The evidence is in: Think Local, Think Flexible, Think Mutual
Third Sector Leeds
At Third Sector Leeds we first became aware of the academic MoVE project (mobilising volunteers effectively) as a result a series of conversations we’d struck up with partners across Yorkshire and Humberside during the first round of survey work to understand the impact of Covid on Leeds’ third sector in May. More recently, researchers on the project have become involved in helping with the second, Yorkshire wide, piece of research which recently closed with more than 400 responses.
Anyway the project, a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield, Leeds and Hull, is taking a hard look at the way that volunteers and the third sector have responded during covid, and is thinking about how the experiences of this year may change relationships in and between communities.
After nearly 25 years working in community development and in campaigning for greater investment in community work, I was pretty interested when the first of three reports from the project came across my desk the other day.
I have to say, I haven’t read the whole report yet (I suspect I might never get time) but the Executive Summary draws attention to a lot of the things that we feel at TSL about how the voluntary response to covid in Leeds has made a real difference. Of course, it’s always comfortable when research confirm things that you already had in mind – but having that firm evidence base rather than a ‘gut reaction’, is invaluable for building case.
So, in brief, here is my interpretation of some key points:
- Local responses, not national ones have been critical. They have strengthened ties in communities and have been underpinned by local organisations and relationships.
- Volunteering seems to work best when its not overly formalised.
- We’ve all got to keep our approach flexible and keep the barriers between organisations down
- Things are going to be hard in the coming in the coming months and years, but looking to the future we have the opportunity to do things differently.
Scary as it is I think this last point is really important. I guess everyone that’s involved in community work in any way got into it because they want to change things – and from where I’m sitting it’s been clear for a long time that we need a new way of thinking about our economies, our communities and how we look out for each other.
A range of partners, including Third Sector Leeds have recently started some of this thinking for the future in Leeds through work on ‘third sector resilience’. This project aims to set out a way forward for how we can work more closely to attract funding and how we can make volunteering easier and more impactful. It’s also looking into the behaviours, relationships and what other support is needed to help us look out for each more and to enable networks of organisations in neighbourhoods to grow. Finally the project is joining the conversation about how we can tackle the climate crisis.
It’s an ambitious set of agendas to work with, but I reckon even if some areas don’t make the progress we hope for, we’ll have taken some important steps towards a different future.
For an informal chat about the future of the third sector in Leeds, to know more about ‘sector resilience’…or just because you want to tell us what you’re up to contact firstname.lastname@example.org