Volunteering is the lifeblood of society. The dedication and personal commitment of people who give their time voluntarily to causes they care about lies at the very heart of ensuring we live in robust, cohesive and responsive communities.
Without volunteers, many of the services and activities that combine to make life better or indeed bearable simply wouldn’t be there – spanning all areas from the environment to the arts, and for all manner of organisations from small community groups to treasured national bodies like the NHS. Volunteers often provide both the back room support and the front line delivery of services.
This isn’t a one way street; you are learning while you are helping and I have yet to meet a volunteer who doesn’t talk about their enjoyment and growth as person as a result of volunteering. It’s enjoyable and you do it because you love it, or because you care about the organisation or cause – or more often than not, all of the above.
As a committed volunteer I know firsthand the friendships that can be built while supporting your local community – in my case either as a parish councillor or helping the local Scouts or infant school at a fundraising rally. I have also accessed tremendous professional development opportunities through new experiences gained by sitting on a strategic advisory or trustee board. I, and countless others on a day-to-day basis, find that these real life experiences and interactions help build skills from problem solving to teamwork, project management to creativity, and open up friendships and networks that widen horizons and build personal capacity.
At vInspired, we want to ensure as many under 30s from every background and walk of life are not only able to get involved in volunteering, but that they receive the support, encouragement and motivation to do so – and are recognised for eth contribution that they make. We want people to develop real world, real life skills and friendships while helping make communities stronger.
And so we are delighted that the #iwill Fund, Team London, The Big Lottery Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport share this vision; and together come together with an improved way of engaging with young people around volunteering.
Inspired Programme launch
Next month will see the launch of the Inspired Programme, a new way of encouraging more young people into volunteering and social action. The enhanced digital matching service that we will offer the programme will allow them to be clear about what they will do and the skills they’re likely to learn, and will ensure that they are supported and recognised for the contributions they make to society.
We’ve been connecting young people to roles for over a decade; and the knowledge and expertise that we have gained over this time has provided us with a fantastic platform from which to launch the next phase of our journey. The Inspired Programme involves better tailoring of our digital service so that we are able to better understand each young person’s interests and drivers, which will help connect them to the volunteer roles that will interest them most and that are right for them based on their interests, location and the skills they want to develop. It will ensure that they are recognised for the contribution they make through volunteering in a way that rocks their boat; whether that’s concert tickets, vAwards, discounts or access to money-can’t-but personal development experiences. And most excitingly we are launching the Inspired Card, which gives young people a wide range of discounts (both within the UK and across Europe as it acts as a European Youth Card).
Volunteering is the spark that can ignite a journey of personal development and social contribution. At our heart are our own programmes and our digital service; our Talent programme enables young people to develop the skills, confidence and a vocational qualification to set them on a path into continuing education or the workplace, and reaches people at risk of being overlooked by other support – 49 per cent of Talent participants between 2013-2015 had no qualifications or fewer than five GCSEs grade A*-C; our Cashpoint programmes see young people gain micro-grants and guidance and support to design and deliver their own social action project, crucially establishing them on a journey of social action – 97 per cent of participants in our Get Active For Good Cashpoint were very likely to take part in future social action; as the NCS Regional Delivery Partner for the North East we have delivered the programme to over 10,200 young people who have contributed more than 307,600 volunteering hours in the region; and 331,445 young people are signed-up to our digital service, which is helping 7,292 organisations to find and support volunteers.
The importance of partnership
Every individual and every organisation across every part of society has a role to play in ensuring that young people and their communities thrive through social action and volunteering; and a wide range of partnerships will be essential to the success of the Inspired Programme.
From the youth worker who engages and encourages young people to explore the volunteering opportunities available through our digital service; to the charities and community groups who post roles on the service and work with us to ensure that young people can access them and that they deliver real personal development; and the retailers who provide discounts for young people to access through the Inspired Card, allowing us to reach young people who haven’t traditionally engaged in volunteering and social action; as well as the organisations across all sectors who become Rewards partners to offer young people money-can’t-buy personal development opportunities - we stand ready to work with all of you.