Research shows that whilst nearly 60% of people in the UK agree that they are willing to work together to improve their neighbourhood, only 3% are actually involved in neighbourhood projects.
We saw a similar trend at intoBodmin (pre-lockdown) where, of the 150 registered volunteers only a handful volunteered regularly. I’m not sure why this was. We invited people to participate in surveys, held volunteer social events and tried to encourage engagement in different types of activity, from fundraising to stewarding. Maybe it’s time commitments, maybe it’s the range of opportunities (most of what we posted were event stewarding roles), maybe it was how we shared the opportunities (which were taken on a first come-first served basis)… we don’t know. What we do know is that there is a desire to be part of what intoBodmin are doing. There is a huge amount of support and good will and I’m confident that if we had the right opportunities, to fit peoples ever demanding schedules, then we would see a higher level of participation.
The 60%/3% statistic comes from research by Participatory City (which is well worth looking at). They suggest that lack of engagement comes down to the fact that there are not enough opportunities or types of activity that fit people's skills and ideas; that those that do exist may not fit with people's lives, their commitments and families; or that opportunities often appear to be suited to more confident people.
I’m going to write a little more over the coming weeks about the things I’ve been mulling over during the last four months. But the crux of the matter is that intoBodmin have (quite successfully) delivered cultural activity for Bodmin over the last two years. But really, what we want, is to be delivering cultural activity WITH Bodmin. We want people and communities to have a say in the work that’s created. We want people to feel a sense of ownership and pride in Bodmin and to feel empowered and supported to participate in our projects and to explore their own. I had a great conversation with a lady who’s interested in coming to help in the kitchen, when we get the cafe open (update on that at the end). The conversation moved on to sustainable and healthy living and she told me that she’d love to open a refill shop in Bodmin, but has never found the people to do it with… Who else has an idea that they just need the right support and encouragement to explore? We have a network of people (you) who are clearly interested in cultural and community engagement - that’s what we set out to build - so what can intoBodmin do now and as we move forward to mobilise and enable more participation in the work that we (and others) make happen?
These are our volunteering commitments. intoBodmin will:
- Create more opportunities, either within our own organisation or by partnering with others. There will be more variety and will include opportunities to volunteer in a person’s own neighbourhood or within their own friendship groups, as ambassadors for example.
- Create opportunities that fit people’s busy lives. Many previous opportunities were associated with evening events. We will try to create roles that require smaller time commitments, are more flexible and more social.
- Make our opportunities inclusive. We will design projects that can start small and grow depending on the confidence of those participating, as well as being more open in structural, cultural and logistical ways.
Support individuals to start and grow their own ideas by reducing or sharing risk, and working with partners to find ongoing support and learning opportunities.
Right now, here and some of the ways you can take part and give your time and expertise:
1. If you’re interested in helping to staff the Pay-what-you-can-afford cafe, which we hope to open from the start of August (Wed-Sat 11am-2pm),
then you can fill out THIS form. We’re looking for kitchen staff, cafe servers (including using the coffee machine) and waiting/meet and greet staff. We have been doing lots of planning to be able to open safely an
d there will be various measures in place to keep customers and volunteers safe, including table service, outdoor seating and 2m distanced tables.
2. If you’re interested in gardening, then we have been working with a
very small team of volunteers (keeping our 2m, we can only have a maximum of four people working there) to build raised beds and plant them up. It’s looking amazing. It will need regular care to weed, harvest and as the autumn comes planting spring crops and preparing beds for winter.
3. If you’re interested in fundraising, marketing or advocacy or if you’ve got expertise that you think could help with our governance, finances or business planning, then we’d be keen to hear from you. We’re still looking for someone to chair the board of directors…