Co-partipation

I currently work two days a week managing the SVP charity shop in Dalston. It’s an interesting place to be; community focused, retail work, managing volunteers, sorting donations, making money from other people’s preloved goods and dealing with the customers that come in.

I’m doing it off the back of my Masters thesis and I love it. Not only am I able to develop on the ideas I had for helping local charity shops improve (with no money) but I am helping to recycle unwanted goods (and prevent them going to landfill) while provide affordable shopping for the local community. Service design and social innovation also play a large role.

Every day is a challenge in the shop. The main issues I come across are getting the volunteers to understand how best to tackle a situation, how to make sure donations are dealt with properly and how to keep the stock turned over. It is very easy for a charity shop to become stale and uninteresting for the customers.

I noticed the other day that the stock room had become completely disorganised. The clothes were put on any clothes rack, some were priced, some were steamed and some clearly needed discarding. I think out of sheer frustration I decided to organise it and spent all afternoon putting different types of garments together and labelling the different areas. I felt a real sense of achievement and went away pleased with myself.

Of course, I came in a couple of days later to find the clothes all over the place again and my signs had been completely ignored. At first I was really frustrating and then I sat back and was annoyed at myself for completely ignoring my own belief in co-participation! I had gone in and organised the room without consulting the volunteers!

Once I had all the volunteers in, I sat them down and asked what they did and didn’t like about the system I’d created and what they would like to see changed. It needed explaining why I had decided to create a system in the first place as it wasn’t obvious to all of them why we needed it. After explaining the need for putting similar items together (to make stock replenishment easier) and not pricing/coding items straight away they seemed bought into it.

The reason my system hadn’t worked simply boils down to the fact that some of the volunteers aren’t tall enough to reach the top rail….. I love it when a problem is because of something very simple!

We took time to go through some co-participation and have resolved the system issues (by moving rails around), kept all volunteers happy and kept me happy by having a tidy stock room.

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