OCC’s Ami is one of the latest ‘tech for good’ projects to receive funding from Nominet Trust, the UK’s leading social tech funder. There were 298 applications in the recent round of Nominet Trust’s Social Tech Seed programme, of which 9, including Ami, were successful.
“Too often older people in our communities can feel isolated and lonely,” said Vicki Hearn, Director of Nominet Trust. “This isn’t just a social problem – it’s damaging to their health too. We’re very excited to fund this new online matching platform through which voluntary organisations can safely and securely source volunteers to support previously ‘invisible’ older people in their local area.”
Ami is a new initiative that aims to help reduce loneliness and social isolation, as well as the health risks that accompany them. A lack of social connections has a risk factor for early death comparable with smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad, 2010), and is more harmful than obesity or physical inactivity.
“Hidden behind closed doors in our communities are lonely, isolated people who need a little help and support to continue to live independently,” said Project Manager Lois Muddiman. “There are also people out there with time to spare and the desire to help. But the two groups don’t know how to find each other. This is where Ami comes in.”
“You just have to enter your postcode to find out who needs help near you and what kind of help they need. It might be shopping, a lift to the doctors, or simply companionship. You won’t be able to identify people, but you’ll see what their interests are and how close to you they live.”
With Ami’s help, 6 Oxfordshire organisations have together attracted over 130 new volunteers in the last 2 months. “We’ve attracted more than double the usual number of volunteers with Ami,” said Sheila Furlong of the Archway Foundation.
The project aims to use technology to build stronger communities and reduce loneliness. In addition to the Nominet Trust funding, the project also receives EU and internal funding. It is operating as a not-for-profit project and the plan is for it to become an independent social enterprise in 2017.
“We’re currently piloting the site in Oxfordshire,” said Dr John Boyle, Managing Director of OCC, “and we plan to be national soon. We’ll be adding lots more features to the site over the coming months. The Nominet Trust funding will help us to further test the potential of our idea.”