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Exploring the spirit of volunteering and the VCSE sector in Greater Manchester
Manchester has a long and rich history of volunteers, and volunteering. From war efforts, to preserving heritage and history, to all the thousands of volunteers across Greater Manchester who volunteered and continue to volunteer to help our community overcome the pandemic crisis, volunteering is a fundamental part of us. So, let’s take a look at the spirit of volunteering and what our VCSE sector really means to Greater Manchester.
What is volunteering and what is the VCSE (Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise) sector?
There are over 163,000 voluntary organisations across the UK, most of which rely on volunteers to achieve their goals. Formally volunteering for a charity or organisation can take many forms, but the thread that ties all volunteers together is the desire to take action, to help out and to play a role in the community.
Volunteering has positive benefits on the wellbeing of the individual, providing them with a sense of purpose and of making a difference, and the wide-spread benefits of volunteering can be seen throughout the immediate community, raising the wellbeing and quality of life of those effected. It may be said that volunteering is so rewarding because it has a local impact, and VCSE organisations provide a support network for sometimes hard to reach communities who may not otherwise have access to the support they need.
Greater Manchester is home to around 16,000 VCSE organisations that contribute approximately £1.3bn to the region, which are a complex system of organisations and groups, both formally and informally constituted. To break it down, GMCA state that while of these organisations trade, others are purely voluntary, some are ‘social enterprises’ operating in the business economy, and others form part of ‘civil society’.
In the words of GMCVO, “social, environmental and economic inequality is the backdrop to everything that we do as a sector”, striving to combat the injustices and uphold the values of our community. VCSE organisations help to inform policies, standards and expectations at a higher level, providing intelligence and resources at a local level, and safeguard the social, environmental and economic makeup of our community.
The VCSE sector is active across every aspect of the local economy and reform, giving individuals the opportunity to lead, shape and engage in the development of the VCSE ecosystem. And ecosystem is indeed the best word to describe the sector – a web of actions and outcomes, a chain of positive influence – but what is the vision for the future? What role will the VCSE sector play in our recovery post-Covid and how will this often-understated sector shape Greater Manchester over the coming years? Let’s take a look.
“The key role that the VCSE sector, third sector and volunteering plays in skills development is providing the opportunity for life-long learning and the social mobility that comes with it.”
What role will the VCSE sector play in the future development of Greater Manchester?
GMCVO has a strong vision for the future of the sector, and the role it will play in lives of those living across Greater Manchester. Developing a “good social infrastructure” has always been a key goal for the VCSE sector, aiming to “enable and encourage people to live healthy, productive lives with a reduced need for state support”.
Generating a more “inclusive economy” is another key social goal for the sector. Drawing in and leveraging non-public funds for the benefit of VCSE initiatives, and opening up community ownership of capital to enable locals to have a stake in projects, funding and initiatives going on in their immediate surroundings will make fundraising more inclusive, relevant and widespread.
Collaboration with private sector investors is a key factor that will enable the future vision of the VCSE sector to come into fruition. Coming together to tackle the most prominent issues facing local communities will bridge the gaps between private entities and local communities, ensuring that private businesses give back to the townships and people who raised them.
Skills and Work
“The key role that the VCSE sector, third sector and volunteering plays in skills development is providing the opportunity for life-long learning and the social mobility that comes with it. Volunteering gives people the opportunity to develop professional skills that they may not otherwise have access to; from specialised skills such as treasury and finance, to leadership skills like chairing, project managing and fundraising, to technical and marketing skills, the opportunities are endless. This is particularly relevant for women – who generally spend more time volunteering than men – who can continue to continue develop skills and employability in line with the enough flexibility to balance caring for children or loved ones.” – Sittu Ahmed, GMCVO Skills Coach
Much like the goals of the GM Good Employment Charter, the VCSE sector has high hopes for the future of skills, careers and work conditions. The sector aims to take an even more active role to provide stable, good quality and ethical jobs near to peoples’ homes. The sector hopes to boost employment opportunities by providing work experience, volunteering opportunities, apprenticeships and employment for people who may otherwise find it hard to work, due to physical or mental health issues, learning difficulties or neurodiversity. Skills and work will be extremely important as we continue down this path to a more technical, digital and diverse working landscape which has been accelerated in part due to the pandemic and will be a major focus point for VCSE sector entities.
It goes without saying that the environmental crisis is a pressing issue for us all, but on a local level, the VCSE sector is committed to playing a key role in protecting and enhancing our natural environment. Protecting green and blue spaces around Greater Manchester, demonstrating responsible activity and management and being at the forefront of green technology and innovation are all of the highest priority for the sector. Ultimately, the VCSE sector will help engage local communities and demonstrate ways in which individuals can affect the outcome of the climate crisis.
With all this in mind, it is evident that the VCSE sector plays a vital role in the continued improvement of the social, cultural, environmental and community wellbeing in Greater Manchester, entangled in our values and assisting to improve the quality of life in the local community. The idea that we can ‘build back better’ is more than just a whimsical hashtag, and with the continued efforts of VCSE sector organisations and the commitment and collaboration from private entities, we really can build back different and better for everyone in Greater Manchester over the next 10 years.
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The Growth Company is an award-winning, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to enable growth, create jobs and improve lives. We provide individuals and businesses with a wide range of services that improve employment, skills, investment and enterprise for the benefit of all, and have been working in the Greater Manchester city region for more than 30 years.
This project receives funding from the European Social Fund as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.
The Department for Work and Pensions is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme.
Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.