Gig Buddies in a Box – whats in the box?

Last week I was working with our newest partners, The Aldingbourne Trust, who are going to be running Gig Buddies in Portsmouth. It’s really exciting for us (and them of course!) and they’re going to be working out of a fantastic venue based right off the bustling Fratton High Street.

Gig Buddies in a Box

I think they were expecting me to turn up with a big box of stuff (and there will be once we’ve made everything we’ve written over the years look a little smarter for sharing). This is the outline I gave them of everything that we’re sharing.

How Gig Buddies works

Gig Buddies matches up people with learning disabilities and/or autism with a volunteer who shares the same interests and passions, the idea being that it supports people to grow their informal support networks and friendship circles thereby promoting positive physical and mental well-being.

The idea is pretty simple but there’s a lot of thought and work that’s gone in to making sure it’s run as well as possible and that people are kept as safe as is possible whilst also enjoying the richness of activities going on in their local communities.

Gig Buddies in a Box

The 4 principles of Gig Buddies

There are 4 key things which we think make Gig Buddies special, and which can’t be changed, or it’s not a Gig Buddies project:

1. It’s led by people with learning disabilities

We started off with an idea but through working with our advisory group (The Storm and Thunder Team) and listening to participants and volunteers the project has evolved over time. We aim to keep the concepts of co-production through all our work.

2. It’s about meaningful community participation

It’s about going to ‘mainstream’ events and gigs in your community that are open to all. In this it’s also essential that it’s about respecting people’s choices. It’s not about us organising our own events, except for the occasional fundraiser and awareness raiser.

3. It’s about cultural activities

A gig could be a rock concert but could also be an afternoon of looking round art galleries. The important thing is that it’s your ‘gig’ – whatever it is that you enjoy doing. Other buddies go to football matches, checking out cake cafes in Brighton’s Lanes, nature walks as well as a whole shed load of gigs and concerts.

4. It’s about friendships and volunteering

We are passionate about reducing social isolation and whilst we know loads of great support workers the fact is that they are still being paid to do a job. Gig Buddies is all about having people in your life who aren’t paid to be there.

We also know that it will look different in every area as everywhere is different. But these 4 things just can’t change.

The manual

The first thing in ‘The Box’ is the manual which contains loads and loads of know-how that we’ve developed in running the project.Gig Buddies in a Box

In the manual you’ll find:

  1. Context and background
  2. Coming up with a local launch strategy
  3. Setting up your advisory group
  4. Recruiting participants and volunteers
  5. The matching process and top tips
  6. Community building – both the internal community within your Gig Buddies project and also externally in your town or city
  7. Using social media to promote your project
  8. How to work the website, and using WordPress
  9. Monitoring and evaluation
  10. Training and vetting volunteers

The Gig Buddies community extranet

This is a website we’ve created especially for partners. This is a place that will be chock-full of downloadable resources to support you in the running of your project. On the site you’ll find:

  1. Downloadable resources
  2. Human resources materials (job descriptions, person specifications, recruitment adverts)
  3. Ideas for interview questions and ways of designing the recruitment process to enable people with learning disabilities to be fully involved in choosing the right candidate
  4. Brand assets (logos etc)
  5. Resources that our partners have shared
  6. Support forum
  7. Marketing materials
  8. Blogs – for example we’ll soon be sharing a case study for how we’re mounting an assault on the Sussex town of Bognor!

You’re also part of a sharing community of partner organisations who want to collaborate for good, through this we’ll all be able to learn and develop our projects, and support each other.

Unfortunately due to the fact that this website is going to be full of our intellectual property, and trader secrets, we’re only going to be able to let paid up partners access it. But if you click on the image below you’ll be able to have a tantalising glimpse of what’s on offer!

Gig Buddies in a Box

Training materials

The volunteer training section covers:

  1. An introduction to Gig Buddies
  2. An introduction to learning disabilities and autism
  3. The Social Model of Disability
  4. Communication
  5. Safeguarding
  6. ‘What happens if…?’
  7. And also how to run the dreaded dance-off! (The highlight/lowlight of any training day depending on how you view it!)

The secure online database

With massive thanks to our partners down-under ‘Gig Buddies Sydney’ we’ve got a database coming online very soon which they’ve developed which will assist things like:

  1. Participants and volunteer details all in one place
  2. Automatic reference requests
  3. Photo profiles so we don’t forget what people look like!
  4. A Google Map which automatically visualises matches and people on waiting lists
  5. The ability to manage our waiting lists so as to keep people engaged and updated on progress (it can take time finding that right match)
  6. Exports for mail-merging to email and documents

It may sound a bit geeky but we really are super excited about this part of the project as it will be a leap forward for us in terms of managing our community better.

Easier to read policies

As a charity our vision if that all our policies and information should be as easy to read as we can make it. So here we’ll be adding all the easier to read policies that we’ve written so far. You’ll be able to find:

  1. Confidentiality and data protection
  2. Consent
  3. Equality, diversity and inclusion
  4. Health and safety
  5. Lone working
  6. Safeguarding
  7. Wellness at work

Your own Gig Buddies website

Gig Buddies is a Trademarked thing and so we will help you to find a domain that works for your area. The website itself can be branded for your own colours, have your organisation’s logos added and other things to link it to your area/organisation.

It’s all built in WordPress (just like this website) which means it’s easy to edit yourself. It will contain things like:

  1. Signing up to be a Gig Buddy
  2. Local events (as added by you)
  3. Reviews of gigs buddies have been to
  4. Blog posts and news
  5. Frequently asked questions

Click on the image below to have a look at our Gig Buddies site.

Gig Buddies in a Box

Other useful resources

You’ll also find things like:

  1. The Volunteer Handbook
  2. Our event planning check-list
  3. Our guide to running user-led meetings
  4. Our guide to writing press releases
  5. Evaluation questionnaires and surveys

Promotional materials

  1. Leaflets and posters
  2. General Gig Buddies presentations slides
  3. DIY films we’ve made (and that you’ve made!)
  4. Our stock photos
  5. Optional extras:
    • Conference banners
    • T-shirts
    • Ideas for promotional materialsGig Buddies in a Box

Funding support

We can’t write bids for you (as much as we love writing funding applications!) but we also can’t claim to be experts and simply also just don’t have the time as we’re busy writing our own and working with our existing funders. BUT we can share things to help you.

We’re happy to share things like:

  1. Draft budgets, showing costs that we experience
  2. Some example content for funding bids

I’ve also created a monster spreadsheet which links to loads of our funding applications with different word counts. I have no idea how I could share that but at some stage I’m planning to create a database to share with partners.


In-keeping with our Punk/DIY ethic we enjoy creating our own materials to try and help explain the project further and we’ll be adding these as and when we create them.


And then there’s us! We’re more than happy to help give advice and share ideas. We’ve got loads of experience amongst us of not only running Gig Buddies but also in campaigning, co-production, user-led approaches and how to start a party!

But there’s also of course YOU the community of Gig Buddies partners. It’s possibly a controversial view of mine that many of you will no doubt disagree with but I see it like The Beatles. They were always far greater than the sum of their parts and didn’t release anything like near as brilliant as individuals as what they did when they were the fab four. I see it the same way with building a community of Gig Buddies partners. The vision is that we’ll all share and develop our work together the overall aim in mind of improving the lives of people with learning disabilities and/or autism.

(See this blog about when this vision goes wrong and gets skewed – Social franchising and the biggest risk.)

Do get in touch if you’d like to develop Gig Buddies in your area. While we may sometimes give the impression that we work off the back of old envelopes and cigarette packets, in fact it’s all pretty well thought out and evolving in an organically co-produced way. We’d love you to be part of that.

Paul – Director

Gig Buddies in a Box


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