THE last year has underlined the important role of volunteers and volunteering in all our lives, and we have all seen and felt the benefits. It is clear that volunteering has a fundamental role in connecting people and communities.
Volunteering is broad, from hyper-local acts of neighbourliness to people working together to address issues in their community and national programmes connecting people to help out where they are needed. It is a way for people to bring together their skills, resources, and time, and it offers volunteers a sense of purpose and fulfilment, a way of taking action on the things that matter to them and providing services and support to people in communities.
There is a clear need to harness the important role volunteering has played during the pandemic and nurture it for the coming years as we recover from Covid. Voluntary sector infrastructure organisations The National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), together with Volunteering Matters and the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM), have been working together through the pandemic as the focus and role of volunteering have changed, to help make sure people get the support and opportunities they need.
Now AVM, NAVCA, NCVO and Volunteering Matters are working to create a space for people from all parts of the voluntary and community sector to come together and develop a long-term Vision for Volunteering. The intention is to fully integrate volunteering into post-Covid recovery, harnessing volunteers’ skills, experience, and enthusiasm.
The work on the Vision for Volunteering has been welcomed by the Minister for Civil Society, Baroness Barran, who said:
“Volunteers are an inspirational force for good, and they will continue to be vital to the recovery of communities after an incredibly difficult year.
“We hope this important work will help us better understand the needs, value, and impact that volunteering brings to society. We look forward to engaging with the voluntary sector and seeing how their work towards a long-term vision for volunteering progresses.”
Maddy Desforges, CEO of NAVCA, said:
“As we move from crisis response to long-term recovery and rebuilding, we need to build on all we have learned about ourselves and our communities, harnessing the power of volunteering for our collective benefit.
“We want to bring together people from every aspect of civil society to share ideas on volunteering, identify what supports and enables people to volunteer, and the barriers which stop people from contributing to their communities.”
Sarah Vibert, Interim CEO of NCVO, said:
“As we emerge from lockdown, we’re at an important crossroad that will shape the future of volunteering, and we need to re-energise and plan strategically for that. To secure the legacy of volunteering during the pandemic, we must learn the lessons and realise the opportunities it has presented.
“We see this as a pivotal moment to re-energise and plan strategically for the future of volunteering. That is why it is crucial that we work collaboratively to create a new Vision for Volunteering, bringing together local and national organisations from across the voluntary sector, alongside public sector bodies, to develop a vision and action plan for volunteering that places it at the heart of every community.
“It’s an opportunity to embrace the importance of deeply embedded, relationship-based volunteering, which builds resilient communities, helps people find their sense of purpose, supports economic and social development, and boosts their health and wellbeing.”
Paul Reddish, CEO of Volunteering Matters, said:
“Covid has shown that for volunteering to flourish, at all levels from hyper-local to national, we must look at the structures and systems already in place, and those that may need to be set up, so that all communities can benefit from volunteering in the widest sense – from neighbourly acts to more formal volunteering activity. Collaborating to build the Vision for Volunteering will be the first step in a long-term vision and strategy for volunteering in England. Collectively as a sector, we can ensure that everyone, no matter their background or circumstance, has the opportunity to give up their time and skills to support others so that volunteering is a part of everyday life.”
The purpose of the Vision for Volunteering is to take this point in time and the significant interest in volunteering to reflect and set out what is next for volunteering and how volunteer management needs to respond. Over the past 14 months, volunteering and social action have been a vital and significant part of the national response to the crisis, creating an opportunity to develop a Vision for Volunteering.
AVM, NAVCA, NCVO and Volunteering Matters are bringing people together in a series of workshops over the next few months to capture their experiences and ideas as to how the vision should be shaped and actions needed to make it a reality in a Vision for Volunteering. It will include every type of volunteering, from informal acts of kindness to formal programmes, service delivery and relational, community-focused volunteering. It will include the different needs and aspirations among local communities as well as nationally.
More information on the approach can be found by visiting: https://visionforvolunteering.org.uk/.