Monthly Archives: November 2016

Call for Papers: Research Methods for Digital Work, 25-26 May 2017

Chris, Gillian and I are delighted to launch the call for papers for this event to be held at University of Surrey, 25-26 May 2017.

Extended abstracts of no more than 1500 words to be submitted on line  by 31st January 2017.  We will be posting details of key note speakers shortly!

Further details on our dedicated blog page and on the event page at the University of Surrey.



Guest Blog: Digital volunteering at Birmingham Museums

Guest Blog by Becky Fletcher, Volunteer Development Team Leader at Birmingham Museums 

Back in May this year I wrote an article for Arts Professional about digital volunteering and our work in this area at Birmingham Museums Trust. Katrina very kindly invited me to expand a little bit more on this blog and I though the best place to start was with an introduction to who we are. Birmingham Museums are the largest charitable museums trust in the county and we look after nine sites across the city of Birmingham. These venues range from a Museum & Art Gallery to a Jacobean mansion and the ruins of a 700 year old fortified manor house to a working watermill. Over the course of a year over 700 people will support us across all of our sites and we are so grateful for all of their time!


But what do our volunteers do? Well we have the more traditional roles including gardening, welcoming visitors, supporting our curators and conservation cleaning, roles which are all incredibly important and very popular, but we also want to keep our volunteer programme new and exciting and so we try different ways to engage people in volunteering with us. One obvious route is through digital volunteering and we are looking at this in two ways. First there is the digital volunteering which takes place at the museum, so volunteers who come to one of the sites to volunteer and whilst here get involved in digital volunteering, the other is our “from the sofa” volunteers. These volunteers support us through digital volunteering which takes place in their own homes.

In terms of the first group many of these roles come through projects and involve working on our social media accounts. Birmingham Museums works across nine social media platforms with different accounts across all of these. So for example our Collecting Birmingham project, which started in May last year and is all about telling Birmingham stories, involved a team of four volunteers joining the group as Ambassadors for the project. This team spent time working with the community in the physical sense through events and also engaging with the community of Birmingham digitally via Twitter and Facebook. What we found with this project was that our volunteers were nervous at first; the pressure of using accounts for a medium sized charity was scary in comparison to just managing their own. But we started with an introduction to social media at the Trust, some basic guidelines about what to do and what not to do and left them with the really important advice that “everyone on social media is just a person – even those accounts run by national and international firms are only managed by individuals after all!” This helped in encouraging our team to get stuck in and not worry too much about the pressure of sending that tweet; that and knowing that a member of staff for support was never far away. This is just one example of the amazing work our volunteers have done in the world of social media however. We have worked with a Social Media Assistant who helped to look after our Planetarium Twitter account for Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, our Weoley Castle Keepers who manage a Twitter and Facebook account keeping everyone up to date with their activities at our oldest heritage site and Ignite our Young People’s Forum also have their own Twitter account.


Our second route into digital volunteering however is all about accepting that there is more to it than just social media. This is where our “from the sofa” volunteer ideas stem! In 2014 we trialled a project in partnership with the Portable Antiquities Scheme; this involved volunteers based at the Museum & Art Gallery who took extensive photographs of archaeological finds. These photographs were uploaded to an app for digital volunteers to edit at home in their own time. Volunteers used the online app to create three-dimensional images of the objects. As the app was relatively easy to use all we needed to provide was a simple guide for volunteers and as a result we were able to engage with volunteers around the world! As a project this worked relatively well and we are currently looking at other opportunities which will allow that volunteering reach and enable us to engage worldwide with those people who have a few minutes, maybe even an hour, to spend volunteering with us.


At Birmingham Museums we are in the early days of digital volunteering, trialling things and experimenting to see what works, but as technology develops so I hope will we in our programme and how we work with our fabulous volunteers. After all volunteering should be accessible for all!

Many thanks for Becky for this Guest Blog on Digital Volunteering at Birmingham Mueseums!  If you are interesting in sharing your experiences do let me know via

Did you miss ‘International Volunteer Managers Day’ too?

A slightly belated blog to review the news from International Volunteer Managers’ Day, with the tag line: one job many hats.

Launched in 1999, this aims to celebrate the profession of volunteer leadership.  As highlighted by Fife Voluntary Action there is a serious message of ensuring that the amount of work required to support and enable volunteering is understood and appreciated.

In 2016 this prompted much coverage on social media, with many images of volunteers holding ‘thank you’ placards to their own volunteer managers.

It would have been interesting to see more debate about the ‘many hats’ listed above and to have explored how these ‘hats’ might be changing as the voluntary and community sector experiences both challenges and opportunities of engaging with digital media.

However, there is some concern that the day might simply become just another social media event, as highlighted by Jayne Cravens:

US election day: volunteer poll workers on the front line

As with many elections, those manning the polling stations across the USA today are for the most part volunteers.  While the Wall Street Journal predicts that by 2028 the election will be technologically managed by voting apps, for 2016 there is an ‘army’ of volunteers.  Indeed many states have identified the need for more volunteers in 2016 than in 2012 to ensure issues with queuing.  Virginia for example have 3200 volunteers working from 6am across thee state.  New technology such as tablets to scan voter id’s are also being introduced to help volunteers speed up the voting process.  Nevertheless volunteers still face a difficult job including facing issues such as :

  • the allegation that the electoral process is rigged at grassroots level due to voter fraud; a claimed widely rejected across the US press
  • up to two weeks of training and then a very long day (and night) volunteering
  • the need to be multilingual in some volunteer posts and special training for emergencies in some states
  • the potential to deal with a range of technical issues, as outlined here

As to the outcome, we will all be watching over the next 24hrs…..