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Community-made content which you can improve Case study from our community

Running a Volunteering and Social Action Engagement Campaign

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How Bradford Volunteer Centre in West Yorkshire led a unique cross-sector initiative, People Can Make a Difference.

Background

People do volunteer, but how can we improve community engagement and co-production? The Bradford Volunteer Centre in West Yorkshire has been the voluntary sector lead on a new and unique cross-sector initiative that has been testing ideas around volunteering, co-production and collaboration. 

As a campaign and brand, People Can Make a Difference is an active transformational partnership. Working together with the council, statutory sector partners, the voluntary sector and citizens we support, promote and enable the positive and empowering message that people in communities ‘can and do’ make a difference to where and how we live. While volunteering was a key pillar of the initiative, uniquely there are three other aims on which to base activity and engagement:

  • Be neighbourly – encourages small, informal acts of kindness
  • Community action – create new groups, activities or events
  • Raise money – raise funds for a community project with the Bradford District Community Fund

The issues we faced

There is much emphasis on partnership working and sharing resources in a more efficient way. Our campaign is all about sharing through resources in new ways. Along the way there are challenges: there has been a lack of tools, behaviours and culture that enable and unlock collaborative working. Trying to share documents and online tools across many different organisations has been extremely challenging and is something that is very much still in development.

We were very careful to engage local politicians at the campaign’s infancy. We held a briefing and invited politicians from the start. We have developed though good relationships with politicians, however I think there is more work to be done so that the campaign is not associated with cuts, an ongoing challenge.

The actions we took

Our shared website and integrated social media feeds helped solve some of the technical challenges as all the partners and the public now have a shared platform to access.  The campaign operates through an activity calendar with either a local area focus or a service theme, for example a safer communities theme in April. These events are promoted using the People Can website, and once they are added by a community group or partner they are automatically added as a Facebook event too. This is really helpful as it has improved publicity about events and helped us to be able to follow up on those invited to events inviting them to like our Facebook page so we can keep people engaged and informed. We are currently using Comoodle, established by Kirklees council, so we can more efficiently share resources we have set up such as gardening tool banks and litter pick kits.  

Positive outcomes

There have been successes. How do you upkeep a local cemetery with a limited budget? Now 300 volunteers do the gardening, restoring over-grown paths, on a quarterly basis in a Bradford cemetery in one of the most deprived areas. The group engages companies and restaurants too who provide food and a skip hire firm provides a skip. The volunteers are recruited on Facebook to quarterly action days and it has been so successful the model is being adopted in Rochdale. We helped promote the work of the group and they won one of our Oscars-type civic awards. This is one of the 20 Friends of Parks groups in the Bradford district where volunteers care, enhance, protect and broaden the enjoyment of their local park in partnership with the council, leading on improvements to play areas, but also more park based community events and sustaining and developing more cafés and community spaces.

We have developed a volunteering kite mark, so community groups can have a badge of quality for their volunteering programmes. The free kite mark was developed by the volunteer managers forum and is peer assessed.

We have worked hard on our social media reach. On Facebook the total reach is 58,685, with over a thousand new page followers in the last twelve months alone.  

Negative outcomes

One challenge is around public spending cuts, I think there is more we need to do around how best to engage people more positively. People do want to have libraries and community facilities, and volunteers are one solution where they face closure, but are not the whole solution and there has to be a strategic asset transfer. There are some good examples in the district we need to build on, Central Hall in Keighley was transformed from a derelict council building to a £1m café and community sector by a local charity and the asset transferred to the charity. 

On the IT front we have still to work out how best to share calendars and tools so that we can share audience data and metrics.  

Lessons learnt

The campaign enables more joined up working and makes it easier for the public to consider giving in different ways and for community groups and statutory groups to think differently too. The brand also gives us a hook and valuable marketing resources; it also helps nudge others to get involved.  We have learned a lot, and in our role as an NCVO community beacon, have shared our best practice too.  We know that people do make a difference.

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Page last edited Jul 27, 2017

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