In today’s civil society, we are increasingly recognising the power and potential of volunteering and social action, to bring communities together and build resilience.
Cornwall Councillors have recognised this strength in the Council plan, and on Thursday 18 February the Localism Policy Advisory Committee will be discussing a paper outlining the benefits of social action and volunteering. Members are keen to understand what we are already doing in Cornwall and the role the Council might play in encouraging and supporting more activity. This direction also fits with the principles of the Social Value Act 2012.
You can read the discussion paper on the Council website.
Social action is about people coming together to help improve their lives and solve the problems that are important in their communities. It can include volunteering, the giving of money, community action or simple neighbourly acts. Social action can empower communities, help people in need and complement public services. Taking part in social action is also associated with improved health and wellbeing and can improve people’s confidence and skills.
Volunteering is an integral part of social action, by enabling people to take part in unpaid activity, which will be of wider benefit to not only themselves but to their communities and civil society as a whole. Communities across Cornwall are renowned for their resilience and taking action locally. In recent years, examples include the way they have dealt with severe weather and how they have taken greater control of local decisions and assets.
We can all play a part in contributing to and supporting civil society. For instance, organisations can allow their employees time off to take part in volunteering or to be ‘active citizens’, undertaking public duties such as being a JP, a school governor or a parish councillor.
There are barriers of course, and we need to agree the best ways to measure the impact of social action. In 2013, it was estimated that the value of volunteering to Cornwall’s economy was £490m.
Cornwall’s TCA project also has a key role to play in this work. Its aims to co-design services better around people’s needs and strengthen the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector can help create the conditions for volunteering and social action to flourish.