Housed in the Entrepreneurial Spark Hatchery, Bristol’s newest hub for inspiring start ups, helpfulpeeps is challenging the way we approach volunteering in the digital age. Copyright met co-founder Saf Nazeer at company HQ to find out more
Beaming with pride, Saf Nazeer had just returned from Apps World in London when we met, ‘We won the start up pitch competition against 15 apps from around the world and we haven’t even got an app yet,’ he tells us. Helpfulpeeps is still a fledgling web app that will create a social network of people willing to help each other out—the concept is as refreshingly straightforward as the site.
‘Helpfulpeeps is super simple and will always be free,’ says Saf. ‘You can set it up via email or Facebook, ask for help from the community when you want and offer help when you want.’ Saf and his co-founder Simon are creating what they call a ‘Karma Economy’. Each time a user helps someone on the social network they earn ‘Karma Points’. No money ever changes hands, instead, by earning Karma points and building a good repertoire of testimonials people are more likely to step in and help you with a request.
The desire to develop the website was itself inspired by a need to get involved and do something that was useful, ‘I think what really stood out for me was this notion that despite all of the advances we’ve made in technology, as a society, we’re more disconnected than ever before,’ he says. ‘We throw money at our problems, everything is counted in pounds and pence, we’ve completely looked over time and energy – our human capital.’ Their plan is to take money out of the equation and try to create deeper more fulfilling interactions which aren’t transactional.
For Saf and Simon, the goal is for helpfulpeeps is to become a wide community that users can go to when they need help. It’s volunteering, but not as we know it. ‘In this 24/7, 365 world traditional volunteering doesn’t work,’ he states boldly. ‘It didn’t work for me, I wanted to volunteer but not to a point where I’d spend three hours researching, filling out forms, waiting for them to come back to me then committing to four hours a week every Sunday.’ According to their research, there are currently 12 million people in the UK that used to volunteer but no longer do and 18 million people that would like to do more. If this data is anything to go by there’s a strong case for diversifying the way some volunteering positions are marketed.
‘The more we looked into it we saw that there were three barriers,’ says Saf, ‘The first was finding opportunities that matched availability, the second: the need for an ongoing time commitment and the third was finding opportunities that were relevant to [a volunteer’s] skills and interests. ’We wanted to find a way to use technology to make these barriers disappear.’
Helpfulpeeps currently has 3300 users and is growing fast with 950 new users joining in November alone. To date there have been almost 600 unique posts for help which have been met with 450 offers of help. Whether it involves cat sitting or learning a new language, moving a sofa or lending a hand at a charity event, helpfulpeeps has seen the need requested and fulfilled.
To get involved with this diverse network of volunteers join helpfulpeeps at: