I've been on my MPhil/PhD at Edinburgh College of Art part-time since September 2008, but only moved permanently to Edinburgh in 2009. In order to expand my social circle in a new city (and country) I was eventually introduced to Meetup in January 2010. Meetup is a US real-time social networking website where people in different cities advertise local group meetings. The groups are a mix between professional networking opportunities and specific-interest groups. In February I joined a cinema group and comedy group amongst others, and quickly found myself becoming an assistant organiser for both; organising cinema and comedy club visits for each group.
Over the Spring I not only had opportunities to socialise and unwind from work (lecturing and research), but I also had the inkling of an opportunity that could benefit me. I was bitten by the Meetup concept and I had become an organiser of my own Meetup group - The Edinburgh High Brow/Low Brow Culture Group. By subscribing to Meetup as a full-blown organiser I found I could run 3 different groups under 1 subscription. In becoming an organiser I had the resource to contact hundreds of people in Edinburgh, with some free time on their hands, and who were actively looking for interesting activities. I would be needing people with free time, a curious nature, who would be willing to sign up to be observed engaged in an activity.
Aesthetic Volunteers was born.
The Meetup group would transparently be a call for volunteers to help in all of my proposed research projects as part of my MPhil/PhD. Through the website's tools I could use specific social networking to ask for help, capturing the interest and curiousity of a huge cross-section of people, who want to be part of something fun.
In the first two weeks of the group I have 26 members 13 of which have signed up for two briefing events 2 months away. These numbers won't translate directly into volunteers but I am amazed how quickly I have achieved such interest. It just shows that even when I am employing effort to avoid doing PhD work, I have inadvertently been doing the ground work for my PhD!