Holly_optOne of Collaborate’s founding values is “everyone has a skill that can make a difference.” Our platform is all about connecting peoples skills to where they can have the most impact. Volunteering also allows people to build new skills, which can have a positive impact on the community, and also the volunteer themselves as it can help when it comes to gaining employment.  These ideas were explored by Director and Founder, Holly Norton, while working in the Skills and Employment team for the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation (MBIE).

Whilst working full time at MBIE, Holly was featured on The Link, MBIE’s internal intranet, discussing Collaborate.  The Link is viewed by 3000 staff, who work both nationally and internationally.

Read the whole feature below:

Holly Norton from the Skills and Employment team has been busy outside of her MBIE role, developing a new set of skills in the voluntary sector.

Holly is Director and Founder of an up and coming Social Enterprise start-up ‘Collaborate’ – a mobile app that matches people with volunteer opportunities that fit their skills and interests.

“Working in the Skills and Employment Policy team, I really couldn’t be better placed for getting to think about how people develop and apply their skills and the needs of different sectors. Combining what I’ve learned at MBIE with my experience volunteering has been a real asset. I love that everything I learn grows what I am able to achieve in both roles. I am now getting to apply my co-design and app-building experience on labour market projects here at MBIE too.”

Before directing Collaborate she volunteered with Initiatives of Change and several grassroots organisations whilst living in Thailand. When she came back to Wellington, she found the volunteering scene was lacking a way to connect people to community groups. This sowed the seeds for what came to be Collaborate.

So how did it all begin for Collaborate?

“A group of young volunteers came together to discuss an issue we were all having. The organisations we were working for had a great vision, but needed more people with skills and time to make them happen.

“We would find ourselves doing everything from HR to web design, when what we wanted was to be using our personal skills to add value. We’d talk to people who wanted to volunteer but found it difficult to find the right opportunity. In a young city full of talent, skills and ideas we knew there had to be a better way. So that’s how the idea for Collaborate was born.”

So how does Collaborate work? In theory it’s surprisingly easy, explains Holly:

“Basically, community organisations post specific tasks on the app and volunteers see the opportunities that match their profile and can choose to join. The connection is instant. And because the app creates a record of all your volunteering, skills and the issues you are interested in, both parties can jump right into it – no searching or CVs needed.

“The idea is it can be it a one-off way to do some good with a free Sunday afternoon, or join something bigger. It’s pretty much the Tinder of volunteering!”

So what’s next for Holly and the Collaborate team?

The Collaborate team recently had some fantastic news when they were selected as one of the finalists for the Wellington Airport Regional Community Awards.

“We were so excited! It can be pretty hard work fitting in all the app development around our day jobs, so being a finalist has given the team real boost.”

“Right now we are in the final stages of developing the app. We are about 95 per cent there, just working on the user experience design. We’re making sure that Collaborate meets all users’ needs in a way that is fun, fast and easy to use.  We are using a co-design process, meaning anyone can test and shape features they want by coming along to one of our testing days or getting in touch. We are big believers that awesome technology has to be created by the community who will use it.”

If you want to test out the app, let the team know through the website.

Follow Collaborate on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn so you’ll be the first to know when it’s ready to download.

This article was published on 4 July 2017 on The Link.

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