About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

What about the hedgehogs?

Volunteering is all about choice. Whatever touches your heart, head, value base etc is a very personal thing. One person’s trigger is another's turn off. One person may champion the plight of the sick hedgehog whilst another supports their local synchronised swimming club. Each is as important as the other to ‘the eye of the beholder’.

Having spoken to volunteers in Plymouth, there are many different reasons why people choose their volunteer journey. However, 3 areas seem to regularly come top of the pile - personal experience and history (often the emotional trigger), doing something in their local community (often emotional and logical) and most importantly, seeing a tangible positive difference (as many triggers as you can think of).

Cities of Service and targeted impact volunteering takes all of those reasons for getting off the sofa and crystallises them into what’s important in your bit of the world, who needs the support and what activity makes the biggest positive difference. But, I hear you cry, you can do all of those things in a million different ways, from hedgehogs to hedge-cutting. My counter-argument would be you can indeed, but what about the impact? What is the difference you can make?

Let me tell you a story.

One of our Cities of Service Energy Champion volunteers visited an 88 year old householder who lives on his own in his former family home in Plymouth. He read an article about Our Plymouth  and phoned up to ask if we could visit and give him some hints and tips to save money on his energy bills. He is not on the internet and struggles on the phone as he has 2 hearing aids. On our first visit, we looked at his personal circumstances and we found out that we could save him £250 a year on his energy bills.

We returned for a second visit, and made all the necessary calls. We also managed to get him £15 worth of high street shopping vouchers (“to spend on the grand children”).

As our volunteer left, he shook their hand, kissed them on the cheek and said “Thank you so much, I don’t know how to show my gratitude, you are like an angel”. The volunteer summed it up by saying “For me there was more satisfaction there then I had had in the last 16 years with my employer”. A huge positive difference to both the recipient and the volunteer.

So, we live in a world where we help the hedgehogs and each other. The importance is the difference it makes to both Mrs Tiggywinkle and Mr Smith. The outcomes are equally valuable and relevant to the people doing their bit.

The power of volunteering? Don’t underestimate the impact it has.

Photo Credit: PARMAR2009 via Compfight cc


Darin Halifax

Darin is a Senior Policy Advisor for Plymouth City Council and leads the city’s work on volunteering and social action.