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Volunteer network – how it started and how it’s going

When I started out in my new role at Start Up Croydon, I wanted to make real tangible change happen, but as budgets were more than tight due to the pandemic, I’ve had to get creative on how to build on the foundations of the service we provide without the fortune of money to deliver change.

Thankfully due to the fantastic network we have and the incredibly passionate Croydon business community, we have now developed a volunteer network.  Our Autumn’21 cohort of our incubator, Building Business Horizons, are fortunate enough to be supported in this pilot scheme.

We have been reaching out for volunteers through a few different mediums and have met some new incredible individuals who are adding great value to our mission.

We have been able to pair up experienced and successful professionals, all varying in businesses acumen, with our delegates who are all eager to learn and take on advice.

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We kicked off the project last month with an introductory lunch to help the mentors and mentees get to know one another before going off on their own for 1-2-1s.

Some of the volunteers include husband and wife duo Lisa and Dan Allen who are offering a 2for1 service with their respective skills to one of our delegates.

Dan is an experienced business consultant having spent most of his career in the world of popular culture. He aims to help others achieve their goals and ambitions by passing on the wisdom, experience, skills and knowledge that he has gained through his career.

Lisa is an expert in emotional intelligence and helps individuals transform their self-belief, identify their purpose and master their minds. As Croydon residents for over 30 years they are passionate to give back and support local people.

A few of our incredible trustees are also mentoring our current incubator delegates. John Walsham who has been involved with the charity for around 20 years is bringing his insights, knowledge and connections to Anthony Shaw who is a presentation consultant looking to scale his business. Jo Gumb of White Label and her Associate Director Bonnie Stephensmith are both bringing their marketing insights to the table to support Carol May an early years worker with big aspirations and Ciaran Dance an architect who has recently launched a bespoke lampshade business. Siff Shah is a new trustee and mentor and, as part of KPMGs Business Growth team, Siff brings her connections and time as part of her Corporate Social Responsibility from KPMG to  Marlon Commock who has a sports social enterprise which supports girls in sport.

This is just a snapshot of the current volunteers we have connected-up with future leaders and our pilot seems to be working very well. Our candidates know mentoring and business plan building are the most important things to take on when planning to scale your business.

To be able to change lives by connecting-up these people is a privilege and does good for the mentee but as much good can come from the experience of volunteering.

In a study published this year in the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers examined data from nearly 70,000 research participants in the United Kingdom, who received surveys about their volunteering habits and their mental health, including their distress and functioning in everyday life, every two years from 1996 to 2014.

Compared to people who didn’t volunteer, people who had volunteered in the past year were more satisfied with their lives and rated their overall health as better. Additionally, the researchers found that people who volunteered more frequently experienced greater benefits: Those who volunteered at least once a month reported better mental health than participants who volunteered infrequently or not at all.

Why does volunteering support our mental health? According to Ricky Lawton, associate director at Simetrica Research Consultancy and lead author of the paper, a combination of factors is likely at play. First, volunteering appears to be intrinsically rewarding—when we help others, we tend to experience what researchers call a “warm glow.” Second, volunteering is likely to help boost our sense of social connection. In particular, for older adults, volunteering can be a way to stay connected to others after retirement.

We continue to support and inspire South London’s potential entrepreneurs and will need more volunteers. If you have some spare time and would like to mentor one of our next cohort please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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