I recently travelled up to Alloa in Clackmannanshire to support a Fellow-led project named Resonate. Now, Clackmannanshire (and particularly Alloa) is not an area that receives much attention in Scotland, let alone further afield – until relatively recently my knowledge of it had consisted of the football team, personal attendance at the beer festival and their world leading work in phonics – so it great to see such an inspiring project thriving in that area, making a tangible difference to the people in their community.
Although it ostensibly started off as a community arts project, Resonate acts as so much more now – it is a vibrant, inclusive heart of its community, passionately supported by service users, creative, activists and other brilliant people. I was in Alloa, on this occasion, to provide for support for Resonate as they have been put forward for a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and Johnny Stewart, the Lord Lieutenant of Clackmannanshire, was visiting the project to assess its suitability. So a group of us gathered with mugs of coffee and pastries in hand, ready to meet with the Lord Lieutenant and answer his questions about Resonate.
There were many things that struck me about the encounter, but most telling was the passion that the people in the room showed for the work Resonate was doing. I was a (welcome) outsider, relatively new to the project; but they were people who had demonstrated commitment to the project time and time again. Sustaining engagement with volunteers can be a challenge in busy lives with a number of competing interests and requirements getting in the way of continuing interactions between organisations and volunteers. Yet at Resonate they have created a very welcoming environment where an on-going relationship is fostered. I was struck by how many of the people at the meeting with me had started off as users of some of the services Resonate offered or had dropped in to an event or class at the centre, and now dedicated their time and energy to the project. Even Angela Beardsley, the driving force of Resonate who has helped create much of its success, has done all of that in a voluntary capacity. It is easy to take for granted the sacrifices that volunteers can make in their commitment to an idea, project or community, but in that room the pride that they took in the project was clear to see.
It was in many ways a humbling experience; and in many more an inspiring one. This is not a project that has sat waiting for someone to tell it what to do or to give it permission; rather it is the embodiment of a community’s response to that community’s challenges. I really hope they win the Award as recognition for the remarkable job they have done; but I also know that they don’t need the award to validate the important difference they are making.
It’s definitely one of the perks of my job that I get to learn from and work with projects like this, led by our Fellows and making a difference to their communities. It is also a timely reminder that at the RSA we depend upon our Fellows, themselves volunteers, for much of our energy and impact. As we move forward in the context of the RSA’s Change Aims it is the power to create inherent in our Fellowship which will continue to help us drive towards our lofty goals. If we in RSA Scotland can learn to engage our Fellows in the way that Resonate does then we will be a significant step closer to that aim.
To find out more about Resonate, follow Angela on Twitter @Head2Green.
Jamie Cooke is Head of RSA Scotland. You can follow him @JamieACooke or connect with him on LinkedIn.