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Co-ordinating volunteers to meet public needs

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The Cities of Service UK programme has provided a fantastic opportunity for Barnsley MBC to work with communities in mobilising volunteers to tackle local challenges.

  • Project: Barnsley Love Where You Live Volunteer campaign
  • Objectives: To mobilise volunteers to achieve impact on local challenges
  • Timescale: Two-year programme of activity linked to the Cities of Service programme
  • Cost to authority: £30,000 seed funding from Nesta and the Cabinet Office to support the development of service initiatives. This was matched by Barnsley MBC grants of £15,000 to each of its 21 wards to promote social action. Further funding levered in through public health and Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group to support development of community food and growing projects and a Let’s Grow development worker
  • Number of staff working on project: 17 staff have worked on the project in total through the council’s community development teams, public health and communications department, complemented by Voluntary Action Barnsley staff
  • Outcomes: 945 Barnsley residents have volunteered; 2,249 volunteer hours; £24,941 economic value (based on the £11.09 hourly rate recommended by Community First); 28 tonnes/1898 bags of litter cleared; 47 events held The Love Where You Live campaign is resulting in a growing culture of social action across Barnsley’s communities, matched by private sector support through employer-supported volunteering schemes.
  • Officer contact details: Joe Micheli

While Barnsley has a strong history of volunteering and social action, we recognised we needed to improve how we evidenced the impact of volunteers and how they might work collectively with public services to address challenges relating to the environment and health inequalities. Our development of the Barnsley Service Plan has provided a framework to help address these challenges.

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In 2013, Barnsley introduced new area governance arrangements, which include six area councils and 21 ward alliances. The area councils represent a localised model of governance for the council while the ward alliances bring local elected members together with Barnsley citizens to respond to challenges and grow a culture of community action and enterprise.

In assessing Barnsley’s challenges and identifying where volunteers can make a difference, our ward alliances have being going through a process of neighbourhood planning to identify local priorities. A common theme across all 21 wards is pride in our environment.

We believe that through the work we have done to identify this as a priority, we can maximise community interest and involvement.

Pride in the environment is also a high priority for our local community leaders – the elected members – and one that will come under increasing pressure as the ability to maintain the standards that people expect comes under pressure in these times of austerity.

Through discussions with ward alliances and the wider voluntary and community sector we have collectively agreed on the Love Where You Live brand to inspire people to volunteer and get involved. By consulting our neighbourhood networks it was agreed that this brand would connect with the public, build on the existing work of volunteers and provide opportunities to mobilise others around local challenges.

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To complement national volunteers week in June, the council and Voluntary Action Barnsley launched the Love Where You Live Barnsley campaign to celebrate and promote volunteering across the borough to address community priorities.

Reflecting on the fantastic efforts of local volunteers to date, 47 events have taken place throughout the borough resulting in 945 volunteers taking part in local projects. This has reflected more than 2,249 hours of volunteer time, with a social action value of £24,941.

Projects varied from community clean-ups, improving the Trans Pennine trail, the development of community gardens and allotments, and events with young people.

Thanks to the tremendous efforts of volunteers,13 tonnes of waste were removed from the Trans Pennine trail at Athersley North and 100 people got involved in the Love Green Space event in Monk Bretton Park, where volunteers repaired equipment, planted flowers, litter picked, swept paths and painted equipment and fencing. 

Key to the delivery of the campaign will be working with the ward alliances to encourage social action. For example the Worsborough Green Fingered Wanderers Group is developing a community picnic area in a previously overgrown area of land.

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Rose, a 78-year-old volunteer for this group, said: “If it hadn’t of been for the Love Where You Live campaign I wouldn’t have been involved. It seems to have motivated more people to volunteer. For me it’s all about improving where I live and socialising. I love the countryside that is on my doorstep.”

Complementing Love Where You Live, our Let’s Grow initiative will build on the public’s pride in the environment and seek to engage residents in developing community growing centres helping to address health and wellbeing issues.

Barnsley is an area of relative poverty with poor health outcomes and one of the lowest life expectancies in the country, with low fruit and vegetable consumption and obesity contributing to 17% of preventable deaths. However if we focus on our assets it is clear that the borough has lots of good arable land and many of the least well-off estates have relatively large gardens.

Our Let’s Grow service initiative will also build on the extensive research undertaken by the council’s public health intelligence team, which has produced 21 ward-based health inequality profiles that provide an evidence base to help shape the priorities and interventions needed at ward level.

The public health team has also carried out a borough-wide ‘mapping and gapping’ exercise across Barnsley to support a more holistic approach to food, growing and distribution.

As part of this process, interventions will be divided into borough-wide and locality-based projects, targeting some of the most deprived areas of the borough.

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Through co-ordinating these activities better under the banner of Let’s Grow, by providing tools, knowledge and/or information, allowing people to develop the necessary growing skills and cooking healthily, we have an opportunity to influence and encourage residents to take charge of their lives. 

The growing centres developed across Barnsley will also give local service providers a vehicle to encourage and support service users back into mainstream society, which in turn will mean that Barnsley as a whole will have an improved sense of health and wellbeing.

Cities of Service is being developed in the UK as part of the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund, and is co-funded by the Cabinet Office and Nesta with support from the Cities of Service coalition in the US.The fund is a £14m fund to support innovations that mobilise people’s energy and talents to help each other, working alongside public services.You can read more about the seven cities and how each will be mobilising volunteers here.

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For further details on Love Where You Live and the projects that have taken place are available at





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