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Three things I learnt from our ‘living room outdoors’ experience

Suganya Subraminaraja is MVDA's Volunteer Centre Co-ordinator

Staff at Middlesbrough Volunteer Centre tried out a new way of meeting the public recently, by organising a ‘living room outdoors’ experience at the Orange Pip market. We literally created a living room outdoors and asked people to sit down and chat to us to find out more about volunteering!  It was a great experience with the volunteers from different organisations and the public interacting with each other, the ultimate goal being to promote volunteering and its benefits.

I personally enjoyed the event as it gave me an opportunity to interact with a diverse range of people in a relaxed, fun environment.

The three things I learnt from the Orange Pip experience are:

  1. People love to talk and provided we give them the right atmosphere

  2. Current volunteers are a great promotional tool especially because they ‘talk with’ rather than ‘talk to’.

  3. Ask - don’t be shy!

How it all started

A ‘living library’ idea that came out of the meeting of local volunteer co-ordinators meeting grew arms and legs and became a ‘living room outdoors’ incorporating volunteers with a lived experience in a living room setting.

Of course to make this work we needed the props, especially a sofa.  We approached the British Heart Foundation Furniture Shop with a request of a sofa that they could lend for the day.  To our surprise they agreed and the rest just fell into place.

On the day...

the weather god was kind to us, thankfully! Everything was set up and the volunteers who had agreed to help us arrived.  We started to engage with the public to ‘step into our living room’ to speak to our volunteers.  It was great to see that many members of the public took time to have a chat with the volunteers.


As the pictures above show, we had a busy day with loads of happy volunteers and members of the public. The feedback from both on the day was that they greatly enjoyed the idea of a ‘living room’ setup and also the concept of current volunteers sharing their positive experiences.

The Future

We're on a quest for more innovative and effective ways to engage with the public to raise the profile of volunteering in Middlesbrough (sofas were just the start!)...

Suganya Subramaniaraja