VAL’s 2020 Highlights
In all honesty, we know we’re not the only ones that are happy to see that back of 2020 but we think it’s important to highlight some of the achievements that were undertaken and implemented during such a turbulent year. Like many third sector organisations, our services had to adapt quickly to still be able to support other organisations and the public. We can certainly say we learnt a lot, so here is a list of some (but not all) of the great things that were achieved in 2020!
1. virtu-VAL – VAL’s annual AGM went virtual
VAL’s AGM for 2019 was festival themed and we love a good play on words hence the name festi-VAL! Although this year had to be very different, it was felt that an AGM was still very much needed to bring together and celebrate the work and achievements of the third sector in Leeds, we also still got in a play of words…virtu-VAL!
virtu-VAL was attended by over 90 people online via zoom and speakers included Richard Jackson (Chief Officer at VAL), Chris Hollins (Chair at VAL) and guest speaker Shaid Mamood (Chief Officer, Communities, Leeds City Council). 2020 was a busy year for the third sector in Leeds and virtu-VAL provided a great chance to stop and take in how much had been achieved, hearing stories from volunteers and organisations who had been responding and supporting communities during the COVID-19 outbreak.
2. Implementing the Community Care Volunteering Programme in response to COVID-19
Over 8,000 Leeds residents registered as Community Care Volunteers in response to the coronavirus crisis. Voluntary Action Leeds and Leeds City Council established the programme, which matches volunteers with vulnerable people in need of help with a range of tasks – from shopping deliveries to dog walking. To make this possible, a network of 27 local third sector organisations were established known as ‘Community Hubs’. These organisations are delivering the volunteer programme locally, across all 33 wards in Leeds
This was a mammoth task and relied on the dedication of the staff at VAL and the partnership and collaboration of countless organisations and individuals. The pandemic has really shown how much can be achieved when we work together to fulfil the needs of our varied communities.
Community Care Volunteers
3. Climate Action Fund awarded to VAL in Partnership with Together for Peace, Leeds Tidal and Our Future Leeds
Voluntary Action Leeds in partnership with Together for Peace, Leeds Tidal and Our Future Leeds were successful in securing a £2.5m award from The National Lottery’s Climate Action Fund.
This core partnership of four is supported by a whole host of other Leeds community organisations. The goal is to create a ‘zero carbon, socially-just and liveable city by 2030’, and the funding will go towards supercharging climate and social justice action across the city.
The project will build on the amazing work already happening around Leeds and will involve setting up 16 community hubs specifically focused on supporting big ideas to tackle the climate emergency in a positive and fair way. The project will also create over 40 local jobs, and around £400,000 of grants to local community groups will be shared to help them take action on climate and social justice.
4. The resurgence of Black Lives Matter made us look inwards
2020 brought to the surface another pandemic in the form of racism. The murder of George Floyd and other black people before him who had been criminalised and brutalised by law enforcement, led many to question how they could be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. Anti-racist as opposed to not being racist took centre stage in America and around the world and mass human rights protests were held in every corner of the world. VAL, along with countless other third sector organisations in Leeds wanted to show their support by taking clear steps to further give a voice to the black community in Leeds.
Voluntary Action Leeds Chair, Chris Hollins said:
“Voluntary Action Leeds wishes to highlight the issues which are raised by Black Lives Matter. We are a membership organisation, and many of our members represent black people and communities, which continue to face daily examples of the structural racism, and disadvantage which our society still presents. We would actively wish to support the voices of Black Lives Matter in bringing about the changes which are needed”
Staff at Voluntary Action Leeds underwent Unconscious Bias training and the VAL Equality and Diversity subgroup and Trustee Board discussed the use of language and agreed to no longer uses the term BAME. Going forwards, VAL will consult with other organisations, including the existing BME Hub, about the term to be used in referring to the many communities of Leeds but in the meantime the term “Diverse Communities” will replace all other terms, whilst acknowledging that the use of language is constantly changing.
5. The new shiny Doing Good Leeds website was launched
Out with the old and in with the new and improved Doing Good Leeds Website. The increased website functionality is helping the third sector in Leeds feel confident in using a website that was designed for them!
Whether you want to shout about your fantastic events, share some good news or a simple update, or recruit the right person for a job, Doing Good Leeds is the hub where you can do all that and much more – it’s so easy to reach lots of people all across Leeds’ third sector.
Find out how you can use the Doing Good Leeds website to its full capacity here – https://doinggoodleeds.org.uk/share-something/
6. Third Sector Leeds released the findings from their Third Sector Resilience Survey
On 21 May, Third Sector Leeds (TSL) released a summary of findings from a survey of third sector resilience in Leeds which was followed up with a full report. This report detailed the impact of COVID-19 on the third sector in Leeds. The survey was a partnership between six infrastructure organisations; Forum Central, Leeds Community Foundation, Social Enterprise Yorkshire and Humberside, Third Sector Leeds and Voluntary Action Leeds.
7. Volunteering got easier in Leeds with Be Collective
The Be Collective platform was implemented into the new Doing Good Leeds website to make finding volunteering much more simple and manageable.
Volunteer Centre Leeds (a project of VAL) partnered with Be Collective to bring a dedicated volunteer platform to Leeds to help connect more people with meaningful volunteer opportunities. It’s packed with great features for volunteers, like creating a profile and collecting skills gained on a social CV you can download.
Have a look and see if there’s any volunteer opportunities that suit you here.
8. New board members were recruited to better reflect the diverse communities we serve
VAL underwent a substantial Trustee recruitment drive in July and August 2020 to ensure the Trustee board was more reflective of the communities we serve.
There are many challenges to face in the future, such as the climate emergency, emerging from COVID-19, supporting Black Lives Matter, and above all working with our communities and neighbourhoods throughout Leeds. With this in mind VAL strongly encouraged people to apply to join the trustee board who had lived experience of living or working in the communities.
We were over the moon with the great response and were able to find some fantastic new trustees to join the team.
9. VAL was selected to support new national resources and guidance on safeguarding
VAL and five other organisations across West Yorkshire and York were selected to support the roll-out of new national resources and guidance on safeguarding.
A new package of resources are now available on the NCVO website here, to help organisations more effectively implement safeguarding into their day to day work. The resources available cover a broad range of useful information around safeguarding, including:
- What safeguarding means to your organisation
- Tools and resources to doing safeguarding well
- Local and national support networks available
- What to do if you have a cause for concern