Cross-sector coalition will make volunteers 'part of society's DNA'

More than 70 organisations from the voluntary sector, business and government are collaborating on a major new volunteering initiative.

The organisations, which include the National Trust, the Institute of Directors and the Department of Health, will attempt to implement the recommendations made by the Commission on the Future of Volunteering.

The commission, chaired by Baroness Julia Neuberger, was established in March 2006 to develop a long-term vision for volunteering in England. Its final report in January said government could do much more to encourage people to make volunteering "part of the DNA of our society" and made a series of far-reaching recommendations.

Volunteering England, the body that is leading the implementation of the commission's recommendations, has invested £100,000 of its reserves in setting up six action teams (see box). Each organisation involved will work with whichever team focuses on their areas of expertise.

Justin Davis Smith, chief executive of Volunteering England, said the teams were "swimming with the tide" because volunteering was high on the political agenda.

"It's a golden opportunity to make some changes," he said. "The overall ambition is to make a fundamental change to the future of volunteering."

Each team will set its own targets, but these will not revolve around recruiting volunteers. "I'm not interested in setting targets about numbers," said Davis Smith. "It's more about getting the framework right to help volunteering move forward."

He said Volunteering England's £100,000 investment was a one-off payment to take advantage of a 12-month window to build on the momentum created by the commission.

"It's about action now," he said. "We don't want to deliberate for the next 12 months and come up with more recommendations."

Alex Mitchell, head of influencer relations at the Institute of Directors, said the employer support team provided "an important way in which the interaction between business and volunteering can be enhanced".

Other bodies involved include the RSPB, Time Banking UK and the Office of the Third Sector.

ACTION TEAM LEADERS

Promotion
Caroline Diehl, chief executive, Media Trust

Public sector action
Baroness Joan Hanham

Skills for volunteers
Rod Aldridge, chair, v

Skills and empowerment for managers
Sue Davies, trustee, the National Trust

Employer Support for Volunteering
Alun Michael MP

Modernising Structures
Stephen Dunmore, ex-chief executive, Big Lottery Fund

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