Norfolk and Waveney’s Integrated Volunteering Journey
11th March 2020
The integrated volunteering journey in Norfolk and Waveney has been an exciting opportunity to bring together colleagues from a variety of organisations and specialisms, and start working towards a common aim.
Since October the work has developed from a range of ideas and possibilities to a clear plan to raise the visibility of volunteering across the area, strengthen existing community assets and create new and exciting opportunities for young people.
The journey started with the appointment of a project manager to oversee the work, and the formation of a steering group of key partners to inform priorities. The steering group consists of representatives from the local voluntary sector infrastructure organisations, NHS voluntary services managers, the University of East Anglia’s volunteer coordinator and a representative from the local Healthwatch. Volunteer representation has been sought and the group continues to grow as priorities shift and evolve.
The steering group initially identified several areas to scope further; mapping of current activity, a volunteer passport, opportunities for young people, general recruitment of volunteers and sharing of best practice.
Local mapping work enabled us to build a picture of activity already taking place in Norfolk and Waveney. Whilst some areas have thriving communities and considerable volunteer engagement, inequalities of geography, profile of organisations and accessibility, particularly for young people, became apparent.
North Norfolk an area with a high percentage of second homes and low social mobility has been identified as an area of future focus, with many organisations reporting difficulty in recruiting volunteers, whilst social isolation is also a growing concern.
As well as identifying a lack of volunteering opportunities for young people, we found that where activities do exist the retention rates are often quite low and the involvement of young people was often seen as a challenge and not a key priority.
Discussions were sought with colleagues within the local mental health trust and voluntary sector specialists to inform a proposal for action, and a visit to our colleagues at the West Suffolk Hospital who have an existing student volunteer programme was illuminating.
Simultaneously, a series of volunteer workshops are being held to capture the volunteer voice and further inform the research taking place at an organisational level. The first of these workshops have revealed a real commitment of our volunteers to the activity that they’re doing, personal connection to the cause of organisation with which they volunteer.
These workshops have been an excellent reminder of the value of volunteering, not to the organisation but the individuals who give up their time to help others. We have had excellent, honest and open discussions with volunteers from a range of organisations across the county, and we hope to hold more events like this in the future.
Over the coming months, we are looking forward to meeting members of our local youth advisory boards and young care leavers to find out more about what we can do to develop interesting, rewarding and enjoyable opportunities for 16 to 24-year-olds.
The last five months have been a really fantastic and at times heart-warming opportunity to find out more about all the fantastic activity that volunteers are involved in. I’ve been struck not just by how dedicated our volunteers are, but by the enthusiasm and energy, those supporting volunteers consistently show to their work, and to make our area a better place to be.
I’m excited about what is coming next, including Volunteers’ Week, when we have our first opportunity to promote volunteering together, with all of our steering group members committed to take part. As a born and bred Norfolkian, I am delighted to be part of the journey to highlight just how fantastic volunteers and volunteering are, and to make it accessible to even more people!