A Food Filled RhymeTime

Who doesn’t like a good sing-along? And when you add songs about food into the mix, you can guarantee the Casserole Crew will be up for it! In the wake of our rainy but exhilarating Lunch Table in Redhill Town Centre, we organised a lovely little collaboration with Redhill Library, infiltrating their friday RhymeTime with a food-filled theme. We are really interested to see how young families can benefit from Casserole, both by cooking and receiving meals, and through building up a community within their own neighbourhood, and thought what better place to find young families than at a RhymeTime!

So friday morning, we headed to the library with flyers, magnets, and some very special Casserole stickers to join in on some sing-along fun. We spoke for a couple of minutes at the start, aware that there were babies and toddlers antsy to get rhyming, and thanked the library for letting us take over their RhymeTime for the morning, and explained Casserole in a nutshell – and then the singing began! “Oranges and Lemons,” “Patty Cakes,” “Hot Cross Buns,” and our personal favourite, “Bananas in Pajamas” were all quite big hits amongst the crowd of tots, and certainly made us pretty hungry in the process…

After a half hour of songs and a raucous rendition of the Hokey Cokey, we got to hand out our Casserole stickers to some very shy and some very jovial little guys, and chat to their adults about how Casserole could work for them. One of the most exciting moments for me was when one of the mom’s said she’d already heard about us from a friend – the word is spreading!

We want to thank the library again for letting us come in and commandeer their RhymeTime (the staff there are brilliant by the way, so if you are ever in Redhill, stop in and say hi)!

Cake to Door

Have you ever opened your door to a pair of people asking, “Would you like some free cake?” Well if you live in certain neighbourhoods of Redhill, you may have experienced just that yesterday, as the Casserole Crew took to the streets, spreading the word and some free cake love to the people of Redhill.

Baskets of cakes (unfortunately not homemade…. THIS time…) and flyers in hand, two pairs of us wandered up and down neighbourhood lanes, knocking on doors, offering up cake and the opportunity to join a community-centred food project being born in their very own area.

While most of us might dread the knocking of a “door-to-door salesman,” we tried to approach things a bit differently, and that difference payed off. Expecting doors to be shut in our faces more often than not, our plot to lure people with free cakes turned out to be a brilliant way to break the initial barrier between strangers. Upon offering free cakes, people were so amused, bemused, and curious, that they couldn’t help but wonder “What’s the catch?” Even more brilliantly, when they discovered the catch wasn’t something we were selling, but in fact a plan to get ‘neighbours cooking for neighbours,” intrigue turned into nods of understanding and appreciation. Granted there was still a

handful of door slams and “Thanks but no thanks,” but in general, people we far more endeared rather than off put by our proposition (after all, how annoyed can you be with people offering free cake?), and because we targeted areas where there are already Casserole members present, as soon as our new recruits sign up, they’ll be able to get cooking and eating straight away!

Our Cake-to-Door experiment was a great test in just how meaningful person-to-person interaction is when you are trying to start something new. Taking that extra bit of time to talk to someone, offer them a little something nice, and show them just what the ethos of Casserole is all about. This was also the start of a whole string of community activities we’ve been plotting for the month of April, which I’ll go into more in the next post (HINT: rhymetime and free lunch are involved!), to continue to see how we can best spread to word and grow the Casserole community.

One final note, we had another top secret mission during our Cake-to-Door time. Katie Smith, quite possibly our most enthusiastic and supportive Casseroler, has been right along side us from the very beginning – spreading the word, cooking meals and referring members. As a thank you, we left her a little token of appreciation for believing in us from the very start.

Thanks for everything Katie!

Casserole is back in action in Redhill!

After our initial two-week pilot before Christmas, we took a long look at what we started to learn from the experience, and have been working on developing the next stage of our pilot process ever since! Well today is the day we start that next stage, as we relaunch the active pilot in the Redhill area. But unlike last time, where we used a very controlled group (3 Diners and 7 Cooks), we now want to see Casserole grow and develop with its users, engaging you guys every step of the way for feedback and we continually iterate and refine the service. So from here on out, we are not only looking for people to sign up as Cooks and Diners, but to start using Casserole as a real, working service.

To kick off the relaunch, we’ve given the website a bit of a revamp, added an About Us page and put together some swanky new registration forms with added questions and safeguarding features (like our new referencing process), and we even have a Casserole phone number (020 3286 8911) so that we can learn about and access the growing Casserole community that little bit better. Throughout the pilot we will be organising feedback sessions with users, stage more events like Lunch and Learn and testing out some incentives and rewards (cooking classes anyone?!) and start getting our online community up and active.

Our main goal from now on is to work our way up to 40 Diners and 90 Cooks cooking, eating, and sharing through Casserole by early May. This may seem a little daunting, but we are confident that with the help of the organisations and people who have already been so supportive of the project and putting some serious elbow grease into our connections with the community, we will be able to get there (and who knows, maybe we’ll even pass it!). So please, if you are interested in taking part in Casserole, high-tail it over to the website and get yourself registered, and please help us spread the word!

Lessons Learnt – Casserole texting and sharing

With a first small step into foodie matchmaking under our belts, bringing together three satisfied Diners and six stellar Cooks delivering top-notch meals, it’s time for a bit of reflection. With that in mind and as promised in the post ‘A New Year‘, the next few blogs will start to delve a bit into what we’ve learnt so far, and how this is helping shape Casserole as a service.

After a couple of visits to local community groups and a market stall in Redhill town (don’t miss us or our cakes at the next stall this Saturday 21 January!), we managed to drum up a lot of interest and signed up 22 Cooks and 4 Diners. With this user group in hand, we started to test how Casserole could work in a few different settings. A big thank you to everyone involved for your feedback – it’s exciting to see this project happening for real and to learn about all your experiences!

We’re beginning to get an idea of exactly what is most important for both our Diners and Cooks. For instance, the importance of a text service in communicating with all involved. In a really quick test we found that out of 5 texts sent out by Casserole 4 replied within 2 mins giving an answer (we later found out the the 5th persons phone had run out of battery!).

An example of the texts used in the Casserole pilot

It makes perfect sense that text services are becoming incredibly useful as more and more people use their mobile phones for important things. For instance, last month when I moved into my new flat, I didn’t have an internet connection set up yet but needed to register my meter readings to get my electricity set up. After registering with Southern Electric they sent me a text and all I had to do was text my meter reading to them. Now the more I text readings, the more accurate my bill will be. Plus if you’re anything like me, your phone is always close by making it easy to fire off a text quickly.

Of course, Casserole will need to use a range of different communications channels to reach a diverse range of participants, but there’s little doubt that using text messaging has already proved one really good way to get people interested and active in the service. This ties in with how banks, postal couriers and supermarkets are all using text services to complement their online and phone services.

Using the Southern Electric text service to save some money + time!

While text messaging has turned out to be a great way to get information and responses out quickly, the Casserole facebook page is proving to be brilliant in building the community around Casserole. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve had a number of people ‘like’ the page and what’s event better, people have started posting what they’ve been cooking for their Diners. This gives Cooks the chance to comment and share culinary tips, not to mention wets the appetite of others to get involved in the service as well!

Some of the lovely food being discussed on the facebook page

We now know something we didn’t a few weeks ago; text services could be really useful and sharing recipes would be mighty popular.

The range of other interesting info that’s emerged just from this initial small scale prototype alone are making it easier for us to understand and plan how the Casserole service should operate in the long run – from how people sign up and communicate to the cooking and sharing of meals.

To find out even more about Casserole and what we’ve discovered from this initial trial, come join us at the Casserole Lunch and Learn event at Warwick School, Saturday 28 January from 10am-1pm.  Want to stay up to date with Casserole? Then join our mailing list or drop Murtz a line at murtz [at] wearefuturegov [dot] com.

Casserole Lunch and Learn, come and join us

We mentioned it last week, but here is the full flyer for our upcoming Casserole Lunch and Learn event in Redhill – doesn’t it looks nice? Check out the details below, and click on the flyer to sign up to attend.

We hope to see you there (and don’t forget a dish to share)!

Eat, Cook, Share: Casserole hits the markets

Roll up, roll up! Casserole is hitting the markets. This Saturday 26th November we’ll be running a Casserole stall at the Redhill market where we want to talk to all sorts of people about what we are doing. We want to spread the word about Casserole in Redhill and we’ll be on high street from 9.30 onwards so if you are passing by make sure you say hi. We’ll be explaining everything about Casserole and asking people what they think as well as trying to get more people on board with the pilot that we are running in the coming weeks.

Casserole will be at the market in Redhill, on Saturday 26 November

If you are out and about in Redhill or know someone who lives close by make sure you tell them to visit our stall, we’ll have tea and coffee and maybe even a little snack! If you are interested in knowing more about the trial then feel free to get in touch with Murtz ([email protected]) and if you are interested in signing up for the 2 week pilot then simply fill in the online form so we can get in touch with you.

The trial itself is simple as pie, all we want to do is ask a few people to cook 2 meals in 2 weeks and share this with someone we match them up with in their area. We’ll introduce everyone first and also make sure that everyone is cooking and eating things that they like.

If you are interested in being a “Cook” the form is here or if you are more interested in being a “Diner” the form is here.  If you are unable to access these forms from work and can’t get them at home either, drop Murtz a line a [email protected] and he’ll hook you up to cook or eat.