The 'secret sauce' for effective Impact Volunteering
As with all conferences, I've left the People Helping People conference feeling excited and enthused about the future of social action in supporting public services, or perhaps more importantly, how public services can support social action. Citizen power could be and should be much stronger in driving the public service agenda.
But its daunting too. Very few would deny that partnership and better collaboration between citizens and services should be a focus for the future -but how does it work in practice?
The Cities of Service model for me shows just how it can work and what it can achieve. Through a focus on strong leadership within city government, a clear plan to target volunteers to strategic city issues and an emphasis on measuring impact to beneficiaries (not just outputs), Cities of Service in the US has mobilised thousands of volunteers across over 100 cities to achieve amazing things such as:
- 5,400 Graduation Coaches helping students graduate high school
- 1.9 million pounds of litter removed from city streets by volunteers through LoveYourBlock
- 4,900 pounds of fresh produce distributed in food deserts through Let’s Grow programmes
- 160,000 Americans trained in lifesaving CPR by volunteers
How can we do it in the UK?
Great news for our American colleagues but how does that help us in the UK?
Well, on 10 September 2014, seven UK cities who are testing the Cities of Service model in the UK will launch Service Plans and outline their aims to have a real impact on local issues through citizen power. They’ve got their strong leadership in place, with four cities having hired a Chief Service Officer and all seven ensuring that they have the support and sponsorship of the Council Chief Executive and Cabinet leadership.
Each plan outlines the need and aims of their impact volunteering initiatives and the key measures of success that will help determine if they’re achieving their intended impact.
Without spoiling the surprise, I can categorically say that I'm both really excited and a little overwhelmed about our ambitions. Can we really make a dent in loneliness by engaging the local community? Can community gardens actually help improve health and wellbeing? Do people really want to spend their free time mentoring young people?
From what I've heard at the People Helping People conference, yes. From what I've seen from four years of Cities of Service in the US, definitely.
The Service Plans are just the first step, the real work of making it happen starts on 11 September.
Photo credit: Ted Eytan via Flickr