Craig Paterson-Cheyne is Global Sustainability Manager at Wood, a global leader in consulting and engineering in energy and the built environment employing 40,000 people. The company wanted to give back to its communities in ways that reach beyond monetary donations.
“We’ve just launched our new global Sustainable Development Goals strategy, group wide. My goal in encouraging our Aberdeen base of 1500 employees to join Social Good Connect was to help open our eyes to the variety of physical and virtual volunteering opportunities available. We wanted to enable them to give their time and expertise in applying their unique skillsets in ways they might never have thought of.
Being signed up with Social Good Connect gives people the green light to get out and help people outside their workplace role. The overall simplicity of the concept really appeals, and the fact that you can tailor your profile, so that if the matches you see aren’t quite what you’re looking for, you can request more relevant volunteering roles just by tweaking your profile. The convenience is just as important as the willingness and as a tool it’s easy to use, so there’s no barrier to getting involved.
People often don’t realise the different forms volunteering can take until they’re presented with a tool like this to help them match their interests with a cause. We had capacity to help, we thought it was a brilliant concept and we could see that it would give people new and interesting ways of achieving personal satisfaction and helping the community.”
Electrical engineer Prashant Gopinathan has worked at Wood for 12 years. Through Social Good Connect he’s been helping retired individuals with everyday tech issues, from phone and computer set-ups to data-sharing concerns.
“Like so many people I always thought about volunteering but never got round to it because of time constraints or other responsibilities. But the pandemic has shifted my perspective and I wanted to contribute somehow at a time when people are struggling.
I found this volunteering role with Ace IT within 2-3 weeks and I’ve done it for several weeks now already. I provide an hour or so of tech support over Zoom each week to different people in their 60s and 70s who have specific IT and device issues.
It’s good to be useful to people and to use my IT skills to help with everyday things that I can easily do, but that others might get easily frustrated by. It’s great to see them beginning to understand technical challenges and gain new knowledge to help themselves, especially around online personal security issues, which is a big concern for some people. I enjoy it, and no-one has shouted at me, so it seems to be going OK!
You don’t always think of your skills as skills, if that makes sense. You realise that you can really help someone with what you know, and actually it feels like something I should have been doing before. I like the flexibility of it too. This weekly time commitment suits me well in addition to my day job as an engineer, but I have the options to increase my contribution if I want to.
I know our company already does a lot for the community. I’ve personally helped with litter collection and plastics-recycling but there’s so much else going on. Joining Social Good Connect seeks to fit the company culture very well. It’s a good way of seeing volunteering opportunities in your inbox that suit who you are and what you like doing. You get a list of options and then you can pick and choose and maybe even step out of your comfort zone now and then. It’s good to shake up your daily routine!”
ACE IT is an Edinburgh charity which helps older people learn IT skills. Its staff and volunteers support people over 50, particularly retirees, to use computers and other digital devices through tailored 1:1 coaching.
Development Co-ordinator Katie Innes describes the charity as an always busy small team of five supported by a board of eight trustees.
“At the time that we were introduced to Social Good Connect in Spring 2021, we were really struggling for volunteers. Usually we have around 30 but we’d recently lost a few, exactly when demand seem to be increasing. People being on furlough had improved our volunteer numbers, and it’s great that some people continued helping us even after they returned to work, but we still had a shortfall. You’ve helped us hugely with that.”
In just three months after signing up to the platform, Katie had found four new volunteers from Wood and DC Thomson. She already had a volunteer job description in place, which was tweaked to suit the Social Good Connect format and style. Within two days it was online and attracting interest. Prashant was one of the volunteers who committed to helping.
“We had some great feedback about Prashant’s contribution. He was helping a 70+ year old with Gmail, and when we asked how the sessions had been for them, they described his input:
“I had a helpful session on Monday which I appreciated very much, thank you. The coach was very patient, very good – in fact he is brilliant at what he does! I’m going to gather some more questions so that we can continue this in our next appointment. I hadn’t realised I was getting nervous about using my computer. You have given me my confidence back!”
And Katie reminds us that volunteers who work with ACE IT often don’t realise just how useful their skills are…
“They under-estimate how even the basics that they’ve used to get touch with us (email and Zoom etc.) are still an unknown or a source of huge everyday issues for some people. We really appreciate the level of skill that comes with the volunteers you’ve sourced.”
“And I can’t stress enough how important it is that I don’t have to do anything extra to reap the benefits from the Social Good Connect service. We’re so busy coordinating volunteers that it took a few weeks even to be able to meet with your team. Once I did, everything happened really quickly and the results speak for themselves.. Our volunteers will sometimes say to us: ‘I not sure if I really helped that much’, whereas the person they helped will be full of praise for their patience, their skill-sharing and the difference the help has made to their lives. “
Caroline has made it her life’s work to help people make more meaningful decisions to support their communities and she’s learned some golden nuggets along the way!
So, join Caroline each week for her ‘Thursday Thoughts’ on all things people, planet, philanthropy or purpose all served with sprinkle of fun (but unfortunately no prosecco) to inspire you.