to get their perspective of how the system works and what they thought could be improved. I used all of this to provide a recommendation for how they could build a more effective app”, Michael explains.
“I guess, with my experience of developing products, I helped them take their product to the next stage. So, I worked with them to write requirements and get a good understanding of what they wanted to deliver with the solution”. The time spent with the Vauxhall Foodbank team also meant building new relationships. “They are amazing people, really dedicated, super hardworking. They also did this in their spare time, they built this additional product beyond just volunteering at the charity. So, they deserve far more credit than me for what’s happened.”
After having worked for around six months on this Skilled Volunteering Project, last year, Michael received exciting news about it. A digital company is going to develop the app, using his recommendations and build a new version of this software for the Foodbank. “This will make things even better for the charity. So very exciting.”
This success has made him feel more energised in his current job than before. “It is just from having a little bit of a refresh and thinking about the importance of what we do.”
The excitement comes from the success of the technical project and how it impacts the end beneficiaries, but for Michael, the reward is more than that. “Often in my job, we’re not always doing the most impactful work, we might be working for a type of organisation where we’re not necessarily making the impact we want. It’s amazing to be able to do it personally in my community and for such a good cause.”
His professional skills and expertise had a positive impact, but on a personal level, volunteering has taught Michael something in return too. Last year, it was the first time he worked in the not-for-profit sector using his skills to build a product. “Being able to collaborate with them and work on my communication skills – how I can make things that sound a bit complicated, sound simple, and to take people on a journey, was great. I think the personal side of it was probably more the reason why I did it. Because it was nice to get a break from a job that can be stressful and can be draining and do something in my spare time that was really fulfilling”, Michael recalls.
He continues, “I felt like I was being more impactful than I otherwise would have. While I was sharing my skills, I also volunteered time and helped with packing food parcels, because it’s important to understand that every contribution is just as vital as any other.”
Michael shares how volunteering his professional skills has been truly rewarding. “Many of us have the time to do something important and to give back. And emotionally, it feels great. So, I would say everyone should have a go.” As for Link UP London’s future volunteers, Michael has a direct message: “For anyone who’s thinking about volunteering, I would say, just do it. I’d be surprised if you don’t get satisfaction from it.”