5 December 2023 marks International Volunteer Day (IVD), an annual international observance which provides an opportunity for organisations and individuals to champion and celebrate the contribution of volunteerism, advocate for government support for volunteer efforts, and spotlight the contributions made by volunteers worldwide. In particular, IVD is a day to focus on people-led solutions to the challenges presented in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and amplify the sum of volunteer’s efforts locally, nationally and internationally towards peace and development.
This year’s theme is collective action, exploring the aggregated power of volunteering and what would be possible #IfEveryoneDid. Here at GM Moving, our work focuses on the contributions made by volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations to our mission of active lives for all. These contributions are inextricably linked to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which explicitly recognises volunteers as stakeholders in achieving the 17 SDGs. To name just a few examples:
Goal 3 – Good health and wellbeing: Aside from the significant health and wellbeing benefits volunteers themselves can experience through positive and inclusive volunteer experiences, much of the sport, physical activity and movement which takes place in Greater Manchester simply could not happen without the people who give their time supporting others to be more active. The contribution of volunteers to the health and wellbeing of our city region is critical to our collective ambitions.
Goal 10 - Reduced Inequalities: Supporting those furthest away from being active to become more active and tackling deep-rooted inequalities is a crucial part of our mission. Volunteers have a huge role to play in this through reaching into their local communities, bringing marginalised voices to the forefront and understanding the barriers that people face to leading active lives, ensuring no-one is excluded from this mission.
Goal 11 – Sustainable cities and communities: Volunteerism is key to unlocking the power of our cities and communities. Both individual and collective volunteer action, owned and led by people within these communities, helps to promote social inclusion, civic engagement and build trust, leading to more sustainable outcomes and inspiring others to take action in service of healthier, happier communities. Only by building capacity and mobilising people within communities and involving local people at all stages and levels will we see the successful implementation of national and international agendas such as the SDGs at a hyper-local level.
Aside from these examples, we know that volunteerism in the physical activity, sport and movement space also has an important role to play in other SDG outcomes around climate action, gender equality and quality education, decent work and economic growth, and industry, innovation & infrastructure among others, acting as a significant vehicle for sustainable development.
Through the recommendations within our Volunteering Research launched earlier this year, we’ve been exploring some of these challenges in depth, considering how we can make volunteering more inclusive, meaningful and reflective of GM’s diverse communities.
This year’s IVD theme of collective action has already played a significant role in the progress of this work. Our aspirations around a redefined future of volunteering in sport, physical activity and movement in the coming years, aligned to those set out in the Vision for Volunteering, are bold and ambitious. As such, we know that they cannot be achieved in isolation from the power and potential of a collective of individuals, organisations and institutions working together to take meaningful action. A collaborative, coordinated approach to volunteering in GM is vital if we are to meet these ambitions, transform the volunteer experience and tackle some of volunteering’s longstanding inequalities through inclusive opportunities which encourage active lives.
In the last 6 months, we’ve seen this come to life through the development of our GM Moving Volunteering Community of Practice.
Individual action underpins much of the work happening to implement the Volunteering Research findings, through the development of a series of thematic working groups across topics such as disability, children & young people and the cost-of-living, and the contributions of partners to these workstreams has been fantastic to see.
With that said, it’s through the collective action of the Community of Practice that we hope to bring these individual actions together to tell the story and boost the profile of sport, physical activity and movement-based volunteering in GM. The aim is to create a collaborative space to share best practice and develop new practice to address collective challenges, to facilitate relationship-building between system partners passionate about the value and importance of volunteering in support of active lives for all, sharing and collectively making sense of knowledge and learning, and pool our collective resources and voices to have a significant impact on volunteering in sport, physical activity and movement in Greater Manchester.
So far, almost 50 unique individuals from 30 organisations have attended the Community of Practice across two sessions, bringing their knowledge and expertise to share with others, learning from each other, collectively discussing some of the key challenges we face around volunteer recruitment, emerging technology, and volunteer experience, and exploring possible solutions. Looking ahead, future meetings will be co-designed with partners from sport and physical activity, VCSE and public sectors, enabling collective leadership to accelerate the impact we can have through the Community of Practice and associated working groups. We’re hugely excited about the future of the Community, and we look forward to realising the power of collective action here in GM.
You can sign up for our next Community of Practice will take place on Thursday 18th January, from 1-4pm. Imagine the collective impact we could have #IfEveryoneDid!
Prior to the training, many non-medical/community-facing staff didn't feel confident in discussing movement and physical activity within their work.
Across England, sports clubs and organisations are being supported by a new network of Sport Welfare Officers. They have been recruited by Active Partnerships and funded by Sport England through an investment of National Lottery money.