Hunts Forum is a local infrastructure organisation; we provide support and development for our local voluntary community and social enterprise sector (VCSE). But what does this mean and why is it important?
We are a member of the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), which supports local infrastructure organisations, and represents us at a national level. They have conducted research with their members and this is their findings:
“Local infrastructure organisations (LIOs) help communities meet their needs and achieve their aspirations, making places anyone would want to live, work and visit. Our members support over 20,000 local charities and voluntary groups across the country, helping them to flourish and deliver essential services within their communities.”
NAVCA’s research suggests that the work of LIO’s, and the impact we have, generally falls under 4 categories:
- Leadership and Advocacy
- Partnership and Collaboration
- Community Development
- Encouraging and Nurturing Volunteering
In the same way that every area is different, every LIO is different, and their work will largely be dictated by the area in which they operate. For example in Huntingdonshire we are extremely lucky to have a well-established network of organisations which provide volunteering opportunities in the district so rather than step on their toes and offer a similar service we look to support and promote them as much as possible. This is how our work, and our strategy, fits with the findings of NAVCA’s research:
1. Developing a Strong VCSE Which is Adaptable and Sustainable
Leadership and Advocacy
We are uniquely placed to represent the local VCSE and create a vision for the collective future of the sector. We have an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the VCS, which services are well-served and which areas need more support and funding. In addition to this we have strong links with local governance bodies, we use our voice at local and national level to represent the VCS, advocate for its importance and ensure continued support for the sector.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of LIO’s such as Hunts Forum, NAVCA’s findings suggest that areas with a thriving VCSE infrastructure body had a better coordinated, stronger response. This also reflected our own experience of the pandemic, by having established links with both local community groups and governance bodies we were able to react quickly and support the local VCSE to respond to the huge surge in both demand for services and offers to volunteer. Working with Huntingdonshire District Council we established the Recognised Organisations scheme throughout the district to ensure that all communities were able to receive the support they needed from trusted organisations.
2. Connecting Our Network to Create Opportunities for Working Together
Partnership and Collaboration
We encourage and develop links between VCSE groups in the local community. We strongly believe in the synergy of the sector – together we are more than the sum of our parts. We use our position as a LIO to bring groups and individuals together to maximise the impact they can make. We are always looking for ways to collaborate and build relationships between the VCSE and other sectors. As part of our Support Cambridgeshire partnership we have setup various networks to facilitate this:
Managing Volunteers Network | Cambridgeshire Funders and Infrastructure Network | Communications Network | Fundraisers Network
These networks create opportunities for people working in the VCSE to meet with their peers, discuss common issues and share best practices across the various areas. It also allows us to provide tailored updates on the latest developments, policies and guidance to each individual network.
The Health and Wellbeing Network
Brings together health care professionals and those working in the VCSE dealing with health and wellbeing. The network is about bridging links, keeping each other informed about the two sectors, and encouraging collaboration wherever possible.
Gives the leaders of our sector the opportunity to meet each other and share organisational issues, concerns or opportunities in a safe and confidential space. It’s also about creating a collective voice for the voluntary sector in Cambridgeshire. This has been invaluable in embedding the unique insights of the VCSE in the design and delivery of the new Integrated Care System for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
3. Supporting the Local VCSE to Develop & Grow
Our experienced, knowledgeable team are there to support anyone in Huntingdonshire who is looking to start or develop a community project. We provide the tailored information and advice needed to take an idea from inception to implementation. Our support doesn’t stop there though, we are on-hand to help organisations at all stages of their journey. The infographic below is taken from our Impact Report (March 2020 – April 2021) and shows a breakdown of the type of advice we offered to over 50 local community organisations.
4. Guiding Our Members, Communities & Partners
Encouraging and Nurturing volunteering
We use our platform to champion volunteering in Huntingdonshire. As mentioned we are very lucky to have a number of organisations which provide volunteering opportunities in the district, and as we see it our role is to promote and support those organisations rather than compete with them. A good example of the support we provide is the COVID Vaccine Volunteer Pack, this was a best practice guide produced under the Support Cambridgeshire partnership between Hunts Forum and Cambridge Council for Voluntary Services. It provided practical support for the VCSE and Primary Care Networks and to ensure that volunteers are recruited and deployed effectively, and subsequently have a positive volunteering experience.
Juliette Glenn, formerly part of the C&P CCG Mass Vaccination Workforce Cell and ICS Development Lead NHS England and Improvement (East of England), credits the resource pack with giving Primary Care Networks greater independence:
“Thank you again for the support you have provided, and that your voluntary and community sector contacts continue to provide locally. We really, really appreciate it and we definitely wouldn’t be in the position we are in today with most Primary Care Networks being much more self-sufficient in terms of volunteers without your support, especially Kathryn and Julie (on behalf of all your umbrella organisations), and without the sharing of your incredibly helpful guide!”
This is far from an exhaustive list but hopefully it gives you a better idea of what we do as a local infrastructure organisation and why it is important. If you have any questions about this or you would like to discuss how we can help your organisation please get in touch with Oli using the details below:
Development Officer at Hunts Forum