The life we’re all experiencing is not as we knew it. The new normal means being in self-isolation or working remotely. Organisations, though, are still very focused on engaging their audiences.

The challenge, and possibly the opportunity too, is how organisations – especially museums, charities, heritage organisation and attractions – can stimulate participation in a non-contact form.

Non-contact participation is something we have been at the forefront of for many years through Volunteer Makers, which is a tech-driven model for galvanising communities around your cause, organisation, community group etc.

5 reasons for focusing on non-contact participation

  1. It’s accessible – anyone with a phone, computer and access to the internet can be potentially reached
  2. You can grow the numbers significantly – if you get it right your army of advocates will grow as they promote your organisation across their individual networks. Say each person has an average of 300 + friends on Facebook, you can reach a lot of people-networks, who in turn have people-networks and so on.
  3. You are creating a “Connected Community”, people who self-identify that they are part of something important and by working together you can deliver a collective vision.
  4. It’s scalable and flexible – the act of participation doesn’t need hands-on management, you can simply ask people to give you minutes of their time working remotely, when they can fit it in, to share something, to suggest something, to create something, to do something.
  5. You are building real relationships ultimately – this can mean that people still do visit you, do regular volunteering, donate or attend events. It’s just that through non-contact participation you have a larger pool of people to target for real world contact.

Here is a case study: Snapping the Stiletto Volunteer Makers.

Snapping the Stiletto is a project celebrating the achievements of Essex Women in the 100 years since some women got the right to vote. Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections fund the project is working with 11 museums across Essex to help them to recruit volunteers to explore their collections and discover hidden stories of Essex Women.

In the first 12 months, the programme delivered many outcomes, including changing perceptions, uncovering fascinating stories through original research, delivering co-produced exhibitions, running a festival and gaining national media attention. All this was achieved by a galvanised community that supported the project’s mission.

The project focused on non-contact participation and this allowed them to attract a diverse audience. While they were also able to find regular volunteers. Here are some examples of the project non-contact participation:

Challenge: Be a Stiletto Wikipedians
“Our researchers have brought together a lot of information about different women from around Essex. We are now looking for volunteers to put this information on encyclopaedia Wikipedia, either to write new articles or update existing ones”.

Challenge: Online research – Women at Marconi
“Help us track down stories of women working at the Marconi Factory in Chelmsford”

Challenge: Paxman-Essex Women in Engineering
“We are seeking to find out stories about the roles of women within companies who have invented, developed or manufactured items within our collection”

Challenge: Spread the word about Redbridge Museum
“If you have a few seconds retweet or share our posts on social media”

If you want to find out more about Volunteer Makers and need training for how to plan and implement non-contact participation get in touch.