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CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS KEY ROLE OF SOUTH EAST VOLUNTARY SECTOR

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Reconnecting the economy to the community was the theme of a major conference organised by the South East England D...
Reconnecting the economy to the community was the theme of a major conference organised by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) and hosted by Reading BC.

Over 100 charities and voluntary organisations from across the Thames Valley, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes were represented at the event, which highlighted the important part which the voluntary sector can play in the success of the region.

SEEDA's role in working alongside voluntary organisations to build 'strong local communities' was one of the topics explored by the conference, which followed on from SEEDA's recent launch of the Regional Economic Strategy (RES).

Establishing standards of 'best practice' for the voluntary sector, promoting charitable giving and volunteering, and helping to link businesses with local community projects were among the strategic priorities set out by SEEDA in the RES, the conference was told.

Conference delegates also heard how SEEDA was promoting the 'phsyical regeneration' of deprived areas through new development schemes to improve the local infrastructure and create new jobs, and by helping to fund a wide range of 'community-led' regeneration projects.

SEEDA board member Jim Baker who heads the SEEDA voluntary sector task force, said: 'The success of our regional economic strategy, and our goal of making the South East a truly world class region, depends on effective cooperation between the public, private and voluntary sectors in the South East.

'We cannot deliver the economic prosperity, social cohesion and environmental excellence which the South East deserves without the active participation of the region's many charities and community organisations. The principle of partnership is already there at local level, and we must make it region-wide.'

Jim Baker pledged that the conference was 'just the beginning' and that SEEDA would continue to work closely with the voluntary sector through initiatives such as the Community Development Foundation and its network of charitable trusts. 'Together we can reconnect the economy to the community', he said.

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