Public service volunteering: co-producing new local services and community support



The RSA, London

The future of public services and the future of volunteering are inextricably linked. That future may be a negative one for both sides, with restrictions on public services provision leading to unsustainably heavy demands on voluntary support. But the future may be more collaborative, positive and sustainable. Forward thinking public services are not simply looking to scale down their delivery, but to scale up and broaden out the range of relationships through which they seek to support better outcomes. Volunteerism – as one aspect of active citizenship – may help modern services mobilise or access this broader range of assets with which to meet community needs and aspirations.

The roundtable looks directly at public service volunteering - the most direct way in which public services are engaging with volunteers to achieve the outcomes they wish to see, and also the type of volunteering that seems most likely to creatively disrupt the ‘service’ of which it forms a part. The event draws together innovators, leaders and academics from a wide range of backgrounds. 

  • Health and social care, guided by 2011’s Vision for Volunteering, have been at the forefront of volunteering within settings such as hospitals, clinics and care homes, but also in the wider community. 
  • Policing and community safety volunteering is being expanded to provide public information and reassurance at a time of sharp reductions in policing budgets, and also to tap into specialist community skills. 
  • Local authorities and Blue Light Services have been re-envisaging resilience volunteering for the 21st century, going beyond the immediate response to environmental emergencies and considering how to support vulnerable or isolated citizen more generally.  
  • Councils taking on public health duties are rapidly establishing or expanding networks of volunteers with a remit to advise, and looking at how to connect and signpost in support of health and wellbeing: community connectors, wardens and builders are being recruited in urban and rural settings. 
  • Library services have been dramatically transformed to build in community support, including volunteering and ownership, into their operating models, and in so doing have often been the focus of creative community activism.

Discussion will look at how to produce change at both the level of individual services, and at the level of the place:

  • Transforming services: What can diverse public services learn from each other about changing their services creatively – co-productively – with volunteers?
  • Transforming places: What can diverse public services in a place do together to nourish the volunteering capacity and norms of local communities?

Prior to the event, participants will receive a draft paper that sets out the RSA’s position on volunteering, active citizenship and creative localism.  The paper will be published after the event, taking into account people’s comments and deliberations on the day.

Please note that elements of the event will be filmed.

This roundtable is one of a series of events throughout this year that will lead to a major RSA report on the state of localism.  In undertaking this work, the RSA is grateful for the support of Wiltshire Council, which has been working with volunteers and citizens to co-design local services with local people, reflecting the strengths and aspirations of their communities.

For more information, contact [email protected]

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