Representatives from voluntary organisations across the Thames Valley attended a workshop held in Oxford on 22nd June, which gathered local views on a government initiative to enhance employer-supported volunteering.
The workshop was organised by the Universities of Sheffield and Hull, whose researchers are carrying out a study into employer-supported volunteering (ESV) that will feed into a national Cabinet Office initiative. The study follows a government manifesto commitment to encourage employers to give staff three days of paid time off in order to volunteer in their communities. The study will identify what practical steps are needed to turn the three-day initiative into a reality, looking at what might prevent employers’ good intentions from becoming meaningful volunteering opportunities that are of genuine use to the charitable sector.
A short video outlining the study’s objectives and findings so far can be found here.
The Oxford workshop, which was hosted by Unipart and supported locally by Business in the Community, NCVO and the ROBIN network, brought together around 70 people from charities, volunteering centres, councils, community support bodies and community foundations, and provided the chance for them to have their say. The findings from the workshop are being collated with those of similar events in different regions across the UK, so that researchers can provide concrete suggestions to central government about how to genuinely enhance ESV.
A number of ‘gaps’ were identified as barriers to increasing ESV; for example, a lack of access to businesses who could offer the right skills to the VCSE sector, as well as businesses not having the capacity to allow their staff to get more involved in their communities. Similarly, the workshops identified that organisations often found it difficult to articulate what support they would need from businesses, with a lack of common language being highlighted as a barrier for the two sectors engaging with each other.
The workshop highlighted that there is a need for a central way for VCSE organisations and businesses to establish effective links, as well as more opportunities for cross-sector networking and sharing best practice. Brokerage infrastructure was seen as a vital component to help establish long-term relationships between the sectors. There is a need to articulate a stronger case for why organisations would pay for brokerage, as well as strategic involvement from funders.
OCF’s Reciprocate responsible business group is working on a project to enhance ESV in Oxfordshire, and will incorporate findings and resources from the Sheffield and Hull study, and from the Cabinet Office, into the project.