Tess Speaking

Using WordPress to do_action

Our Marketing Manager, Tess Coughlan-Allen, recently spoke at the WordPress-industry conference WordCamp Bristol about the first do_action day to take place in Europe. Watch her talk on WordPress TV and follow along with the transcript below.

Transcript from talk: Using WordPress to do_action

“Thank you for the intro, yes I’m Tess from Mind Doodle and today I’m going to be talking about using WordPress to do_action.

Intro slide for Tess Coughlan-Allen's talk:

I’ll start by posing a question. Can one day of work genuinely making an impact on hundreds or even thousands of people in your local community?

A question mark

The short answer is yes.

The word

do_action hackathons are community-organised events. They’re one-day hackathons where volunteers from the local community get together, they share their skills and knowledge to create new WordPress sites for local charities and non-profits.

For every do_action there is a positive and empowering re_action and it’s really true, you can make an impact.

Statement: For every do_action there is a positive and empowering re_action

We held the first do_action day to take place in Europe here in Bristol. It was in February of last year. We used WordPress to create five new sites for local charities and non-profits in a single day. We also put on three workshops and we had 40 volunteers involved.

Stats about Europe's first do_action day

The second most important statistic was 30 pizzas powering us through lunch thanks to some generous sponsorship.

Graphical illustration of pizza slice

The most important statistic was unlimited coffee throughout the day, but actually no single-use plastic, you’ll be happy to know.

Illustration of lots of coffee cups

If you haven’t heard about a do_action day before, I don’t blame you. It’s a fairly up-and-coming initiative by WordPress, but actually it’s happening all over the world already.

As I said, Bristol was the first city in Europe to host a do_action day, but it was happening in other places, other continents around the world.

do_action days around the world, points on map, before Feb 2018

Fast-forward a little over a year, you’ll see many more cities around the world hosting do_action days, which most importantly, means that local communities are being uplifted with WordPress.

do_action days around the world, points on map after Feb 2018

Michael Burridge and I co-organised the event. I asked him why he decided that Bristol should host a do_action event and he said: “We chose to organise Europe’s first ever do_action event in Bristol because we wanted to help local charities by using WordPress to improve their outreach and fundraising.”

Explanation of why Bristol hosted Europe's first do_action day

He went on to talk about the friendships and good links you can make professionally, and he said, “Bristol’s WordPress community is proud to have been in the vanguard of do_action in Europe.”

We didn’t do it on our own, obviously, I said that there were 40 people who were involved. That included many developers and project managers, a social media expert, and also seven non-profit representatives came along, so some of the non-profit’s were able to bring more than one person to be involved. It’s an amazing example of knowledge sharing, skills sharing and collaboration in a short space of time.

Volunteer roles at do_action day, using WordPress to do good

The workshops we held were to help the non-profits understand how to use WordPress practically and making sure they felt comfortable creating content and amplifying their messaging across social media.

Venn diagram of the purpose of workshops for using WordPress, creating content and amplifying messages on social media during Bristol's do_action day

So what went well? We created five expertly-crafted, responsive, accessible websites in a single day. There was no cost to the charities and non-profits and also there were some really good negotiations from our volunteers with hosting companies and for plugins.

Recap of achievements after Bristol's do_action day

But it didn’t come without challenges:

  1. Organising a do_action day is a lot of work, more work than you’ll expect.
  2. We also struggled with recruiting for one particular volunteer role, which was content creators and writers.
  3. Some of the non-profit representatives didn’t benefit fully from their workshops, so maybe they already had those skills.
  4. And not all of them were as willing participants as the others.

Slide detailing the challenges of organising a do_action day

If you wanted to put on a do_action day, here are some future solutions for you:

  1. Recruit a bigger organising team. Really simple one, just share the load.
  2. If you know that there’s an area where you might struggle to recruit, you could reach out to other communities. We could made more effort reaching out to the digital marketing communities in Bristol.
  3. Interview your non-profits face to face before the event, I can’t stress this enough. We got in touch with ours but we didn’t meet face-to-face and it’s important because it’s such an intense day of working so make sure you find the best applicants that you can say yes to.
  4. Make the workshops optional but encouraged.

Slide detailing possible solutions to challenges of organising a do_action day

More challenges:

  1. It’s a really short amount of time to get all that work done.
  2. Volunteers might need to develop some new skills to deliver requirements, which is a lovely opportunity, but a real challenge given time limit.
  3. That also impacted some of the UX and accessibility, so those needed some further improvements at the end.
  4. And some of those plugin negotiations only lasted a year, so it could have led to unexpected charges later.

Slide detailing the challenges of organising a do_action day


  1. We did ours during a working day for inclusivity. You could extend it a little bit further, you know, start earlier, finish later, or extend to one and a half days or two days.
  2. Project managers can do a little bit extra beforehand to gather requirements but also to share those requirements with their teams so if there are skills gaps, you’ll know ahead of time.
  3. More time, then, could be allocated to a review of UX and accessibility. We did this, but it was such a challenge given the time we had.
  4. Also, more transparency for plugins, so you only go premium if the non-profit will benefit from that long term.

Slide detailing possible solutions to challenges of organising a do_action day

Who did we help?

Firstly, Bristol Disability and Equality Forum, it’s run by deaf disabled people for deaf and disabled people. They wanted an engaging site that was accessible, both for site visitors and on the back-end for site admins.

Bristol Disability Equality Forum website screenshot

Gympanzees is creating the UK’s first fully inclusive leisure facility. They had no brand, no logo, no website. All they did was email, so it was really starting from scratch to engage supporters and funders, but also the families they wanted to help.

Gympanzees website screenshot

Hands in the Air is grassroots initiative for men’s mental health and they needed something clean and approachable for their target audience.

Hands in the Air website screenshot

Horfield and Districts Allotment Association had just celebrated their 100th anniversary before the event, which was lovely, so as you can expect, they had tonnes of stories and helpful information they need to restructure. There were 70 pages of content that needed to be restructured.

Horfield & District Allotment Association website screenshot

Third Sector Solutions help unemployed people and people with support needs. They needed to totally rethink how they presented their services.

Third Sector Solutions website screenshot

So what impact did it actually have?

Well I got back in touch with all of the non-profit reps a year on and talked to each of them about what changed, and actually thousands of people had access to facilities and services that they would never have known about if it wasn’t for the do_action day.

Penultimate slides with illustrations of plants, hearts, speech bubbles, stars, and bunting with the words:

But don’t just take it from me, I’m going to hand you over to two of the non-profit reps directly.

“My name is Laura Welti. I’m from Bristol Disability Equality Forum.

“I have always been involved in equalities of some kind. I had been an equalities consultant before I became a physically disabled person myself. If you don’t have the lived experience, actually you have no idea.

“If you’re not accessible, in this country alone it’s estimated that the spending power of disabled people is around £250 billion.

“I was looking for more engagement from people who visited the site. I wanted it to be accessible, not only to people visiting the site, but ideally at the back end so disabled volunteers could help us run the site.

“To be perfectly frank, in our situation, without the hackathon, we couldn’t have had a new website. It would have been financially impossible.

“All I would say is mega thanks to everybody. People were really generous with their time, they really put effort into understanding what our needs were and did an amazing job in the amount of time they had available.”

“I’m Stephanie Wheen, I’m the founder of a social enterprise called Gympanzees.

“84% of children with disabilities can’t access regular leisure. This causes, obviously, problems with health and wellbeing for the children but then also the families, because the child can’t get out, the families can’t get out.

“We are working towards opening the UK’s first fully inclusive leisure facility for disabled children and young people.

“Until this happens, we are setting up pop-up leisure centres. We had our first one last summer, which was really successful and exciting. We had 1100 kids through the door and we had some amazing feedback with one little three-year-old boy who had his first ever laugh.

“This initiative is amazing, it’s hugely important and it’s been incredible for us, it’s been really pivotal for us. If we hadn’t had the website we wouldn’t have been able to do the pop-up and without doing the first pop-up we wouldn’t be able to continue doing the others that we’re doing.

It’s the difference between people being able to access our services or not. In a small way, it changed people’s lives and that wouldn’t have been possible really without our do_action day.”

Final slide with Mind Doodle logo and twitter handles @tessc_a and @MindDoodleCom

Thank you very much for listening.”

Let’s create something

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