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Article | Helpific's past and the future

10:07:00 PM

The magic of simplicity!

Magic lies in simplicity. This apothegm can be used to describe the web-platform Helpific, which is meant for people with special needs and for those who want to help them without taking long-term obligations.

In order to help someone, one doesn’t have to be a certified social worker – you only need a heart and a will to help. Flexible from person to person solution is meant both for the young and the elderly, helping to create stronger communities. Why not please yourself and others just when the opportunity presents itself?

How did it all start?

Volunteer work and the simplicity of helping each other in small communities was presented in start-ups’ development contest Garage48 by chairwoman of Tallinn and Harju County Union of Disabled Women, Keiu Roosimägi. On the development weekend she met with people who were carrying the same ideas and dreams in their hearts. The forces were united and a strong team was formed to develop the idea. For instance Annika Amenberg with economic background, Zsolt Bugarszki - professor of social politics in Tallinn University, Triin Üksvärav who has been in personnel field for a long time and a bit later IT-specialist Antoni Anikin all joined. They are supported by Jüri Lehtmets and Tom Rüütel – young men with special needs, who are an example to many. Mentor of the team is a member of Estonian Business Angels Network (EstBAN) and chairman of board of Telegrupp AS, Ivo Remmelg. Helpific successfully involves in their activities also interns and enthusiastic volunteers who have a deep interest in contributing to the formation of wiser and more caring communities and in social business field in the world.

Team of Helpific at the beginning
At first it was planned to offer personal assistance in Tallinn and Harju County Union of Disabled Women on a voluntary basis in a way that people shall be brought together by so called telephone operator. Within the development week the approach turned easier and more innovative, but it also presented more challenges: people were offered a single opportunity to help each other in the local community with the help of modern technology.

The idea of a web-platform simplifying the life of persons in need and social workers came to Keiu Roosimägi who works in legal- and social field because the State and local governments are in difficulties with offering essential services promoting independent life for people with special needs, but at the same time there are communities whose help could improve the situation. On the other hand it is easier for the community members to participate in voluntary work through Helpific. Volunteers can for example help with single transport service, offering companionship for going out or spending free time or support in domestic activities. People with special needs and the elderly can also offer their help to the others. Community will be stronger and more supportive, at the same time volunteers shall help to solve quite a big state deficiency. There are other this kind of voluntary organizations, but most of them are still organization-based and don’t carry the idea of sharing-economy. Helpific is unique both in Estonia as well as internationally for the simplicity, speed and security of the solution to both parties.

Information tour "Life without borders"

Support environment Helpific has presented itself with an information tour "Life without borders" in Paide, Haapsalu, Tallinn and Tartu. In discussion rounds it has been discussed how people with special needs could participate in the job market and how dominant stigmas affect the promoting of employment capacity, why it is rewarding to popularize voluntary work, how modern information- and communication technology promotes social enterpreneurship and how to involve communities to carry out the desired changes.

Representatives of employers (for example Swedbank, ISS Estonia, Tartu Kaubamaja, Selver), public sector (Astangu Vocation Rehabilitation Center, Unemployment Fund, Tallinn Mental Health Center, Arcada University of Finland) and third sector (Vabatahtlike Värav, Network of Social Enterprises, Estonian National Youth Council, Estonian Human Rights Center) and organizations of people with disabilities were met within the tour. British Ambassador to Estonia Chris Holtby and Estonian Social Defence Minister Margus Tsahkna also had a word.

British Ambassador to Estonia Chris Holtby giving valuable examples at the information tour
Those interested in the web-platform could test their abilities and knowledge at the meetings. They learned sign language, walked the leading dog for blind people,examined technical widgets and appliances that enable visually impaired people to surf the social networks, rode a wheelchair on a ramp and tried to open a candy jar with boxing gloves to experience the every-day challenges of muscle diseased.

Minister of Social protection Margus Tsanka testing dog-guide skills and capabilities
Within the tour an artistic installation was installed to the cityscape, its’ heroes being six youngsters with special needs: Merlin, Maris, Jakob, Merilyn, Oliver and Katariina. Despite their disability, they all have a very positive approach to life – with their interests and knowledge the youngsters can live a more full life with the help of volunteers. These six magical stories invited the community members to break the prejudices and attitudes prevailing in the society. It was desired to contribute to the creation of wiser and more caring communities, sharing the faith that caring and simple helping of each other will help people with special needs to use their knowledge, skills and abilities in their full extent.

Future communication and service portal

What Helpific’s magic of simplicity consists in and will it become as popular as Facebook? To answer that a helper or a person applying for assistance has to create a user account for the web-page, because the more users, the more efficient is the platform since people are helped according to free time and location. One can log in with Facebook or Google+ account, which makes the use of Helpific relatively easy. Helpific wants to put bigger emphasis on security, for instance soon there will be a respective mark on the account of the person who has been ascertained by ID-card. In addition there will be a possibility to comment, like, also to collect bonus points which enable to get products and services more favorably from partners. This acknowledges the helpers, but also lessens the risk of mistreatment of a person with special needs, who due to his/her disability might be more vulnerable.

User can describe on the account what kind of help he/she needs and what kind of help he/she can offer. For instance if you are a person with special needs, you can post a request for help to find a guide to a cultural event or for a walk, shopping or window cleaning. While using all the possibilities of the application, the opportunities for people with special needs to enter work life or gain education will improve substantially.

In addition a person can write what kind of help he/she wants to offer in return: for example to help to write an interesting piece of work, translate etc. If one cannot contribute one’s time as a volunteer, one can make a donation so that the money could be used to order a more specific payable service.

Helpific presents it’s versatility

Since November 2015 Helpific is a member of Estonian Voluntary Work Network. Network draws together efficient organizations promoting voluntary work in order to jointly have a say in developing the policies related to voluntary work, share opportunities and obligations in developing the field and being a consistent partner to official institutions co-ordinating the field and Ministry of Internal Affairs. In the context of this Helpific participates in the project "Involvers of volunteers are weaving a web" in the course of which an agreement of joint action will be completed and connections with European Voluntary Work Network will be made. Helpific also joined Estonian Diversity Agreement, stating so that it values the principles of diversity both in it’s employees and clients and treats them equally. Together with other joined organizations a community will be formed to share experiences together and promote equal treatment theme both in own organization as well as broadly in society.

With the Diversity Agreement joined Adcash, the Estonian Chamber of Disabled People, Helpific, the Ministy of Culture, SEB Bank, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Theater NO99 and TransferWise. Photo: Tõnu Tunnel
Helpific's business model

In conducting market analyses, many people with special needs informed that they would be willing to pay a small amount for the service. Also feedback from undergraduates and people with average or smaller income states that they could not offer to be a volunteer but they would help fellow citizens for a small payment. Therefore, if a request for help or an offer to help is entered, it is possible to name it’s price – but this is optional. There is a wish to show that there is demand for payable services and users are encouraged to try the new function of the web-page.

Competing to get the development funds

Chivas enterprise 1 million dollar prize fund is for enforcing special start-up companies, that are creating positive changes while doing business – whose mission is to inspire enterpreneurs to change the world. A lot of start-ups used this opportunity and sent their applications. Applications were examined and from every participating country, the best ideas were chosen to compete in the local final. Helpific became among top 5 locals, but it did not qualify for the international finals. The local round was won by Sentab which offers social network environment on television for the elderly.

Chivas The Venture five local finalists: from left Tauri Kärson (Autolevi), Tõnis Kusmin 
(Tebo), Tarmo Pihl (Sentab), Annika Amenberg (Helpific) and Marko Kiisa (Upmade) 
Helpific helps to live with dignity

Helpific, the winner of the title audience’s favourite at Garage48, has received quite a large attention. On September 23rd 2015 Estonian Association of the Deaf acknowledged Helpific with a letter of thanks for outstandingly supporting communicational and cultural accessibility.

Helpific’s vision is to be the best and the biggest support system in Europe by 2020, through which people with special needs can buy services and find volunteers to live an independent life.

Helpific’s mission is to promote the individual life of people with special needs and to contribute to forming stronger communities – please, help along!
Everyone applying for help and offering help are welcome to register and post appeals, feedback and suggestions are very much welcome. You can read interesting news from Helpific blog and think together with us.

Text: Laur Raudsoo, Helpific
Translation: Liina Martinson

© Helpific

business model disability English European Volunteer Centre Garage48 Helpific information technology social entrepreneurship startup voluntary work volunteer

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