The European Year of Volunteering tour came to the UK last week, and took up residence in the Coin Street Community Centre. While there I spoke to Stephen Crocker, who ran the Leeds City Council initiative to have a Leeds Year of Volunteering in 2010. He tells me why he thinks more local councils and authorities should do the same in their area, to increase the appreciation of and involvement in volunteering.
Thanks to the tour event I’m now pursuing two very exciting volunteering activities, so thanks EYV!
I spent several days last week out of the office, which is going to be the great bit about the new job (getting out there and meeting real people, that is, rather than not being in the office…!)
I started in Durham, speaking at an event on Europe in My Region, hosted by the Europe Direct there. It was very interesting talking to people who are actually implementing programmes using EU funds, mainly from the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund, though also the Science and Research Framework Programme and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme. The problems seem to be (unsurprisingly) finding the match funding, especially as potential government programmes that could provide match funding have different entry criteria. One woman even raised a problem I had never heard – that big companies were having trouble accessing ERDF funds. In all the years I’ve worked with EU funding programmes, I have never heard any complaint about big companies!
The next day I was in Leeds visiting our Europe Direct Centre there, as I am now responsible for the overall management of the Europe Direct Centres in the UK. It was a real eye-opener. I have been in touch with them quite a bit as they’re very up on the whole social media thing. But I was really impressed with how integrated they are with the general Leeds Library Service and how they have managed to create a lot of demand for their services, through roadshows in branch libraries, connections with schools and getting out and about at public events. I also met the guy dealing with volunteering at the City Council and the head of the Volunteer Centre Leeds, as they have done loads of work around the European Year of Volunteering. It’s good news that they are hoping to be in London for the European Year of Volunteering Tour later in the year.
The final stop on my trip was Coventry, to speak at an event on Zero Waste. Do you have any idea how interesting waste policy is? And how important? The event went from the political/administrative, like Caroline Spelman and to a much lesser extent me, the people dealing with it, such as Biffa, EOn and Severn Trent Water and then zero waste campaigners. I went to the workshop on local authorities and it was impressive how passionate people get about their local waste policy. A real learning process – and I’ll be much more careful with my household waste as a result!
I was in Leeds yesterday for a conference on the European Year of Volunteering, organised by Leeds City Council. I was invited to give a presentation about the European aspects of the year. But it was just really interesting to be at the event, hearing what Leeds is doing. They had a local year of volunteering in 2010, which is why they are so enthusiastic about the European Year in 2011 and why they did the event. A nice aspect was that they had invited people from the voluntary sector and local administrations of their partner cities, Dortmund, Siegen (both Germany), Lille (France), Brasov (Romania) and Brno (Czech Republic), so it was possible to exchange experiences. One great idea that we heard about in a workshop on corporate volunteering was a website in the Czech republic where companies that would like to donate time can see what NGOs are looking for assistance, say with redecorating their premises. There are some similar services in some areas of the UK, such as Leeds Ahead who were at the conference, but it’s not obvious where to find them. I’d like this office to get into doing something, particularly given the theme of the next European year, but I have no idea how to go about finding an organisation that would like us to help out. If anyone has any pointers for me, that would be great!