Volunteer It Yourself: our experience working with a corporate
The Director of Cospa and VIY CIC talks to Nesta about the organisation’s successful partnership with Wickes
Volunteer It Yourself, VIY for short, is all about young people volunteering to help fix youth clubs and other community buildings they use and benefit from in need of essential repairs. And, in the process, gaining new vocational DIY and trade skills and improving their employability. It was named a New Radical by Nesta and The Observer in 2014.
VIY started life as a Cospa project in 2012 involving two youth clubs and 40 young people in Streatham, south London. Cospa is a social innovation agency that brings together brands, public sector organisations and charities to create and grow projects that generate both social and business returns.
Since that time, and with help from the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund - run by Nesta and the Cabinet Office - VIY has evolved to become a community interest company and has now delivered more than 80 projects and benefitted over 1,500 young people (previously not in education, employment or training) throughout England and Wales.
Critical to VIY’s growth and success has been the involvement and support of DIY retailer Wickes from the very start. We first approached Wickes to request free materials and tools to help offset project delivery costs, but Wickes were quick to spot the potential of VIY as a trade customer engagement programme and offered to motivate and mobilise their trade customers (i.e. local professional tradespeople) as volunteer skills mentors for young people on VIY projects. And the result is that these volunteer tradespeople, recruited via Wickes, have in many ways become the heartbeat of the programme.
So rather than supporting VIY in a conventional sponsorship sense, Wickes has made a far greater impact by leveraging its unique assets – its customers, staff, products and store locations – to directly enable and enhance project delivery. And, in turn, this has allowed VIY to attract match funding from the likes of the Big Lottery Fund and now the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund against the in-kind support provided by Wickes as well as other private sector VIY supporters such as City & Guilds.
Over the past three years we’ve also worked with Wickes to understand how VIY can help deliver tangible, measurable benefits across its business (for example, in terms of increased in-store footfall, sales, and staff retention and development) in return for the support it receives. And it’s this clear ‘value exchange’ (i.e. clarity on what Wickes gives and what it gets) that has led to Wickes remaining a hugely committed and pro-active VIY partner and increasing its support over time.
So, if I were asked to offer one key tip to other New Radicals on developing and growing private sector partnerships, I would suggest the identification of a compelling value exchange proposition as a great place to start.
In this way, looking forward, our aim is for VIY to become (and long remain) a logical, indispensable part of how Wickes operates successfully and sustainably in local communities UK-wide.
Photo courtesy of Marek Sikora