Loop is a service design initiative developed to boost meaningful and sustainable volunteering opportunities at Fearon Hall Community Center by imagining Loughborough University as an untapped source of student volunteers that in exchange receive the skills they need to make themselves more competitive in the job market after graduation.
During its golden years Fearon Hall was a lively and vibrant community center near the heart of Loughborough. It is a building with historical interest and a grand example of Victorian Architecture. Although Fearon Hall is at present a well-used and much loved building supporting various local groups, it would benefit from a new fresh approach that can build on and scale up current service provisions whilst generating income to ensure its survival. With improved facilities and new services, wider use that can reach broader audiences could be made of the building itself, as well as a broader community use of the grounds around it.
Our team used Contextual Interviews to understand the perceptions young people have about community centers, as well as to understand why students either do or do not choose to volunteer. We also interviewed various school clubs and societies, as well as external volunteering support communities such as Enactus, a global leader in community outreach, in order to find out what keeps young people motivated. We later analyzed all the data with an affinity diagram and found that students actually gave more reasons why they should volunteer than reasons not to. We realized we needed to help bridge the gap between their desire to do something good and ability to take action.
Fearon Hall provided a number of briefs for our team to choose from and we decided to focus on developing opportunities for meaningful volunteering schemes. Our goal was to help contribute to the successful day-to-day running of Fearon Hall by generating a stream of sustainable volunteering that would help the community center grow. To accomplish this goal, reinventing the Fearon Hall brand for modern audiences would be necessary in order to make it relevant to a younger generation. The greatest challenge we encountered was overcoming the misconception younger generations have about community centers being a place for the homeless and elderly, rather than being a place where they can meet and socialize with other young people.
The beauty in our Loop service design concept was not only that it provides a framework for sustainable volunteering at Fearon Hall, but also in its approach of tapping into the communities that already make Loughborough great. Loop's framework is composed of a paid internship role titled Volunteer Coordinator, who is responsible for recruiting and managing student ambassadors who agree to volunteer in the program, as well as liaising between Fearon Hall and the community. The Volunteer Coordinator role is funded through local grants that Fearon Hall received from the council and helps the student build leadership, communication, and business management skills. The students who volunteer as student ambassadors not only receive certificates on an annual basis, but also have the ability to apply for the internship role in the following year. By encouraging and facilitating a relationship between students and their community, Loop enables students to manage events at Fearon Hall that help bring in revenue.