Chris Lunnon (centre)

“Everyone is worried about being judged” – Guest Blogger Chris Lunnon talks about his first term at Oxford University

cote brasserieMy First Day

Sunday 1st October 2017. The big day. My first day at Oxford Uni, a time of enlightenment, personal development and changing perceptions. I was terrified.

But I was also phenomenally excited. Then terrified, excited again, terrified… you get the picture. Everything culminated in, what was supposed to be, a ‘goodbye lunch’ at Cote Brasserie, with my parents. That turned into an awkward staring out the window competition. I just wanted to start, take the jump and just get the ball rolling. So instead of following my Dad’s plan and go on an extended tour around my college, I headed to the JCR*. I soon ended up in a conversation that lasted about three hours.

On that very first day, the most important thing to realize is that everyone is in the same boat. Everyone (apart from the rowers and keen kids on the head-start courses) is entirely new to their surroundings and everyone is worried about being judged.  Whether people will like them and how they’re going to start over again in a new place. The best thing you can do is just go where everyone else is and ask ‘Where are you from?’ ‘What course are you doing?’ or  ‘Hello, What’s your name?’

christchurch meadowMiddle Ground of Drinking

There seems to be a perception that either you go out all the time or never at all. The ‘middle ground of drinking’ is somewhere very nice to be. You don’t need to feel you have to make yourself uncomfortable, but, at the same time, going out to a pub or a club is a great way to make new friends in freshers’ week. If, like me, you don’t find it easy to strike up plans, you’ll find club nights and pub crawls, put on by freshers’ reps very helpful for meeting people.

Chris at Bodlian croppedFreshers’ week is a time when everyone is getting to know each other, and excited to be starting afresh in a new city.

After this, support from the university dries up a little and you get thrown in the deep end. I personally, exhausted after freshers’ week and overstressing about work, got a little ‘1st week blues’. But then matriculation happened – a ceremony/day drinking in a park – and now most of the friendships I have, are from that day.

Socially, Few Things are Set in Stone

Fundamentally, it’s important to remember that socially, few things are set in stone. The best way I found to make connections is to ‘put yourself out there’. This was hard for me,  as I had grown up with low self-esteem, so don’t think this is something only ‘other people’ can do. Finding things that interest you, or signing up for random things like Kabaddi is a great way of meeting new people and exposing yourself to new ideas. It’s a struggle to balance ‘being yourself’ and ‘being what other people want you to be’. It’s important to remember these ideas are always changing depending on who you’re with and where you are. Perhaps it’s best to focus instead on working out what you really want to do.

Studying at Oxford is a particularly intense experience, one we spend too much time fretting over how to get it ‘right’. Sometimes, it’s best just to let things happen the way they happen. Once we let go of the idea of trying to control things we often find things work out in the end.

Chris Lunnon

*JCR = Junior Common Room

Ale with Ami: CAMRA partners with Ami to tackle loneliness in Oxford

Real Ale, Real Conversation

Tuesday 13th December 7-9pm
Chequers Inn, 131 High Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 4DH



This Christmas, Ami is partnering with the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) Oxford branch to help people connect with their community.   CAMRA and Ami will be running a public event called “Ale with Ami” at the Chequers Inn pub to help people make new friends. From 7-9 pm on Tuesday 13th December, people will be invited down to the pub to take part in a social ‘speed-dating’ style event with the intention of making a few new friends on the evening. The first 30 thirsty people will receive a complimentary half pint.


The pub is well-placed to tackle loneliness. Earlier this year, CAMRA commissioned research from Oxford University which showed that people who have a ‘local’ pub have more close friends on whom they can call for support, are happier and more trusting of others and feel more engaged with their community.

Steve Lawrence from CAMRA’s local Oxfordshire branch says: “Our branch was keen to get involved in this event because bringing people to the pub is a huge step towards combating social isolation. Simply put, a good local pub can be like family. We need to encourage more people who are struggling to visit their local and reach out to others in their community – you never know who you may meet!”

Lois Muddiman from Ami says: “Ami is a new on-line platform that helps people connect to others in their local community and offer them help and support. We’re only working in Oxfordshire at the moment but plan to be national in 2017. We’re delighted to be working with CAMRA to run this event and hope people will use the opportunity to make some new connections”

pub-sign-2Ale with Ami is a public event organised by Ami in partnership with Oxford CAMRA. Tuesday 13th December 7-9pm
Chequers Inn, 131 High Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 4DH
For more information contact Ami

Ami wins award from Social Tech investor Nominet Trust

Ami has been awarded £50,000 to help fund a pilot in Oxfordshire. It is one of only 9 successful organisations selected from 298 ventures that applied for the latest round of Social Tech seed funding from The Nominet Trust.

Ami is a new initiative which aims to help reduce loneliness and social isolation which are harmful to our health: lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, (Holt-Lunstad, 2010) and is worse for us than obesity and physical inactivity.

p1000420Project Manager Lois Muddiman said “Hidden behind closed doors in our communities are lonely, isolated people who need a little help and support to continue to live independently. There are also people out there with time to spare and the desire to help but they don’t know how to find each other. This is how Ami can help, you just have to enter your postcode to find out who needs help near you.  You’ll find details of people who’d like some help. You can see what kind of help they need e.g. companionship, shopping or a lift to the doctors and what their interests are.

The Ami Pilot

140 new volunteers have registered with Ami since the pilot began in July.  Sheila Furlong from The Archway Foundation said, “We’ve already attracted more than double the number of volunteers we usually have, using Ami.”

The other partner organisations taking part in the Ami pilot are Community First Oxon, Enrych, Wantage Advice Centre, Volunteer Link Up and Abingdon Good Neighbour Scheme.  Good neighbour schemes in Didcot and East Oxford have recently joined and Bicester will be joining very soon.

Who is developing Ami?

ami-team-photo-and-cakeAmi is being developed by Oxford Computer Consultants  They aim to use technology to build stronger communities and reduce loneliness. The project is being funded using a combination of EU, Nominet Trust and internal funding. It is operating as a not-for-profit project and plans to become an independent social enterprise in 2017.

Managing Director, Dr John Boyle said “We’re currently piloting the site in Oxfordshire and we plan to be national soon. We’ll be adding lots more features to the site over the coming months. The Nominet Trust funding will help us to further test the potential of our idea”


Ami is being developed by Oxford Computer Consultants (OCC) in partnership with a number of local and national volunteer organisations. Another of OCC’s projects is a European Commission Horizon 2020 project called OPERANDO, which is funding some of Ami’s software development and testing.

operando logo


The OPERANDO project aims to create and field-test an innovative new “privacy enforcement” platform that businesses and organisations can use to enhance their data protection and privacy as well as improving how users can understand and control how their personal data are used by the providers of services they use online.

Let’s illustrate the concept with an example. If we imagine a user of a social network called Hello World:

  • Terms of Use. When they sign up to the service they agree to some terms of use, they may or may not read these and they may or may not be aware of what the agreement means with regard to how their data might be used by Hello World.
  • Privacy. At some point they might configure their privacy settings. These might be hard to find and often even harder to understand.
  • Valuable data. Over time the user will enter all sorts of valuable and even sensitive information into Hello World and that data can be used by Hello World in a wide variety of ways, some of which might be unexpected due to a hard to understand or unread terms of use. Most likely Hello World will try to make money from the user’s data through advertising or selling access to their information to parties that might find it interesting. This can introduce ethical or even regulatory issues.
  • Removing access. The user might decide that they wanted to change their mind and remove some of their data from Hello World or even delete their account. How can they be sure their data is not going to continue to be used or sold?

OPERANDO helps by putting the user in control of their data and helping them understand how it will be used by service providers like Hello World. OPERANDO lets the user choose which of their data is shared and with whom. They can remove access to their data at any time and trust that it will remain secure. They can make clear choices about how their data might be used or analysed.

Who uses OPERANDO?

The OPERANDO platform will benefit a number of groups:

  • Online Service Providers – These are organisations needing to record or use the sensitive data belonging to an individual. Hello World was one example, needing to record, access and share sensitive data about individuals. These organisations will gain the ability to show explicit consent from users, cost-effectively comply with privacy regulations and increase the trust of users.
  • Privacy Service Providers – These are the organisations that will run the OPERANDO platforms offering privacy services to the public and access to that data to the Online Service Providers. they gain the ability to deploy a secure, standard and compliant platform on which to base their operations.
  • Users – Can manage their online privacy issues with an intuitive web application. They can also trust that their chosen privacy settings will be enforced on all Online Service Providers using their data.
  • Privacy Regulators – OPERANDO will allow regulators to automatically audit the privacy policies of Online Service Providers to ensure they comply with the relevant privacy regulations.

How does Ami fit in?

Ami will be a case study for OPERANDO. Acting as an Online Service Provider, Ami will show how OPERANDO can be used to manage the privacy of its users’ data. Ami deals with sensitive data about volunteers and vulnerable people so trust is paramount. OPERANDO will help users and/or voluntary organisations working on their behalf, to understand how to control their information. It gives Ami the benefit of that trust as well as a clear way to comply with data regulations.

Ami Workshop – Volunteer Organisations’ first thoughts on Ami

We invited several organisations who run Volunteer Befriending or Good Neighbour Schemes to come and visit us in Oxford at the end of February.  We hoped they would learn more about Ami and we would hear their feedback on our ideas.  There were representatives from RVSAge UK , Oxford County Council, Volunteer Link Up  Abingdon Good Neighbour Scheme and Community Christmas  

As part of the presentation we showed some examples of the sort of screen a new volunteer would be able to see on Ami.  It would include details about the people who are looking for help, but not enough to identify them or where they live.  It could show their age, gender, interests and an icon to indicate what kind of help they require.  The short profile would also show which volunteer agency had assessed their needs.

map and list

After a presentation (you can download our slides) we asked everyone to tell us what the benefits of a system like Ami might be for their organisation.  The top three benefits were:

  1. Better Matching – being able to match volunteers with clients by location or interests
  2. Better Referrals – a single point of referrals for GPs, relatives and other agencies
  3. Attract more volunteers – by showing local need, offering micro-volunteering and making the process easier

All agreed it could be a really useful tool for their organisations.  Some imagined an Ami App where a pre-registered volunteer could find out what help was needed in their local area this weekend when they had some free time.  Other benefits discussed included gathering national data including live data and activity reporting.

workshop 9

The top concerns of those attending the workshop were

  1. Cost, Sustainability – What would it cost to use and can Ami be financially sustainable
  2. Cooperation – Can the volunteer organisations work together, sharing volunteers & data
  3. Safeguarding – Risks of data on-line for vulnerable older people

These are all concerns that we expected and we believe we can begin to show how we will address them during our first pilot which is planned for this summer.  We’re still looking for different types of organisations to work with including Churches, Clinical Commissioning Groups and Housing Associations, so do get in touch if you might be interested.  A huge thank you to everyone who gave us their time.  We hope the day was useful and that you’ll continue to work with us.