The importance of looking forward

All the challenges of the last few weeks have rather counter-intuitively generated a sense of ambition within the Voluntary and Community Sector that also motivates volunteers. Respect for and contribution to local communities is now wider, it is more action-orientated and has more traction than that bygone age called 2019.

Looking at Kingston as a borough, how it performed, came together, and responded to challenges (lockdowns, needs, vaccinations, new levels of poverty previously hidden etc.) gives us a clear picture of how important it is to maintain and build on the partnerships and successes of our collective work. That includes the volunteer experience. To get there I have laid out a wish list, but first, a caveat: this list is what a possible future could look like albeit relying heavily on reasonable funds, resources and partnerships to make it a reality and success. The purpose of promoting these possibilities is to invite comments and stimulate alternative suggestions.

  • Hubs, e.g. in pubs/shops/community spaces. Take a model of community space as promoted in the 2021 report on Surbiton Resilience “Every-day life in Surbiton” and replicate where practicable across the borough. Volunteers are attracted to helping in their micro-local locations, this would be a brilliant stimulus to that.
  • Food Heroes. Embed the foodbank street collection system that sprung up locally during the pandemic into the fabric of the borough so that it survives and thrives going forward
  • Time-bank/Skills exchange. Create a borough-wide system with a focus on stimulating volunteering in women whose first language is not English. This would both increase volunteering numbers and be a massive boon to the volunteer experience of a significantly socially isolated part of our community.
  • “Friends of” groups. Expand existing groups for parks/open land/under-utilised green spaces, which is being demonstrated by successful models in other localities. Friends of groups tend to tap into individuals not engaged in their communities already.
  • Bringing together a range of volunteer-led sporting activities/clubs under one banner that stimulates physical activity. Sports volunteering could add so much positive value to public health campaigns. This model could equally apply to the local smaller arts and culture groups.
  • Kingston Stronger Together Hub. Evolve it into a Kingston Council funded “Sustainable Volunteering” Hub, requiring both the Council and partners to be involved. Sustainability projects for volunteering by definition will change the borough landscape positively.
  • A social action portal. Create a web-based interface that advertises all social action activities locally no matter how small/micro in nature. This would be really helpful in attracting younger people to activities.

This list is not definitive, as they say, “other pipe-dreams are available” but I commend them to your thinking if, like us at Volunteering Kingston, re-imaging the Volunteer Experience is important to you.