Hello! I’m Polly Akhurst and alongside Ann Don Bosco I run Talk to me London, a not-for-profit that seeks to find ways to get people talking in London. Ann and I actually met through volunteering with the Oxford Hub when we were students, and we’re thrilled to still be connected with Student Hubs as we develop Talk to me London.
We started Talk to me London because we believe in a world where people should feel able to talk to each other. It can be hard to connect in a big city like London. It often seems like everyone is in a rush and it can be tricky to strike up a conversation. We think this is not only a shame but that it’s also having a detrimental impact on our society. We see incredibly high levels of isolation with over 25% of Londoners say they feel lonely often if not all of the time. We see London voted as one of the most unfriendly cities in the world. And we see people brush past each other and not see each other as humans. It’s because we’ve lost our sense of commonality – our community.
We want to change this. And we want to do it through talking.
We believe in the power of conversations. One conversation can make you happier. It can inspire you, and create new opportunities. It can make you understand another point of view, or it can just make you feel a little less alone. Talking is what makes us human and what enables us to connect to each other. We want to harness its power to make London a better place. We’re raising money for a Talk to me London Day, to take place on 30th August 2014, which will put the importance of talking and its link to broader social issues, such as well-being and community connectedness, on the agenda. On the day we’ll use badges, stunts, events, flash mobs and public art to encourage Londoners to chat to people they don’t know.
Since launching our Kickstarter campaign nearly a month ago (only 3 days to go – see below to get involved!), we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response we’ve had so far. We’ve been featured in Time Out’s blog and Kickstarter’s global newsletter, and after a slightly cynical Guardian article was published about us, we even appeared on an Australian radio show. We’ve also received messages from all over the world from people wanting to start their own initiatives, from Amsterdam to Detroit to South Korea. We’ve even received heartwarming messages such as this one: “I love this. I’ve never even been to London, but I backed this project just now. This is a problem in many cities across the world, and it would be wonderful to start changing our culture.”
Where does Student Hubs come into this? Talk to me London is part of the Hub Catalyst scheme, a year-long accelerator for students and recent graduates who are running a social venture. Over the last 9 months we’ve benefited hugely from the expertise of Student Hubs and, in particular, from our Hub Catalyst support officer Anna Machin (who is the Student Hubs Development Director) and her experience in strategy and fundraising. We have gained access to knowledge and resources that have been helpful in shaping all aspects of our venture.
A good example of this is the Hub Catalyst bootcamp, which we took part in last weekend, and included workshops on everything from storytelling to budgeting. Running a venture like Talk to me London can be all-absorbing at times, but Hub Catalyst enabled us to take a step back and see it in a different way — the community organising session was particularly useful for this, as we were able to map out our different stakeholders and think strategically about how to best approach them.
Furthermore, I’d like to take the liberty to say that I really feel that Ann and I are a Student Hubs ‘success story’: had we not been on the Oxford Hub executive committee together, we probably wouldn’t have met! It was our common desire to get involved in social action that led us to join the committee and that still brings us together today — and that is exactly what Student Hubs does: connect and support people like us who want to make social change happen together.
How can you help? If you like the sound of Talk to me London Day, there are several ways you can get involved.
Donate towards and share our Kickstarter campaign – only 3 days to go! We are very happy to have now surpassed our Kickstarter goal, but there’s so much more we can do with more resources, so we’re aiming to double the amount we’ve raised to make the day bigger and better – but we only have a few more days! If we get up to £12,000, we’ll organise a massive picnic brunch in a well-known park, run Talk to me drinks events around the city and organised Randomised Coffee Trial meet ups around the city. It would be fantastic if you could help us get there, by donating and sharing our campaign with friends if you believe in the concept.
On the day…
Become a ‘Talk ambassador’: We will be looking for talkative people to help out on the day – we promise it’ll be loads of fun and you’ll have many good conversations! To find out how to get involved, and for updates, sign up for our newsletter here.
And do follow us on Twitter too: @talktomelondon
Talk to you soon!