WCVA Helpforce Cymru Manager Fiona Liddell has been discovering how West Glamorgan Regional Partnership is developing volunteering across the region.
The Coronavirus pandemic made us all aware that we can achieve more by working together in collaborative partnerships than in our ‘silos’.
Following work that was undertaken by West Glamorgan Regional Partnership in 2021, with help from the Welsh Government Coronavirus Recovery Grant for volunteering, there was aspiration for a regional strategy to be developed to support volunteering. It was recognised that partners were in different places with respect to their volunteering practice and that a common understanding and strategic direction would enable better collaborative working.
Recognising the volunteering expertise that exists within the county voluntary councils in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, Julia Manser and Gemma Richards were seconded on a part time basis to lead this work on behalf of the Partnership.
USING THE FRAMEWORK FOR VOLUNTEERING
Initially six months was allotted for this work, so it made sense to identify and use what was already available and relevant to the task.
The Framework for Volunteering in Health and Social Care was a helpful start – a good basis for discussion, including with stakeholders such as planners and commissioners, who are not always part of the conversation.
A WORKSHOP APPROACH
Workshops were held with each of the six partners in the partnership, which allowed each organisation to consider where they were in terms of involving volunteers at that time, where they wanted to get to and how they were going to do it.
Gemma and Julia extended the self-assessment matrix from the Framework, pulling out the main themes as discussion questions and adding in reference to volunteering best practice. This gave a practical structure as basis for the three-hour workshops, which were facilitated online by Urban Foundry.
As well as producing an action plan for each organisation, it was also possible to agree some principles which formed the basis of a regional volunteering strategy. A ranking exercise was undertaken in order to determine levels of support for regional priorities.
ENGAGING VOLUNTEERS IN THE PROCESS
A trial run of the workshop was done with some volunteers from the Regional Co-production Group. This group had valuable expertise to offer, having previously developed a toolkit to enable organisations to work co-productively with people who use their services. They were able to suggest ways of making the workshops more engaging and volunteer friendly.
Partners were encouraged to invite volunteers to the workshops, recognising the importance of volunteers’ voice in contributing to volunteering strategy development.
It is often a challenge to get volunteers involved in a meaningful way, however. One of the recommendations within the strategy is to set up a regional ‘volunteer voices’ forum, and tips for better engagement with volunteers have been included in the report.
Development work of this kind takes time and the initial secondment was extend for a further six months, to include additional tasks and in order to write up what had been done and follow through with development actions.
Amongst the many positive outcomes of the project:
- Organisations have actions plans to work through, with support from their local County Voluntary Council.
- The Partnership agreed to fund two new posts: a Volunteer Support Officer to provide support to volunteer representatives within the Regional Partnership Board and a Regional Volunteer Strategy Officer to oversee the implementation of the regional volunteering strategy.
- A regional volunteering strategy group will continue to develop the regional approach to volunteering and look at ways for joint working.
- As well as the ‘volunteer voices’ forum, there are plans for a regional volunteer managers’ network.
- The report, Operationalising the framework for health and social care includes all the information necessary for others to use including workshop content, templates, and practical tips. It is commended for use by any large organisation, strategic or public sector body where volunteering would take place.
This is a significant legacy.
You may also be interested in Lessons learned from accelerated volunteer recruitment in an emergency and other toolkits and information sheets produced during the project.