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You may remember how thousands of people enthusiastically grabbed brooms and joined forces to clean up the streets of London during August last year, in the wake of mass rioting which occurred in the capital. This community spirit was largely fuelled by a Twitter campaign started by social artist Dan Thompson (of revolutionaryarts.co.uk), which was propelled by the popular #riotcleanup hashtag.
In keeping with the goodwill of this event, this month saw Thompson publicly launch a new project by the name of #wewillgather. In association with Fresh Egg, collaboration with vInspired and the RSA, and with funding provided by NESTA’s Innovation in Giving fund, the initiative will allow individuals and groups seeking the aid of volunteers to do so quickly and simply.
The objective of #wewillgather is to see positive actions - or ‘Good Things’ – such as the London riot cleans ups – occurring in communities based all over the country in the near and indefinite future, as explained by Dan Thompson:
"What we saw with #riotcleanup is that people want to get involved, but can be put off by formal volunteering. #wewillgather is about a certain anarchy; it's about getting people together without leaders and without structures, to do things that need doing. And for people with busy lives, that chance to give just a little time and get the satisfaction of having done a good thing is important."
The We Will Gather project, developed by Fresh Egg, is constructed in open source and is socially inspired. Our chance to collaborate with Thompson is a result of a perfect partnership, as explained by our managing director, Adam Stafford:
“I first met Dan when I was seeking new Worthing premises for Fresh Egg, and he was coordinating an empty shop campaign from what is now our Buckingham Road location. Our conversation soon turned to the success of #riotcleanup and what could happen next as a result of this victory. Soon after, Dan – together with our head of social media, Paul Chaloner – successfully pitched this new idea to Nesta to acquire instrumental funding. Fresh Egg’s experience and expertise in innovative web development and Dan’s mounting influence saw us a natural fit for this exciting project.”
The We Will Gather hub allows individuals and groups to effectively ‘organise without organisation’. Those seeking a helping hand (or 100!) can call for such by simply posting a single tweet on Twitter with the hashtag ‘#wewillgather’, the word ‘help’ and a postcode. Posting this tweet will see the We Will Gather website automatically create an Action Page, on which additional details can be entered by the organiser, and a record of those willing to help is kept.
Manual set up of Action Pages is also available to those who log into the project site using their Twitter or Facebook details.
Visitors can browse the ‘Live Actions’ section of the site, where the various volunteering opportunities can be found on one simple location map. This will help volunteers find the projects happening nearest to them. When a person agrees to help out with a Good Thing, this fact is shared with their contacts via a tweet and/or through their Facebook news feed. This helps to promote projects, and in turn will see more individuals coming forward to assist.
To give #wewillgather extra traction, Sophie Collard (who coined the hashtag #riotcleanup), will be working with local groups, charities and others around the country to show them how to use the website.
“The WWG project presented us an opportunity to work with latest Microsoft technology, combining it with open source data to produce a website that will hopefully benefit the wider community. It’s rare to be given the chance to contribute to the open source space as part of customer work. The Development Team at Fresh Egg has enjoyed the challenge of producing an open solution in a very short time frame.” Rob Taylor, head of development, Fresh Egg.
Fresh Egg developed the We Will Gather website, algorithm and back-end set-up using open source code; the code for the platform itself will be available under the same license. This allows anyone to download the code and use it to modify current – or build additional – features for their own site. It is hoped that this will see users making it even easier for others to collate volunteers in the future.
Additionally, a public API is also being built. This will allow anyone to access the data stored on the We Will Gather website, so that listings local to one area in particular can be directly fed into another external site. This allows greater promotion of projects beyond the hub of the main site.
The We Will Gather project would not have come to fruition without the following supporters:
Nesta: This foundation encourages innovation in the UK and as such, has invested much invaluable funding into the We Will Gather project. These funds were secured thanks to the Cabinet Office’s encouragement to apply, and an exciting competitive pitch process.
vInspired: This charity has kindly agreed to support the launch of We Will Gather by providing details of our volunteering projects with 14-25 year olds located across the UK, who are seeking CV and experience-boosting volunteer work.
RSA: The mission statement of the UK’s Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce (RSA) is to make use of its 27,000-strong fellowship to “close the gap between today’s reality and people’s hope for a better world.” As such, the society has agreed to help promote the We Will Gather initiative.
You can also watch the BBC’s recent coverage of We Will Gather here.